April 27th, 2015

Bill’s Birthday Pie, no cheating!


Bill’s favorite dessert is banana-coconut cream pie–and I make it for him every birthday. It combines two of his best-loved ingredients in a lush pudding, mounded in a flaky crust.

In the past, my method was what you’d call the cheater version, a trick that I stumbled upon years ago when I was deep in nightmare catering world. (um, like serving two concurrent dinner parties of 150 and 300 guests, after assembling 230 box lunches and feeding a crew meal of 60 for a music video.)


I discovered that if you mix half-and-half instead of milk, along with glug of vanilla into instant pudding (I know, I know, blasphemy, how could I?) and stirred it thoroughly for 5 minutes, that it transformed (really, almost instantly!) into a remarkably smooth, rich and luscious pudding.

However, I’m not deep in nightmare catering world. (glory be.)

So I’m sharing the bonafide silken version. The version where you stand over a saucepan with a whisk and a wooden spoon, stirring, stirring. The version where you remember when you stood alongside your Nana, watching, watching, as she did the same. And you mustered all the patience that a child has, waiting for the mixture to thicken, waiting for the bubble and burp, waiting for that moment when you’d get to lick the spoon and clean out the pot.



One reason this pie is great: I place a handful of shredded coconut on the bottom of the pie shell before blind-baking it–while doubling (somewhat) as pie weights, the coconut toasts up beautifully.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons very cold butter
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1/3 cup shredded coconut

Place flour, salt, and cold butter pieces in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping or pastry blade. Pulse until the butter is cut into the flour and resembles little peas. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, with the motor running. The dough will gather into a ball.

Remove and form the ball into a slightly flattened disc shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dust the counter with flour. Roll out and place into a pie pan. Crimp the edges. Prick the surface with a fork. Sprinkle with shredded coconut.

Place on the center rack and bake for 15 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.
Remove and cool completely before filling.


Reason 2: Two egg yolks, whisked with half-and-half, sugar, and cornstarch, then added to the warming milk, make this pudding creamy-dreamy. I like to use part raw sugar and part granulated for deeper flavor.

SILKEN VANILLA PUDDING adapted from Cooking Light
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla (or scrape a vanilla bean)
2/3 cup sugar (can split it half demerara sugar/half granulated white sugar)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup half-and-half
knob of butter (optional)

Pour milk in a heavy, non-reactive saucepan. Add vanilla (or scrape seeds from vanilla bean.)
Gently warm on medium low heat.

In a large bowl, add both sugars, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk together. Add half-and-half and egg yolks to this mixture. Whisk thoroughly to combine well.

Add about one cup of the warmed milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Bring to just under a boil–still stirring. This could take a few minutes. Once the pudding begins to bubble and pop, cook for one more minute, then remove from heat. Whisk in a knob of butter until it is fully incorporated if you like.

Spoon pudding into a bowl. If you wish to chill it quickly, place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until pudding cools, stirring occasionally.

Cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap; chill.


chilled vanilla pudding
2-3 ripe bananas
1 pint heavy cream, whipped with 3 tablespoons powdered sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Put about half of the pudding into the baked and cooled pie shell. Slice the bananas (about 1/4 inch thick) and layer into the pie. Add remaining pudding. Top with banana slices. Cover with whipped cream. Sprinkle toasted coconut over the top. Cover and chill.

Serves 8-10


And, just for fun:

1 3 ounce package instant vanilla pudding
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Dump the instant pudding mix into a large bowl. Bury the box in recycling.
While whisking, slowly add the half-and-half. Continue to stir for about 4 minutes.
Add the vanilla, and stir for another minute.
Cover and chill. Slink off and feel guilty. Then fill the pie, top with whipped cream and serve.
Smile sheepishly when someone asks for the recipe.


Posted in Desserts, Recipes

17 Responses to “Bill’s Birthday Pie, no cheating!”
  1. Kath Says:

    I can see why this is Bill’s favourite. It looks delicious. I think you may be excused the cheat’s version (he was lucky to have it at all by the sound of things). Happy birthday Bill!

  2. ernestine Says:

    My favorite also and the cheat method is what I have used for years for this big family :)
    Need to make again soon – even for one.

  3. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    This looks soooo luscious! I love the coconut in the bottom of the crust too. Does Birthday Boy appreciate the difference in the scratch vs cheat versions? Hope so! Best wishes to Bill on his birthday!

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Kath—yes, there were some birthdays when he was lucky to get it at all!

    Hi Ernestine–it’s a winner, isn’t it?

    Hi Johanne–yes, he does appreciate the difference–he says the bonafide version is indeed superior. But he is such a pie hound, he would enjoy it either way.

  5. Barbara Greene Says:

    Oh my that looks delish! What a sweet girl you are! This does look very doable for those of us with less skills in the kitchen…yummy

  6. K-Run Says:

    WOWeeee! That Looks Dee-Licious! I can’t wait to try!
    Happy Birthday Bill!!

  7. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Yes, Barbara–it’s a good one, that you could easily make, I promise!

    Hey K-Run! Thanks and I’ll pass along the wishes. Miss you!

  8. rhonda Says:

    Looks great and bet it tastes even better! You sent me on an internet search for “knob of butter”. :-)
    Happy Birthday to Mr. Bill!!

  9. Juliana Says:

    Coconut and banana in a creamy pie? Yes, this pie just sounds and looks even better…
    Oh! Happy Birthday Bill…
    Have a great week Nancy :)

  10. David Miller Says:

    I think I can successfully do this.Your step by step information is helpful.

  11. Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Lucky, lucky Bill! This is just the kind of dessert I really enjoy with some of my favorite things….a good crust, a creamy custard and bananas! Pies are a good thing and you have done this one proud!

  12. Denise Says:

    Oh, Nancy… It’s breakfast time and you have me wanting pie.

  13. Barbara Says:

    No doubt Bill is one happy birthday boy!
    I do love a cream pie. (Must remember your cheat idea…clever of you!) My favorite is a coconut cream pie, so rarely make them anymore, but your version with bananas reminds me of our favorite childhood pudding….banana cream, which my mother made with a meringue top. Your recipe would be fun to make with coconut milk too.

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Barbara–I love the idea of making it with coconut milk–yes!

  15. Wendy Says:

    Bill definitely knew the difference and was quick to brag on the fact of homemade pudding. What a wonderful birthday present!

  16. Beth Says:

    My husband would love this pie too. And I promise not to cheat!

  17. Katie Says:

    Hi! My name is Katie and I just started a blog for the first time about healthy eating. I was wondering if you would be able to check it out and give us some tips. Any thing you could do would help, we are just trying to get our name out there and gain more followers :) Thank you so much!

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