This is honestly the best dessert you will ever make. Once I started making this pie, friends and family started begging me to make it for their birthdays. This pie will win you awards, the hearts and minds of the people, and it may not be healthy at all, but goodness gracious it is a mighty tasty one.
Please don’t do yourself a disservice and buy a premade pie crust unless you absolutely must. Making your own pie crust is where pie making becomes an art, anyone can make the filing. So set aside a little extra time and make my one (or two) stick pie crust from sratch. You’ll go the blind-bake route, since this pie is all stovetop action.
This recipe follows a Cooks Illustrated recipe very closely, although I can’t find it on their website anymore (I pay for premium, too).
Peel 2 bananas and slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced bananas and cook until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add half-and-half and bring to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 40 minutes. You are basically making a banana infused cream. You’ll eventually discard these bananas, but the 40 minute soak will bump up the banana flavor.
Whisk sugar, egg yolks, and salt together in a large bowl until smooth. Whis in cornstarch. Strain the infused half-and-half mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the egg yolk mixture. Do not press on the bananas, toss them out or eat them, or whatever.
Transfer mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, constantly whisking until thickened to a consistency of warm pudding, 180 degrees if you have a thermometer. Whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and press a slightly oiled piece of parchment paper against the surface. This will prevent what’s commonly known as pudding skin from forming. Let cool for about an hour.
Peel and slice remaining 3 bananas 1/4 inch thick and toss with orange juice or lemon juice. This step keeps them from turning brown and adds just a tad bit of acid to keep this very sugary treat a bit bright. Whisk your cooled banana pudding and spread a layer over the bottom of your cooled pie shell. Arrange sliced bananas on top of pudding, and top with remaining pudding.
Whip heavy cream with (optionally) a bit more sugar and a few drops of vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream on top of pie and refrigerate until set - at least 5 hours. Serve.