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18 December 2008

banana cream pie, gluten-free and dairy free

sauteeing bananas for pie

(We're thrilled that this recipe is being featured at's roundup of holiday recipes for 2009. For more of our featured posts, visit today.)


If I want to crack up the Chef, all I have to do is look at him straight on, and say "Pie." He laughs, every time, his head bending down, the squeal erupting from him. This makes me laugh, and so, within a moment, we are both laughing and slapping our knees.

We must look like crazy people. Who laughs that hard at one word?

(The same thing happens with my dear friend Sharon and the word pants. Clearly, this is a trend.)

Of course, there are stories behind it. Mostly, it is a story I wrote in my book, the epic adventure of taking a still-steaming-hot cherry pie onto a New York City bus. (One version of it is in this piece on pumpkin pie I wrote in the early days of this site.) I've always loved telling this story. People laugh. But no one laughs as hard as the Chef. For some reason, it is his favorite of my stories. Whenever we are in a place where someone mentions pie — particularly in my baking classes — he nudges my side and starts to giggle. "Tell the story," he whispers. And so it lives once again.

However, the word pie inspires more than laughter around us sometimes.

The day after Thanksgiving, when the Chef, Little Bean, and I were in Tucson, everyone wanted more pie. Our gluten-free pumpkin pie had been such a success that it had disappeared by the end of Friday's breakfast. The Chef's father actually didn't know it had been gluten-free until after it was gone. We weren't trying to fool him, but we had done it. The proof was in the empty pie pan.

The next day, after one of the Chef's sisters arrived for a weekend visit ("the fun aunt" we call her), we talked about pie. The rest of us had, in our zeal for eating, left her only a slender sliver. "Not fair," she called. We agreed.

"We could always make more pie," we said. After all, we had brought a container of gluten-free flours with us on the plane, to make all the holiday treats. Several cups still remained. There was no point in taking them home. How about more pie?

"You know, I really like banana cream pie," the Chef's father said, as he sat at the kitchen table, reading the paper. He didn't pay us much attention. I don't think he expected his musings to become pie later.

warm sauteed bananas

If there's one thing the Chef loves to do, it's cook for his family. Every wedding anniversary and family gathering puts him in the kitchen, joyfully dancing. And his parents had taken such care to feed me well during that week. His mother bought gluten-free bread mixes (that became the stuffing) and made me safe chocolate chip cookies. She also bought a brand-new plastic cutting board, put my name on it, and asked everyone to chop food for me there, and the food we would all be sharing. I felt so loved. The Chef wanted to reciprocate.

And so he started to make pie. Within moments he was sauteeing bananas in rum and brown sugar. Without heavy cream in the house — we had used it all — he found a can of coconut milk. The pie crust, baked a few hours earlier, waited for its insides.

I love watching him cook — the flip of the pan, the intent focus on the cutting board, the way he invents on the spot, based on what he has. I took photographs and notes. We laughed about pie.

Later that night, after dinner around the table together, the Chef pulled out the pie. It wasn't entirely chilled — it would be perfect the next day — and he worried it had not set enough. Nobody else worried.

His father looked at the slice of pie on his plate — his wish become fulfilled dessert before him — and said, "I didn't know you'd actually make this."

We grinned. Another pie story.

banana-coconut pie

COCONUT-BANANA CREAM PIE, adapted from Creme de Colorado Cookbook

This pie, by accident, became both gluten-free and dairy-free. No one was complaining in the Ahern household. It takes only a few set of steps to complete — blind baking the pie, concocting the cream, and sauteeing the bananas. If it sounds like too much work for one slice of pie, let me reassure you — it's worth it.

The original recipe comes from a battered old cookbook with spiral binding in the Chef's mom's kitchen drawers: Creme de Colorado, put out by the Junior League of Denver. The Chef grew up in Colorado, and that state (both geographical and of mind) is vastly important to all the Aherns We thought it fitting to bake something from its pages. After all, the Chef's mother said, "I've cooked out of it for years, and only one recipe was a clunker." (Could it have been the granola with wheat germ and soy beans?) I'm realizing that cookbooks like this — PTA collections; Junior Leagues; the best of bake sales — are treasure troves for gluten-free adaptations. After all, every cook turned in her absolute best to be published. And how can you beat their personalities?

This pie? Oh my. We approve.

