Those massive button-popping holiday dinners are just around the corner, and in the meantime we're already daydreaming about giant helpings of pie. Slabs of silky pumpkin pie are always welcome, but this year we've set our sights on a dessert that will make a far more thrilling post-bird comedown: Chef Kelly Fields’ banana-peanut butter crème pie.
“I've been having a love affair with banana and peanut butter my entire life,” says Fields, who helms Willa Jean, the feel-good bakery and café in New Orleans that lures in locals with the likes of jambalaya breakfast burritos and praline brownie sundaes.
Although the alluring banana-peanut-butter combination immediately brings to mind the salty-sweet sandwich Elvis Presley made famous, it was pragmatism that led Fields to whip up this confectionary spin on “the King’s” favorite: The pie is an easy-to-transport, shareable format for illuminating Willa Jean’s beloved banana pudding.
Banana Peanut Butter Pie. Photo credit: Randy Schmidt.
“Personally, I believe the holidays should be a celebration of all the things that bring happiness and comfort to the world," says Fields. "Having a little slice of nostalgia can transform and transport to a sense of time and place that's personal.”
Fields loves everything about the hybrid, “down to the simple textural experience of eating a banana with crunchy peanut butter on it. I think the ability of the banana to take on so many different personalities as a fruit in baked goods is fascinating and inspiring. And, let's be honest, adding peanuts or peanut butter to any of them often takes it to a whole new level," she adds.
Purists might scoff at a dessert devoid of pecans “marring” traditional Thanksgiving feasts, but Fields believes it’s a fitting alternative, “elegant without being stuffy. It's just sweet enough without crossing the line, and it’s light, so that it can surely be enjoyed after a beautiful and plentiful meal.”
For locals who have neither the time nor inclination to spend the day shackled to the kitchen cooking for their guests, Willa Jean is offering a luscious takeaway spread featuring dishes such as turkey roulade and pimento mac and cheese topped with bacon breadcrumbs. And, of course, that special pie. And if, for some reason, the idea of banana mingling with peanut butter doesn’t compel, the sweet potato-pineapple-toasted honey marshmallow and or the double crust apple-huckleberry pie surely will.
Meanwhile, here's the recipe so you can try the banana peanut butter pie yourself. (But note: This requires a level of pastry experience to pull off at home.)
Banana Peanut Butter Pie
Recipe courtesy of Kelly Fields, Willa Jean, New Orleans
For the banana filling:
8 cups milk
8 ounces sugar
8 ounces butter
1 vanilla bean
7 ripe bananas
8 ounces sugar
4 ounces cornstarch
3 ounces all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a heavy bottomed pot, place milk, sugar, butter, vanilla bean and ripe bananas. Bring up to almost a boil, then cut off and let steep for about 45 minutes. Puree mixture with immersion blender, then turn the heat back on and bring up to a boil.
Whisk together eggs, yolks, sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt until the mixture is smooth with no lumps. When the dairy comes up, temper the eggs carefully into the mixture. Return to the stove and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract.
Process the custard in a Vita Prep until super-smooth (3 minutes) and pass through a tamis. Taste and season as necessary with salt. Place in a bowl and top with plastic wrap, poking a few holes in the plastic for the steam to escape. Set aside to cool.
For the peanut butter cremeaux:
250 grams white chocolate (1 cup)
400 grams milk (1 ½ cups)
50 grams cream (1 ¾ ounces)
50 grams sugar (¼ cup)
4 grams agar-agar (1 ½ teaspoons)
125 grams peanut butter (½ cup)
3 sheets gelatin
200 grams whipping cream (150 grams of it whipped to soft peaks)
Prepared pie crust
Melt the chocolate over double boiler. Bloom the gelatin. Heat 50 grams of cream with milk and sugar. Once it starts to simmer, whisk in agar-agar. Whisk until it comes to a boil, then turn off heat and add peanut butter and gelatin.
Pour mixture over chocolate and mix to combine. Season well with salt and allow the mixture to cool to 100℉.
Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks and fold it in. Add the mixture to the prepared pie crust, filling halfway to the top, then top with the banana filling.
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