Black bottom toasted milk banana cream pie

banana cream pie

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I don’t like raw bananas. So banana cream pie was never an appealing dessert option for me. Why choose something with mushy raw bananas when you could have apple, or pumpkin, or pecan, or pretty much anything else? But a few years back, my dad — who generally doesn’t like or eat sweets — mentioned that his favorite pie was, you guessed it, banana cream pie. And because the real reason I like baking is making my favorite people the things they like to eat, it was determined: I needed to make one.

After a couple of meh versions, I finally nailed my forever banana cream pie recipe this past Christmas. I present to you:

Black bottom toasted milk banana cream pie.

Let’s break it down. It starts with a black bottom layer (i.e. chocolate ganache), which adds flavor and texture and keeps the bottom crust crisp for days (if the pie lasts that long). Next is a toasted milk cream diplomat. Cream diplomat is just the term for pastry cream that is lightened with whipped cream and set with gelatin, which gives both airy-smooth texture plus a beautiful slice. We’ve talked about toasted milk powder before, and I thought its roasty, toasty notes would be the perfect flavor to enhance a classic banana cream pie. (It is perfect. My husband called it “a revelation.”) That’s all layered up with just-ripe bananas, then topped with a sour cream whipped cream. Sour cream adds both flavor and stability to the whipped cream so you can have the whole pie prepped a few hours in advance if needed. If you want your cream to have even more staying power (i.e. longer than 6 hours), you can add some gelatin as well.

Although I’m still never going to reach for a raw banana to quell my hunger, I thoroughly enjoy this pie. I hope you do too.

Baker’s notes:

  • For best combination of flavor and texture, choose bananas that are mostly yellow with just a little green. They should be sweet but still on the firm side.
  • I’ve found that some brands of nonfat milk powder dissolve better than others. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I’m guessing it has to do with the amount of moisture in the powder. To help it dissolve as best as possible, I recommend sifting in the powder to eliminate any lumps, then straining the pastry cream after cooking. Any bits that might remain after that seem to dissolve into the custard during the setting process. If you’re really concerned about it, you can try blending the powder with the milk on low before heating it.
  • For a more classic custard filling, omit the toasted milk powder and increase the vanilla to 2 teaspoons (or add the seeds of a vanilla pod if you’re feeling fancy!)…
  • But you should try the toasted milk powder.
banana cream pie unsliced

Black bottom toasted milk banana cream pie

Makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients:

For the toasted milk powder (makes more than needed for the pie):

  • 150g nonfat milk powder

For the toasted milk pastry cream:

  • 3g (1 tsp) powdered gelatin
  • 18g whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 600g whole milk (for pastry cream)
  • 60g toasted milk powder
  • 125g granulated sugar
  • 45g cornstarch
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 52g unsalted butter, cold and cut into quarters
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the black bottom chocolate ganache:

  • 100g semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 54.5%), finely chopped
  • 80g heavy cream (35% milk fat)

For the toasted milk cream diplomat:

  • All of the toasted milk pastry cream
  • 125g heavy cream (35% milk fat)
  • 20g icing sugar

For the sour cream whipped cream:

  • 3g (1 tsp) powdered gelatin (optional)
  • 18g whole milk (for blooming gelatin) (optional)
  • 250g heavy cream (35% milk fat)
  • 60g full-fat sour cream
  • 30g icing sugar

To assemble:

  • One standard 9″ pie crust, blind-baked and cooled completely (I used the recipe from my book)
  • 450g (about 3 large) ripe but firm bananas, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • Grated chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Make the toasted milk powder:

Microwave method: Place the milk powder in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring with a fork after every burst, until the powder is deeply golden and toasty-smelling. (For me, this takes about 10 minutes’ worth of microwaving.) Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. (See tutorial on Instagram here.)

Instant Pot method: Place the milk powder in a 12-oz canning jar. Place a standard snap lid on top, then screw on the ring until finger-tip tight (i.e. lid should be sealed, but not too tight — if sealed too tightly, the jar may break during cooking). Put a trivet or steamer rack insert in the Instant Pot and add about an inch of water (the water line should stop just below the top of the trivet). Place the jar on top of the trivet. Seal the lid and cook on manual for 90 minutes. Allow pot to depressurize to release naturally. Cool completely before using. (See reel on Instagram here.)

Make the toasted milk pastry cream:

Place a strainer over a large heat-safe bowl.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 18g cold milk and bloom while you prepare the rest of the pastry cream.

Off heat, pour 600g milk into medium saucepan. Sift in the toasted milk powder and whisk to dissolve.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk vigorously for about a minute until well combined and lighter in color.

Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from the heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Scrape the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes.

Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin. Once the gelatin has dissolved, whisk in the butter one piece at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Whisk in the vanilla. Strain the pastry cream into the prepared container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream and cool for 10 minutes, then place in the refrigerator and cool just to room temperature (about 45-60 minutes). Don’t let the pastry cream get too cold or the gelatin will start to set firmly, making it difficult to incorporate the whipped cream.

Make the black bottom chocolate ganache:

While the pastry cream is cooling, make the chocolate ganache for the black bottom layer. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat-safe bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the cream just until steaming. Pour over the chocolate and let stand for two minutes. Gently whisk to form a smooth, shiny ganache. Scrape ganache into the bottom of the prepared pie crust and use a small offset spatula to smooth into an even layer. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the cream diplomat.

