Banana Cream Pie in Jars

For my parents party, as mentioned in the previous post, we served pie since they prefer that to cake. I toyed around with making several regular sized pies but wanted something that was a little more portable and easy to serve. Thanks to my Pinterest obsession I was inspired to make the pies in small canning jars. The steps may seem a little tedious but I recommend having all the components ready, then these will come together in a snap.

Banana Cream Pie in Jars.
Serves 24
2 boxes of Nilla wafers
1 1/2 sticks of butter melted
6 bananas
6 cups whole milk
16 egg yolks
Seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Dried banana slices
24 half pint canning jars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crush the wafers to very fine crumbs. Mix with the melted butter until the mixture resembles sand and sticks together when a handful is squeezed. Divide the crumb mixture between the 24 jars, approximately 2 heaping tablespoons. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the jar. Bake for 8 minutes, set aside to cool completely.

Once cool, place 5 or 6 slices of banana on top of the crust.

Make the pastry cream filling. In a large saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean till the milk comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light in color. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently whisk in the cornstarch. Pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Next pour the tempered eggs back into the milk and place the pan over medium heat. Stir constantly but gently with a whisk until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture boil for 30 seconds stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Strain through a sieve into a bowl to remove any cooked eggs or lumps, cover with plastic wrap and cool completely. This can be made up to 3 days ahead. Spoon evenly among the 24 jars, approximately a heaping 1/4 cup.

Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until soft peaks are formed.  Divide the whipping cream among the jars. You'll use approximately 1/4 cup of the whipped cream to cover the pastry cream, garnish with a dried banana slice and chill until ready to serve, not more than 4 hours.

A party for people who didn't want a party.....

My parents are hitting some milestone birthdays this year so my siblings and I hatched a plan to celebrate them while I was home for the summer.

I should let you know that my parents are on the introverted side of the spectrum. They are also on the "Don't make a fuss" side of the spectrum as well and had made it known that if we planned a PARTY, they weren't coming.

My sister and brother and I began making plans. It would be a small family gathering. A casual afternoon BBQ at their home. Everyone home by 8, so mom and dad could watch the ball game. We divided up the details and set to work. Now, I am not proud of this but I should confess that, I am the oldest child and, well, I'm bossy. So when I say that my siblings and I planned the party, we all know that means I took over and told them what to do. They're good sports.

There you have it.

But we come from a long line of extroverts who think it is criminal to not plan big celebrations for these life events. I should go on record that while I too am on the introverted side, our family parties are one of the things I miss the most about living overseas. The gatherings are large. You will eat too much, and it is highly likely that you will be kissed by a stranger (or be coerced into singing a song, playing charades, or acting in a skit). Just so you're warned.

So I wasn't entirely surprised when I got an email from my cousin. "Mom said that you guys were planning a party for your parents in August and I wanted to know the date". Oh bugger.

And so we found ourselves planning a birthday celebration for people who did not want to have a party.

We (I) decided to stick with the original plan. A casual BBQ at mom and dad's house, triple the amount of food we were planning to serve and tape the game to watch later. Easy, peasy.

We served Pulled Pork Sliders, and Potato Salad, and since my parents aren't cake people we had pie. Lemon Meringue Tartlets, Banana Cream Pie in jars*, and Brownies for the kids. As party favors I found these adorable cookies by Sugar and Flour on Etsy. They were super tasty and cute to boot!

All in all it was a smashing success of a party. The birthday boy and girl even had a good time.

*recipes to follow

Give 'em a try

These brownies.
I didn't have much hope for them. Sort of like the boy I sat next to in third grade. Every time it was his turn to be "up" during kickball I had this sinking feeling that an epic fail was about to occur.

Instead of glasses and a runny nose, there is tofu and a gluten free flour blend. I decided, much like the boy in grade 3, that I would politely give them a try. How bad could it be?

I loved these. Like really, loved them. They are rich and fudgy and don't taste like they might be made from things that are good for you. They are eggless and gluten free and can be made with vegan margarine if that is your thing. I added cinnamon, almond extract, and a chopped dark chocolate bar that had a punch of chili. Feel free to add what makes you happy, chopped nuts (which I find blasphemous), chocolate chips, peanut butter etc.

Oh and that boy? While I didn't fall in love with him, we became great friends.

Chocolate and Chili Brownies
adapted from here
1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
7 ounces of silken tofu pureed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of gluten free flour
3 ounce bar of dark chocolate with chili such as Theo or Lindt

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl combine the butter and cocoa powder. Stir them together well and let them sit for about 3 minutes. See note below.
Add the sugar, pureed tofu, and extracts and blend well. Next add the salt, cinnamon and flour and stir until everything is incorporated. Add the chopped chocolate and then spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

*Allowing the cocoa to "bloom" in the melted butter amps up the cocoa flavor. Cocoa powder contains solid particles of fat and protein that have flavor molecules trapped inside. The warm liquid (whether water, milk, or butter) bursts the molecules and increases the flavor of the cocoa.
*The batter will not be like traditional brownie batter. It is thicker, about the consistency of peanut butter, and will need to be evenly spread in the pan.
*The brownies will still look wet at 25 minutes but baking them longer will only dry them out. Take them out of the oven at 25 minutes and resist the temptation to cut into them until they are cool.
*I find it better to store them in the refrigerator.