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Kate McDermott is inarguably the pie-making queen. The James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef holds pie bootcamps, aptly called Pie Camp, where she instructs an intimate group of bakers seeking to become experts in the art of pie. She offers courses for the uninitiated and the accomplished, teaching students from all over the world how to perfect press-in crusts, savory pot pies, crostadas, and more. Normally, Pie Camps are held in person, but given these unprecedented times, Kate has reverted to holding classes over Zoom. 

Related Reading: Eat Cake for Dinner with This Multilayered Crepe Masterpiece

Whether you’ve been to a Pie Camp or not, Kate’s now making her pie wisdom widespread, thanks to the publishing of her second cookbook of the same name. In “Pie Camp,” Kate equips readers with the skills they’ll  need to make any kind of pie they desire. You’ll learn how to top pies with braided crusts, thicken fruit fillings, troubleshoot custards that won’t set properly, and master a host of pie doughs, from flaky to cookie crumb crusts. Kate promises that learning these techniques will provide any baker with the courage and capability to bake all pies. 

Pie Camp: The Skills You Need to Make Any Pie You Want, $25.49 on Amazon

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The book is divided into a number of sections, covering all bases. You’ll start learning about pie tools and ingredients, before moving on to Kate’s handy tips for making a number of pie doughs. She provides step-by-step visuals for preparing flaky dough at home, replete with rolling tips, gluten-free recipes, and creative ideas for finishing the edges of pie crust. The rest of the book boasts recipes, split into fruit, creamy, and kitchen cupboard pies (recipes you can often rely on because you already have everything in the pantry); expect the likes of apple blackberry pie, lemony quick tartlets, a gooey peanut butter chocolate pie, and an oatmeal crust cheesecake pie.  

Start your “Pie Camp” quest with Kate’s recipe for a Nanabanana cream pie. Kate swears that this is the best banana cream pie she’s ever had the pleasure of eating. The pie’s base flaunts a peanut butter cookie crumb crust, topped with bananas chopped up like coins, a meaty layer of pastry cream, and finished off with more bananas. Make sure to sprinkle the top with sugar and take a blowtorch to the bananas until lightly caramelized, then serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Excerpted from Pie Camp. Copyright 2020 by Kate McDermott. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press, a Division of W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

Nanabanana Cream Pie Recipe

I humbly say to you, this is the best banana cream pie I have ever eaten. Honestly, I believe I could have stood at the kitchen counter, spoon in hand, devouring much of what I had just created the first time I made it. Instead, with “everything in moderation” foremost in my mind, I headed out in my neighborhood and shared it, until the plate was almost empty. There was a bit of cool creamy filling in the bottom of the pan when I came home, and I am not ashamed to say that I took the spoon and finished all of it off. I did stop before I could lick the plate clean, but I definitely thought about it. A peanut butter cookie crumb crust is just right for this pie. Halve or quarter the recipe for a smaller version.

Nanabanana Cream Pie

Makes: One 9-inch deep-dish pie
Ingredients
  • 1 recipe Press-In Crumb Crust, using peanut butter cookies (see Master Recipe: Press-In Crumb Crust, See below)
  • 1 recipe Luscious Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
  • 3 to 5 ripe but not mushy bananas, sliced in ½-inch- (1.3 cm) thick moons
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons demerara sugar (optional)
  • ½ recipe Chantilly Cream (see Master Recipe: Whipped Cream chart, see below) for serving
Instructions
  1. Make, pre-bake, and set aside the crust to cool.
  2. While the crust is baking and cooling, make the Luscious Pastry Cream and let cool.
  3. Place a layer of banana slices inside the bottom of the cooled pie shell; keep some slices to layer on top.
  4. Evenly spread the Luscious Pastry Cream over the bananas.
  5. Arrange the set-aside banana slices over the top of the filling in whatever pattern you like.
  6. Sprinkle the optional sugar over the top and lightly run a blowtorch over it.
  7. Serve with a dollop of Chantilly Cream.

