March is a busy time for our family. Three of the six kids celebrate their birthday this month, which means lots of baking. In truth, all the festivities can be a bit stressful for me. I want so badly to make every kid feel special on his or her special day, but the reality is that there are still five other kids to care for. Fortunately, we have great babysitters in the neighborhood who can pop over for a couple hours. For Mack’s birthday, I took him to Gibson’s Steakhouse for a special birthday lunch in the middle of the school day. What a treat FOR ME to have that time with just him.
For Mack’s first birthday we were in Mexico. I packed ingredients to make a simple homemade banana cream pie, and the little fella loved it. Fast forward six years – Mack requested a banana cream pie to celebrate lucky #7!
I was happy to accommodate this simple request. Out of all our kids, I’d say our time with Mack has been quite the journey. He was climbing stairs at 7 months, walking at 9 months, conversing by 18 months. He’s presented us with unexpected challenges, but gifted us with unexpected joy. He has grown into a young man who impresses his teacher with his smarts and wows strangers with his kindness. For the past two winters he has collected blankets to pass out to people living under Lake Shore Drive. Earlier this week, when Ben was in the ER for stitches, Mack was so tender and caring that even the doctor commented on how empathetic he is. He might seem like a fun-loving tough guy, but Mack truly cares about other people and their feelings. I am proud of Mack and the journey that has made him such a joy to be around. He is a great kid!
Banana Cream Pie (adapted from The New York Times)
For the pie crust:
For the cream:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine the crumbs and sugar. Add the butter and mix, first with a fork, then with your fingers, until the crumbs are moistened. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, using a flat-bottomed cup to press the crumbs evenly. The edges of the shell will be crumbly. Bake until lightly browned, 9 or 10 minutes. Cool completely.
Prepare the pastry cream: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, 1/4 cup sugar and the vanilla bean and seeds and bring to a simmer. Over a small bowl, sift the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with the cornstarch. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and yolks.
When the milk comes to a simmer, discard the vanilla bean. Add the cornstarch mixture to the eggs and whisk until well combined.
While whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour in about 1/4 of the milk. Transfer this mixture into the saucepan, set over low heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until it reaches the consistency of thick pudding. (Be careful not to curdle the eggs.) Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. Pour into a shallow bowl, place plastic wrap directly on the surface and chill.
Using an electric mixer or a whisk, whip the heavy cream into peaks. Transfer the pastry cream to a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Fold in 1/2 cup of the whipped cream. Line the bottom of the cooled pie shell with a layer of bananas. Fold the remaining bananas into the pastry cream, then spoon it evenly into the shell. Mound the remaining whipped cream on top, swirling it decoratively. Chill and serve within 24 hours.
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