Happy Birthday Dad: Momofuku Milk Bar’s Banana Cream Pie

Banana cream pie: a perfectly buttery, flaky pie crust topped with a fluffy banana cream and lightly sweetened whipped cream. Or so you may think… Momofuku Milk Bar, made famous for their cereal milk, compost cookies, and crack pie, takes the traditional and elevates it to new levels. This banana cream pie consists of a chocolately crust reminiscent of a graham cracker crust. On top of this unusual crust is a bright yellow, luscious, banana-flavor-packed cream.  Trust me, this recipe will change the way you look at banana cream pie forever. Happy birthday, Dad. I know you will enjoy a slice.

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To start, create the Chocolate Crumb, something Momofuku Milk Bar is famous for creating. These crunchy clusters are completely addictive to eat by hand, but refrain from snacking because all of these Chocolate Crumbs will be used for the crust of our Banana Cream Pie. To make the Chocolate Crumb, combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.

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Mix in the melted butter until the mixture is evenly moistened and creates clumps.

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Spread out these clumps on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes. Wait for these clusters to cool completely and harden before pulsing them in a food processor into tiny crumbs. Mix these crumbs with more salt and sugar.

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Introduce more melted butter (because everything is bettah’ with buttah’) and pour it into a pie tin. I’m using this amazing pie tin my grandma gave to me (isn’t it so sweet?).

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And ta-da! Your chocolate crust is ready! If your pie won’t be served for a while, place the crust in the refrigerator until ready to be filled.

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Now let’s move on and make the filling. Take out your trusty blender and drop in brown or black bananas (these bananas should be extremely ripe), heavy cream, and milk until smooth and resembling a milkshake. Add in sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks. Take this banana-milkshake mixture and pour it in a saucepan.

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Heat up this banana filling and boil for two minutes, making sure to continuously whisk the mixture. At this point the filing will be a disturbing gray color and be very thick (kind of like cement or glue). Don’t worry about the color, we’ll fix it later. Bloom the gelatin by evenly sprinkling the gelatin powder over 2 Tbsp cold water. Make sure to evenly distribute the gelatin powder over the water. If you just dump the powder in one spot, the gelatin in the center of the pack won’t bloom. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes, or until completely coagulated and it forms a solid mass.

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Either pour your hot banana-cream mixture into a clean blender or use an immersion blender (I would recommend that later, as there is no risk of burning yourself and you don’t have to lift a heavy pan) to completely combine the bloomed gelatin and butter into the mixture. At this point, the mixture is still an unappetizing gray color, so to make it a bit more appetizing, add as much yellow food coloring as you desire. At Momofuku Milk Bar, they add 25 drops of yellow food coloring to create a fake-cartoon-banana color. The striking contrast between the bright yellow filling and dark brown crust yields a show-stopping presentation. However, I prefer a more natural approach, so I only added 7 drops of food coloring. This yields a pretty pie that has a pale yellow filling. So do whatever you prefer, go bold or go natural; the choice is yours! Let the filling cool completely before continuing to the next step.

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Whip up the cream and powdered to soft and fluffy medium-soft peaks.

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Fold the sweetened whipped cream into the cooled banana cream until completely homogeneous.

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If you have awhile until serving the pie, refrigerate the filling in the saucepan with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling (this will prevent a skin from forming). When you are ready to fill the pie, add half of the filling into the crust. Carefully place a sliced banana over the cream to make sure each slice has an equal quantity of fresh banana slices.

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Add the rest of the filling on top of the bananas and smooth the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yum!

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Banana Cream Pie

Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

Makes 1 (10-in.) pie; serves 8

  • 1 recipe Banana Cream (recipe follows)
  • 1 recipe Chocolate Crust (recipe follows)
  • 1 banana, just ripe, sliced
  1. Pour ½ of the banana cream into the pie shell. Cover it w/ a layer of sliced bananas, then cover the bananas w/ the remaining banana cream. The pie should be stored in the fridge and eaten w/in a day of when you make it.

Chocolate Crumb

Makes 1¾ c.

  • ½ c. all-purpose flour/white whole-wheat flour/whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ c. + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ c. cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 4½ Tbsp butter, melted
  1. Heat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until mixed.
  3. Add the butter and toss until the mixture starts to come together in sm. clusters.
  4. Spread the clusters on a parchment – or Silpat – lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 min., breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch at that point; they will dry and harden as they cool.
  5. Let the crumbs cool completely before using in a recipe or eating. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep fresh for 1 week at room temp. or 1 month in the fridge freezer.

Chocolate Crust

Makes 1 (10-in.) pie crust

  • 1 recipe Chocolate Crumb (1¾ c.)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ⅛ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted, or as needed
  1. Pulse the chocolate crumbs in a food processor until they are sandy and no sizable clusters remain.
  2. Transfer the sand to a bowl and toss w/ the sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and mix it into the sand until it is moist enough to knead into a ball. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt and additional 1 Tbsp butter and mix it in.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a 10-in. pie tin. W/ your hands, spoon, or measuring cup, press the chocolate crust firmly into the tin, making sure the bottom and sides of the pie tin are evenly covered. Wrapped in plastic wrap, the crust can be stored at room temp. for up to 5 days or in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Banana Cream

Makes 3 c.

  • 2 black/brown bananas
  • ⅓ c. heavy cream
  • ¼ c. milk
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 5-25 drops yellow food coloring (according to color preference)
  • ¾ c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
  1. Combine the bananas, cream, and milk in a blender and puree until totally smooth.
  2. Add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks and continue to blend until homogeneous. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan.
  3. Bloom the gelatin.
  4. Whisk the contents of the pan and heat over med.-low heat. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and then continue to whisk vigorously for 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, w/ a color to match.
  5. Use an immersion blender to puree the contents of the pan or dump the contents of the pan into a clean blender. Add the bloomed gelatin and the butter and blend until the mixture is smooth and even. Color the mixture w/ yellow food coloring until it is a bright banana yellow.
  6. Transfer the banana mixture to a heat safe container, and put in the fridge for 30-60 min. – as long as it takes to cool completely.
  7. Using a whisk or a mixer w/ the whisk attachment, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar to med.-soft peaks. (When you pull the whisk away from the whipped cream, the mounds of cream hold their shape softly.) Add the cold banana mixture to the whipped cream and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogeneous. Stored in an airtight container, banana cream keeps fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.
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