Press-In Crumb Crust Recipe

I still remember the sound the wax paper made when a new pack of honey grahams was opened. Even though the wrapping has changed and it makes a different sound now, when I’m making crumb crusts with graham crackers I steal away at least one section of a cracker to dunk in milk, just like I did when I was a little girl. Use gluten-free cookies for a gluten- free version. Your own recipes for crisp homemade cookies will be just fine, too. The weight of cookie varieties will be different, so in this instance, using a measuring cup may be the way to go. This is a quick and easy crust to make. Just whirl up some cookies in a food processor until they are fine crumbs, mix in a bit of sugar and melted butter, press into a pie pan, and pop into the oven for a short bake.

Press-In Crumb Crust

Makes: One 9-inch deep-dish pie
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups (300 g) cookie crumbs (graham cracker, peanut butter, chocolate, or vanilla wafers)
  • 3 tablespoons (37 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (84 g) butter, melted
  • A FEW OPTIONAL EXTRAS:1 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or other extract of your choice
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Make the cookie crumbs by processing them in a food processor or placing them in a large resealable bag and rolling with your pin until finely crushed.
  3. Place the cookie crumbs, sugar, and optional extras into a bowl. Add the melted butter and distribute it well with clean hands or a fork.
  4. Turn the mixture into the pie pan and evenly spread it out over the bottom and up the sides, but do not spread on top of the rim. You can use your fingers, the back of a spoon, or even the rounded side of a coffee cup or a small bowl. Try to make the depth of the crust even on the sides and the bottom.
  5. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until the edges have gained a little color. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Luscious Pastry Cream Recipe

Luscious Pastry Cream

Ingredients
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon banana extract (optional, for even more banana flavor)
  • 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (70 g) cornstarch
  • 1 quart (950 ml) half-and-half
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla extract and banana extract, if using, and whisk into the yolks for a minute or so until the eggs are smooth. It’s fine to do this with a fork. Set aside.
  2. In a medium heavy saucepan, place the sugar and cornstarch, and mix together with a whisk.
  3. With a whisk in hand, turn the heat to medium under the saucepan and slowly and steadily pour the half-and-half into the dry ingredients while whisking constantly. I whisk in a figure-eight pattern. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and you see it begin to bubble.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour ½ cup of the hot mixture into the eggs in the bowl to temper them. Whisk together in the bowl until it looks blended in. This won’t take long.
  5. Return the hot egg mixture to the saucepan, place it back on the burner, and turn the heat back on to medium. Bring to a boil and continue to whisk in a figure eight constantly and vigorously for 2 minutes, while the Pastry Cream plop, plop, plops. Remove from the heat. The Pastry Cream will be thick and coat the bake of a spoon.
  6. Turn the hot mixture into a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter pats.
  7. Cover with wax paper to prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Whisk a bit before using. Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks and fold into the cooled Pastry Cream until it is evenly distributed.

Whipped Cream Recipe

I find that one-half to three-quarters of this recipe is enough to pipe around the edge of a pie. This recipe makes a generous 2 cups, but for smaller amounts, reduce the amounts by one-quarter or one-half.

Whipped Cream

Makes: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons to ⅜ cup (25 to 75 g) granulated sugar or confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch if using granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream, well chilled
  • Flavor extract of choice
Instructions
  1. Chill a medium-size deep bowl and electric mixer beaters in the freezer.
  2. If using granulated sugar, mix it with the cornstarch in a small bowl to combine, and set aside. If using confectioners’ sugar, take a fork and break up any clumps, or sift through a small sieve strainer into a bowl.
  3. Pour the whipping cream in the chilled bowl.
  4. Mix the cream with an electric mixer on low for a minute. Increase to medium and mix for another minute. You’ll see lots of bubbles on top.
  5. Increase the speed to high and rain (sprinkle) in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping for another 2 to 3 minutes until soft peaks form.
  6. Add the flavor extract and mix a few seconds more to combine.

Header image courtesy of "Pie Camp."

Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.
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