1 gluten-free pie crust (for the folks who need to be gluten-free and dairy free, try this dough. If your guests can eat dairy, replace the "buttery sticks" with butter.)

1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups coconut milk
4 large egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons coconut extract

4 bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter (if you need this to be dairy free, use non-dairy "buttery sticks")
3 tablespoons dark rum or kahlua

Baking the pie crust. Once you have your pie dough made, roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper to the size of the pie pan. Place it in the pan, press it in, and fill any holes with the extra dough. Spread a piece of buttered tin foil to fit snugly into the pie crust. Fill it with dried beans or pie weights. (This will prevent the pie crust from puffing up.) Slide the pie crust into a 375° oven and bake it for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until it feels set and has started to brown. Take out the beans and set the pie crust aside to cool.

Making the custard. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt into a saucepan on medium heat. Stir in the coconut milk, gradually, stirring all the while. When the custard has come to a boil, let it remain on the heat for 2 minutes, or until it has begun to thicken to pudding consistency. Remove from the heat.

Tempering the eggs. Stir 1/4 cup of the custard mixture into the egg yolks, stirring continuously until it is all mixed together. Pour the egg mixture back into the remaining custard. Cook on medium heat for 2 more minutes.

Finishing the cream. Remove the custard from the heat. Add the coconut extract. Stir.

Sauteeing the bananas. Melt 1 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add 2 of the bananas. Sauté for a few moments. Add the sugar. Keep flipping and sautéeing. When the sugar starts to caramelize, add the rum. Reduce the rum. It might flame -- don't panic. Stir the pan by hand. When everything looks caramelized and reduced, add the remaining butter and bananas and stir. When the butter is incorporated with the rum, take the skillet off the heat.

Finishing the pie. Pour the banana mixture into the bottom of the pie crust. Cover with the coconut custard. Refrigerate overnight, ideally.


Makes 1 9-inch pie.


At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my... here we are snowbound in Seattle with a bunch of bananas and two cans of coconut milk. But no rum or Kahlua. However- we do have Grand Marnier courtesy of Aunt Mimi's last visit!

What do you think of a little blast of orange?

Smells like 3.14159265!

At 7:56 PM, Blogger FinallyAnAnswer said...

This recipe is my - and my husband's - dessert dream come true! Let there be banana cream for Christmas!

At 8:08 PM, Blogger TG said...

Love your site. Always good recipes. This recipe would be dairy free, if not for the butter. So close! We use coconut milk regularly. I wonder if margarine would be an okay replacement? Of course, not as good as butter, but...ya know. Thanks for all your work in sharing gluten free recipes. You guys are a blessing.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Ana said...

Colorado Cache, which is the JR League's 1st cookbook, is EVEN better. You can find copies on amazon for cheap. It's a wonderful, wonderful book.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you have to fill the pie crust with beans?

At 9:40 PM, Blogger Shawna said...

Oh this looks amazing. It reminds me of one of my favorites growing up - Banberry pie. Banana custard, strawberries, and whipped cream. Sigh.

Shauna, thank you for this site. One of my little hobbies has become collecting gluten-free recipes and making them gluten, dairy, and egg free (my top allergies!). Though I honestly don't know if I could do this justice without eggs...

But I can still dream about it!

At 3:56 AM, Blogger Nadine Spearing said...

This recipe looks amazing and I'm going to go and make it right now! Thanks very much for sharing this, it's quite hard to find both gluten free and dairy free desserts and this one looks fabulous!

At 5:37 AM, Blogger Just the Right Size said...

Oh Shauna, that's such a cute story about the cherry pie in New York.

It's amazing isn't it? The power of homemade food!

You and the Chef sound JUST like my hubby & me. We usually are busting out over one silly thing or another, especially if it's something from the movie The Coneheads!

At 6:13 AM, Blogger LindsLee said...

I was wondering about the beans, too... hmmm.

At 6:58 AM, Blogger steffigf said...

I've had a bad reaction to eggs in custard in the past. But you're thickening with cornstarch and refrigerating . . . Do you think this would set if I left the eggs out altogether? (It looks so good -- I really want to make it!)

At 8:05 AM, Blogger Sandra said...

I think the beans are just to keep the pie crust in place, and not raising.

I assume that the bananas would be sliced before cooking?

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Shauna said...

Nina, who could have a problem with Grand Marnier?