Make the toasted milk cream diplomat:

Prepare this as soon as the pastry cream has reached room temperature. In a medium bowl, combine the heavy cream and icing sugar. Whisk to medium peaks. Whisk the cooled pastry cream until smooth, then fold in the whipped cream in two additions. Use immediately.

Assemble the pie:

Spread about 1/2 c of cream diplomat over the bottom of the pie. Add half the banana slices, cut side up, in an even layer. Smooth on half the remaining cream diplomat. Add the rest of the banana slices as before, followed by the rest of the cream diplomat. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. (I leave it uncovered but you can press a piece of plastic against the surface if you prefer.)

Make the sour cream whipped cream:

Thanks to the addition of sour cream, this whipped cream will hold nicely in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. If you need the cream to hold longer than that, I recommend adding the gelatin.

If using the gelatin — in a small, heat-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 18g cold milk and bloom for 5 minutes. Microwave for 10 seconds until liquefied.

In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, heavy cream, and icing sugar. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk just until the cream starts to thicken but is not quite holding soft peaks. Slowly stream the gelatin mixture into the cream while whisking constantly. Continue whisking to medium-stiff peaks. Immediately pipe or dollop the whipped cream onto the surface of the pie and garnish with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate uncovered until ready to serve.

Storage:

Pie is best served within 24 hours. Store leftovers uncovered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. After about a day the bananas will start to brown, but the pie will still taste good. The crust will progressively soften over time though the ganache helps to delay that.

banana cream pie slice out

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

toasted milk powder cookies

Everyone has opinions about chocolate chip cookies. For me, it’s always been about the dough. If I’m going to the effort to make cookies, the cookie dough itself should be full of flavor and well-seasoned, worth eating with or without chocolate. I don’t like cookies that are more chocolate than cookie — if I want that much chocolate, I’ll just eat a chocolate bar.

My go-to base is in my cookbook, Baked to Order. I use brown butter, a mix of flours (including rye), and a hit of espresso powder for an extra flavorful cookie. I still make that recipe often, but lately I’ve been tinkering with it a little to really focus on one particular element: brown butter.

Brown butter has been the darling of the culinary world for…I don’t know, decades now? I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Browning butter is the process of heating butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids (which make up about 3-5% of the butter content) brown. In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, or “hazelnut butter”, because the aroma resembles toasted hazelnuts. It’s a beautiful thing.

But what if you want to add more brown butter flavor? You can’t just add more brown butter, or the ratio of fat to everything else will result in a very different end product. Enter: toasted milk powder.

Milk powder is essentially a concentrated powder of milk solids, made by preheating, evaporating, and reheating milk. It’s a staple in my baking kit; I use it most often in my enriched sourdoughs to make extra tall and soft loaves (by increasing the protein and lactose without adding extra liquid). I first came across the concept of toasting milk powder on Francisco Migoya’s blog, where he talks about adding it to financier batter. It’s brilliant — by toasting the milk powder, you’re adding more of the tasty brown bits that give brown butter its flavor and aroma!

There are a number of ways to toast milk powder. If you want to make a large batch to have on hand, try the microwave method or the pressure cooker method. For these cookies, I decided to just toast the milk powder directly in the browning butter.

Baker’s notes:

  • When toasting the milk powder, keep the heat down and whisk constantly to avoid clumping. Normally I crank the heat up once the butter has melted, but I got more consistent results with the milk powder keeping the temp around medium-low. If your milk powder is clumpy, definitely sift it / break up any lumps before adding to the butter.
  • You can make these cookies straight from the melted butter stage, but these days I prefer the texture of the final cookies when the butter is brought back to a spreadable consistency. Creaming the butter also helps break up any bits of clumpy toasted milk powder that may have formed during the browning process.
  • I’ve added in a touch of liquid (usually coffee) to make up for the moisture loss from browning the butter. It helps the cookies spread more predictably, especially if you’re refrigerating/freezing the dough for more than a day.
  • To get perfectly round cookies, you can scoot them with a round cookie cutter just larger than the baked cookie or use an offset spatula or spoon to nudge them into shape IMMEDIATELY after the cookies come out of the oven. Totally optional; it’s just for looks.

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

Makes 12-14 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 45g nonfat milk powder
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3g (3/4 tsp) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 18g coffee or milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g all purpose flour
  • 140g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (I like a mix of 55% and 70%)
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Make the extra-strength brown butter: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the milk powder. Continue cooking on medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the milk solids darken and the butter takes on a toasty, nutty smell. Remove from heat and scrape the butter and all the toasty bits into a heatproof container. Refrigerate until spreadable, about 45 minutes. (You can speed up the process by stirring the butter over an ice bath or sticking it in the freezer, stirring every 5-10 minutes.) You can make the extra-strength brown butter up to a week in advance; bring to room temperature before mixing cookie dough.

Make the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, combine the softened extra-strength brown butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Using an electric hand-held mixer, mix on medium speed until well combined, 2-3 minutes (the mixture will be a bit crumbly). Scrape down the beaters and sides of the bowl. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until smooth, then add the coffee or milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is mostly mixed in, then add the chopped chocolate. Switch to a spatula and mix just until the chocolate is evenly distributed and no streaks of flour remain. Cover and refrigerate for BARE MINIMUM 1 hour, but preferably at least four hours (or up to 3 days).

Bake the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion the dough into golf-ball sized portions (weigh them if you want perfectly even cookies — I usually make mine around 55g each, which gives me a baker’s dozen). Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops with flaky sea salt.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set and the centers no longer look wet, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

toasted milk powder cookies

Related recipes and resources: