Thursday 27 November 2008

banana cream pie

Here I am celebrating Thanksgiving with a memory of my paternal grandmother.

Lois Larue Breakall was born in 1922 in McKeesport PA into a family who had lived in Pennsylvania since the mid-1700s (mostly Fulton County). She was proud of her heritage and introduced me to the genealogical research that led to my grandfather’s (her husband’s) ancestors in eastern and central Europe.

Grandma served in the Air Force during WWII and was a strict Baptist her entire life. She also happened to be an excellent cook and after my father migrated to Australia one of the things he missed most about America was Grandma’s cooking.

One of Dad’s favourites was Grandma’s Banana Cream Pie. As a kid he’s talk about this mythical pie and conjure up such vivid descriptions of flavours that I could almost taste it too. When they would visit us in Australia, or we’d go to the States to visit them, Grandma would make Dad and all of us Banana Cream Pie.

That’s why I chose it as one of my Food Memories for my 2008 Food Challenges.

A week ago Dad and my Stepmum came to visit us, so I tried to replicate Grandma’s pie.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to make a true tart base and had to use cookie crumbs, but otherwise it was just as we both remembered. As my Stepmum pointed out, Dad would probably just prefer the custard, banana and cream without the base anyway!

The most important part of making a Banana Cream Pie is balancing out the sweetness of the custard and cream and using plenty of not-too-ripe banana.

When people pass away we lose so much more than just their company.

Grandma’s cooking provided sensory memories of home and family and good times that disappeared with her. I really value having recipes from her and my mother because when I really miss them I can cook something special and reach out to them through the flavours.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Banana Cream Pie

Based on a recipe from
Tartine via Tartelette. Serves 8-12.


250ml cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Sweet tart shell
3 bananas, sliced


250ml heavy cream
85g bitter sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons icing sugar

Custard Filling:
2 cups/ 500ml whole milk
1 vanilla bean, cut open down the middle, seeded
¼ tsp of salt
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
½ cup/ 110gr. sugar
2 large eggs
40g butter, cut in small cubes


1. Set the chocolate into a bowl.

2. Heat the heavy cream and icing sugar to boiling point and pour over the chocolate.

3. Let stand a couple of minutes then stir until fully incorporated and glossy. Cool to room temperature. Pour over the pastry shell and refrigerate.

4. Heat the milk, vanilla seeds and salt in a pan and bring to a boil over a medium heat.

5. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and eggs until smooth.

6. Slowly add half of the warm milk mixture into the egg and whisk constantly to temper them.

7. Add the remaining milk, whisking, and return the whole thing to the saucepan.

8. Cook until you get a thick consistency, whisking non-stop.

9. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl, let cool for 10 minutes and then incorporate the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth .

10. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, directly touching the cream, then cool completely in fridge.

11. Cut 2 ripe bananas in medium-thick slices and arrange them over the chocolate layer.

12. Pour cooled custard on top of the banana. Refrigerate.

14. In a bowl, combine cream and icing sugar and whip until soft peaks form.

15. Top custard with whipped cream, decorate with bananas and serve with ice cream.

cake without cream and banana top can be refrigerated to serve within 24hrs.



  1. YUM! yumyumyumyumyum! Its nice how certain tastes and smells brings back grabs of nostalgic memories... Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. oh! I just LOVE LOVE banana cream pie! Thanks for the advice about balancing the custard and the cream. Now I'll have to try making'll be a first!

  3. That looks so amazingly good!

  4. You're awesome Anna.

    Hope all is well!


  5. Anna:

    My mother and your grandmother grew up together in Dravosburg - they were 2nd cousins -- although my mother's family spelled the name as Brakeall. They frequently corresponded over the years and occasionally your grandmother would visit my mother when in the McKeesport area.

    I had a chance to meet your grandparents in 1992 when they stopped in my adopted home of Beckley, WV and joined me for lunch. We had a great time talking about the Brakeall/Brakeall lineage.

    My mother recently asked me to try and find your grandmother as the last letters she wrote to her went unanswered. It was then that I discovered that she passed a few years ago.

    Keep up her traditions. Your 3rd Cousin, Once Removed.

    Jim Owston


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