Tiffany, I modified the recipe to include non-dairy butter sticks. I'm really fond of the Earth Balance brand, in particular. Thanks for catching me on that slip!

Anonymous and Lindsey, the beans are simply a weight to prevent the pie crust from puffing up irregularly. It's called blind baking, and it's necessary if you want that pie to look nice! (I've also added some explanation to the recipe.)

Steffigf, While I always think it's a good idea to experiment, I don't think the custard would work without eggs. That doesn't mean you can't figure out something else that would work!

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That looks phenomenal!

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll bet coconut oil (unrefined, for the delicious flavor) would work well in place of the butter. Different flavor, but still yummy. And probably one could find a vegan pudding or custard recipe (using coconut milk) that would substitute just fine for this one, in order to eliminate the eggs.

Too bad my daughter and mother don't like bananas -- they'll just have to pass when I make this pie! More for me, I guess...

Kris in Virginia

At 1:12 PM, Blogger katie stone said...

the 'pie' story is definitely a goodie...HAHAHAHA!!! and this pie looks absolutely divine. i'm taking the recipe to minnesota with me for christmas!

also--thanks for the recommendation awhile back on the rice cooker. i bought it and it's now one of my most prized possessions.

happy holidays aherns! thanks for your presence in my cyberworld!

At 12:18 AM, Blogger GS said...

Oh a dairy-free delight - you've made my year :)

Have a great 2009.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger confessionalista said...

Thanks, again for a glimpse into your "happy holidays" , it really is a comfort, at least to me, to see that the holidays really are a joy to someone. And to be reminded that cooking can be too.

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yummy, yummy!
i am 2 weeks into this gf life and loving it!
thank you so much for all the recipes!
i am blogging gluten free at
have a happy and healthy holiday season!
waller mcinnes

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Herrad said...

Take care and keep warm and happy
Have a happy Winter Solstice and a great Christmas.




At 3:16 PM, Blogger Milhan said...

Wow, thinking that I don't even really need the pie crust! The bananas and custard alone would suit me just fine. And since I am the only one in this house that eats would be all mine, bwahahahahaha!

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Shauna!

I made this and it was a success! My first try! I used gf rice milk (out of coconut milk :-()with vanilla (bean and extract) and a smootchie bit of drambuie (also in the bananas). Cinnamon on top.



At 8:26 PM, Blogger Myrna said...

Shauna. Today I read Gluten-Free Girl, all the way through, cover to cover. Any one who knows me would be astounded. Your enthusiasm made me want to run to the kitchen and cook. It rivals my love of fibre - the textile kind. Thank you for a wonderful resource.

- Myrna

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



Tee Hee!

At 4:41 PM, Blogger Lovebird said...

This looks wonderful......I can't wait to try this one. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger A@ Please Don't Eat Me! said...

could this be used with soy creamer? Im allergic to coconut- but also dairy! i love banana cream pie and i almost fell off my couch when i saw the GF/DF, but i need a no-coconut version! : )

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delicious! It makes me crave.

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Pi" was delicious- even with my substitution of vanilla extract for the coconut extract, and Grand Marnier for the rum. I also decided to use Muscovado sugar. This was also the best GF crust I've made so far- it didn't even crumble when I cut slices.

My crust had:
Just over 1/2 cup your bread flour mix (equal parts sweet sorghum flour, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour and potato starch); 1/2 cup almond flour; 1/4 cup Ivory Teff flour... and 1/4 tsp salt, 6 Tablespoons butter and one egg. It was hand-built, not rolled.

Also- my pie weights, alas, were in the wrong kitchen... So another great substitute is raw rice. I cut parchment paper, lightly buttered the bottom side, and dumped about a cup of rice on top to keep the crust from bubbling up. Works nicely. Wish there was a use for the roasted rice. Maybe someone out there has one!

Thanks Shauna for a perfect snow day recipe for yumminess that will last for a few more days!

At 2:55 AM, Blogger DweezelJazz said...

wishing you and your lovely family a very happy Christmas and a new year filled with many good things. I love reading your writing because the love and warmth that are you come through so clearly in what you say. Thank you.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Ms. Jan said...

This looks wonderful and I'd love to make it for my GF hubby, but he's also corn-free. What can I substitute for the cornstarch?
Thanks so much!

