Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

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True story: I was haunted by the banana cream pie. For a brief period in my life, it was all I thought about and ate. I tried many variations and made many variations, but I always found something wrong with the recipe. Too sweet. Too grainy. Too slimy. I lay awake at night rethinking the details, reworking the formula in my head.

This recipe is the culmination of all my thoughts and fever dreams, and it is now officially my favorite pie to make and eat. The crust is made with a classic vanilla wafer, which is less assertive than a traditional pie crust, and the banana pudding is light and pleasing. The whole pie is topped with a layer of smooth and dreamy peanut-butter-flavored cream cheese, which brings the dessert together. No, it is not traditional, but it is delicious. Oh, and the bananas are tossed in a bit of orange juice to keep them from turning black. Trust me, you do not want to eat black bananas.

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Ingredients

For the Vanilla Wafer Crust

  • 6 ounces vanilla wafer cookies
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

For the Banana Pudding Filling

  • cup sugar
  • tablespoons cornstarch
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

For the Peanut Butter Topping

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
  • cup heavy cream, chilled

Assembly

  • 1 ripe banana, peeled (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice (optional)
  • Chocolate covered peanuts (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position the rack in the middle.

Make the Vanilla Wafer Crust

Place the vanilla wafer cookies, butter, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the mixture resembles a moist crumb. Turn the mixture out into your pie plate and press it into the bottom and up the sides. Using the back of a large spoon will help you to create an even crust.

Bake the crust until it is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. If it begins to puff while baking, use the back of the spoon to press it gently down. Allow the baked crust to cool completely.

Make the Banana Pudding Filling

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly, while whisking continuously, stream in the cream, then the milk. Add the egg yolks. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using the tip of the knife or a small teaspoon, scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Whisk until the mixture is combined. Discard the bean.

Turn the heat to medium-high and, whisking occasionally, bring the mixture to a boil, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter, and stir vigorously for about 2 minutes to release excess heat. Spread the warm pudding over the cooled crust and chill the pie until the filling is completely cool, about 1 hour.

After the filling has chilled, thinly slice the bananas on a diagonal. Toss the slices in the orange juice. Transfer the banana slices to a paper towel and pat them dry. Arrange them in a single layer over the pudding to cover it completely. Return the pie to the refrigerator while making the peanut butter topping.

Make the Peanut Butter Topping

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, and beat until just combined.

In a clean bowl of a standing mixer, use the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip the cream until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until the topping is uniform in color.

Spread the peanut butter layer evenly over the bananas on the pie. Chill for at least 3 hours or as long as 8 hours.

To Assemble the Pie

Just before serving, thinly slice the banana on a diagonal and toss it with the orange juice.

Arrange the banana slices around the top edge of the pie, then arrange chocolate-covered peanuts around the edges of the banana slices, if desired. Serve immediately.

The pie tastes best if eaten within 24 hours. On the rare occasion that you have leftovers, wrap the pie in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 3 days.