According to the weather report, the thermometer is supposed to drop to well below 0 this week.  There are harrowing tales of towns a bit farther north from here that might see -40...or worse.  

My job on such frigid occasions is to make sure our pipes don't freeze and that our farm animals have enough heat in their homes that they may snuggle up at night with little fear of turning into ice sculptures.  We've even set up a heated cat house for our feral cat, Abner, who's been overwintering and supping in our barn the last 3 years.  

On the advice of a cat whisperer friend, I've sprinkled cat nip willy nilly onto the warm mattress of the feline enclosure to entice him in.  It gives me the warm and fuzzies imagining lil' Abner lolling around in the snuggly confines of his new domain with a kitty buzz and a full belly.

My job is to also take care of keeping the bipeds toasty and what better way than with a creamy, caramel doused banana cream pie?  It is the cat nip for humans, afterall.

(Makes 1 cream pie)

For the Quick Puff
(enough for 2 bottom crusts or 1 double crusted)

Adapted from my book Pie it Forward

1 pound flour
1 pound unsalted butter, cold and cut into inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup ice cold water

NOTE:  I recommend that you consult THIS post for a visual of the dough process.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar.  Whisk for a few seconds to combine.  Add the butter cubes and toss to coat.  Using the tips of your fingers, massage the butter into the flour until the dime sized pieces of butter remain throughout the mixture.

Pour the water over the mixture and using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture.  Then using your hands, toss the mixture and stir it about with your fingers to ensure that the moisture is evenly distributed.  Press down on the mixture to compact it in the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to hydrate for 10 minutes.

Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface lightly dusted with flour.  Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to a rough 22" by 9" rectangle.  The dough will be an unholy mess but it will come together soon.

Perform a letter fold by carefully folding the right side of the dough over toward the middle (I use a bench scraper to do this since the dough is more piecey than a workable piece of dough at this point).  Fold the left side over to cover the first fold, like a business letter.

Turn the dough 90º and roll out as before and fold again.  Do this one more time.  By the third and last roll and fold, the dough should hold together beautifully and be smooth.  Cover the block of dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before using.

Cut the dough in half (keep the other half frozen for another yummy occasion).  Roll out the dough into a rough 14" round to about 1/8" to 1/4" thick.  Line a 9" pie plate with the dough and trim the dough so that it just hangs over the edge of the pie plate.  Dock the bottom of the dough and freeze for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350º.

Cover the dough with parchment paper and fill with baking weights or dry beans (uncooked rice works well too).  Bake for 20 minutes and then remove the weights and parchment paper.  Bake for 15 minutes more or until the crust is golden brown and baked through.  Allow the crust to cool completely.

For the caramel

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
squirt lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, water, lemon juice and salt.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar has completely melted.  Stop stirring and continue cooking until the caramel turns a deep, deep amber, hard to tell when the dark brown sugar is already so dark, so add a candy thermometer and cook to 375ºF.  Immediately add the heavy cream.  The mixture will boil up quite violently but it dies down quickly.  Stir together over low heat until the caramel is completely melted and the mixture is well combined.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the filling

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup Monin banana flavored syrup
1/4 granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and salt.

In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream, milk and syrup.  Bring to a simmer.  With the mixer running, add the hot cream mixture to the sugar/egg yolk mixture and whisk until smooth.  Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until the pastry cream has thickened to the texture and thickness of mayonnaise.

Scrape the pastry cream into a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream so that a skin doesn't form.  Cool in the fridge, about 1 hour.

To finish

1 large banana, ripe but not brown, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup Monin banana syrup

Line the bottom of the cooled pie crust with the banana rounds.  Pour the caramel over the bananas.  Smooth all but 1 cup of the cooled banana pastry cream over the caramel and refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, reserved 1 cup pastry cream and 1/4 cup Monin syrup.  Whisk until stiff peaks form.

Transfer half of the whipped cream mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large decorative pastry tip (I used a St. Honoré tip).  Set aside.

The pastry cream is in.  Now to add half of the whipped cream.

First half of the whipped cream added.  Now for the fun part.

Add a little rose bud.

Add the rest of the petals.

Add the remaining whipped cream to top of the pastry cream and smooth flat with a small offset spatula.  Pipe the set aside whipped cream in the piping bag in decorative swirls over the smoothed whipped cream mixture.  I start by making a small rose bud and then add bands of whipped cream in 3-4 inch sections around the starting bud.  This gives the top of the cake the look of a rose in full bloom.  You can also use a large leaf tip to get this look by piping the leaves on their side as opposed to flat.

Serve immediately.

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