Growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, Joyce White found it almost impossible to avoid cream pies, especially because her older sister cooked at the local café. So White, author of the cookbook Brown Sugar, perfected the art of making every sort, from coconut to cocoa to her favorite, banana: rum-spiked custard sandwiched between banana slices and swirls of whipped cream, topped with white chocolate curls.
3 tablespoons apricot preserves, melted and strained
2 cups milk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons light rum
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 ripe bananas, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ounces chocolate curls
In a food processor, pulse the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. In a bowl, combine the heavy cream and vinegar; pour over the crumbs and pulse until moistened. On a floured surface, knead the pastry 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fit the round into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch and fold it under; crimp decoratively. Refrigerate until chilled.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Prick the crust with a fork, line the pastry with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until set. Remove the foil and beans. Press down any air bubbles and bake for about 8 minutes, until the pastry is golden; transfer to a rack and brush the bottom and sides with the preserves. Let cool.
In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the milk, the egg yolks and vanilla. In a saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt and nutmeg. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups of milk and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Add the butter and stir over moderate heat until thick and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk about half into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve set over a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the rum. Press a piece of wax paper on the custard; refrigerate until chilled.
In a small glass bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water; let stand until softened. Microwave on high until melted, 15 seconds; cool. In a bowl, beat the cream with the superfine sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon of rum and the melted gelatin until soft peaks form. Arrange the bananas in overlapping layers on the crust and pour the custard on top. Tap the pie on the counter so the custard settles. Spread the whipped cream on top, and using the back of a spoon, make deep swirls. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours. Garnish with the chocolate curls and serve.