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am dancing in my kitchen. A dairy free, gluten free cream pie! Oh, praise God and pass the plate. Thanks to you both for this one. I so miss dairy products, and and cashew just doesn't cut it, ya know?~~Dee

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Anna said...

OH Wow! We are totally snowed in here, and this sounds wonderful. I think maybe I'll infuse it with lavender flowers. A sweet floral bouquet to go with the bananas. Bring a little spring into the house. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. :)

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Anna said...

ms Jan,

You can substitute arrow root powder for the corn starch. it thickens at a lower temp than corn starch, and should be mixed with a little cool liquid before being added to hot liquid. Since it thickens at a lower temp, take it off the burner as soon as it thickens. use 2 tsp arrowroot for each tablespoon of corn starch. Agar agar will work as well and can be found in powdered form at the health food store and at some Asian groceries. use the same amount as corn starch, in my experience. hope that helps. :)

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Stork said...

Hello gluten free girl! Thank you so much for your book and this wonderful website.

We enjoyed some wonderful coconut milk pasta with seafood the other night. Thought I'd let you know how yummy it was in case you want to try it someday.

Wishing you lots of light and love and many blessings of the season.

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Nate @ House of Annie said...

coconut custard. Perfect! I will have to try this.

At 1:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm... looks delicious. I'm going to try this one.

My good friend Jill and I have these one word crack ups too. One of our favorites is "Cheese grater." It can make us laugh until we wet our pants or beverages come out our noses.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to sign on as anon. at this time, I am newly pregnant with my 3rd child, a surprise, and we are not public with this yet.

But. Pie.

It sounds like the best food in the world right now. My official craving for this child. Instead of baking Christmas cookies, we have been making pies.

Lemon meringue is next in the list. My Mom's, re-made gluten free. She used to make it for me for my birthday, I preferred it to any cake,even as a child.

After that, this one.

Thanks for the timely sharing, it looks delicious.

Thank goodness I still have a leftover piece of pecan in teh fridge, otherwise i would have to start baking...

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your book, I love your site, I love this recipe! I'm going to make it tonight, but I'll change the sugar to Rapadura & the Kahlua to strong coffee with a touch of cocoa.


At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH MY GOODNESS! Behold, the best dessert EVER! I made this for my family and while it was a hard sell after one bite they could not lie - "This is really good!" My family seems to think that anything gluten free/dairy free MUST lack in taste. Argh....

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, A THOUSAND TIMES THANK YOU! I am making another as I type for a new years party with friends. I know for sure they will not hesitate.

I used Earth Balance Sticks for the crust and it was fabulous. No worries about missing the butter there. I made the bananas with unsalted regular butter the first time and I will try with Earth Balance today.

At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many calories?
I rent to, and feed someone who's been in AA recovery for 25 years, so I'm assuming we can leave out the hooch and substitute an extract?

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Heather said...

I'm also wondering what I could use to substitute for the alchohol. I'm a Mormon with Celiac Disease, so I don't keep Kahlua in the house!
I adore your site, thanks so much!

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Joel R. Putnam said...

Travelling around Latin America I've been running into pie all over the place. Thanksgiving in Panama brought a crowd of expats to our hostel, all so hungry for Pumpkin pie done right that I ended up whipping heavy cream with what baisically amounted to a long fork. Every western traveler I've met has been going on pie hunts lately. Holiday spirit maybe? Apple pie in streetside Panderias are turning out surprisingly well, but if you're ever in Cuzco, Peru and you order Key-Lime, be prepared for an ounce of pie, a little crust, and five pounds of merangue.

I'll have to float the banana pie idea around here next time I stay somewhere with kitchen access-- Plaintains are more the mainstay in these parts but they're absolutely everywhere.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think ive ever had banana pie!!? you sure make me wanna go find some pronto, or just make this recipe! the 2nd pic looks amazing and i'm loving all the ingredients it calls for!

Happy New Year!

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I made the pie for Christmas dinner and two days later made another! I too used the Earth Balance flax and olive oil margarine instead of butter to keep it dairy free and it was never missed. You helped this newbie again.

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This looks delicious. Thanks for the gluten free/dairy free recipes. This looks especially yummy although my baking has come to a screaching halt since my son is now intolerant of gluten, casein, soy, egg yolks, CANE SUGAR, corn and potatoes. Well, he will likely grow out of the additional sensitivities and we will be able to make these in 6-9 months. I never realized how easy GF/CF/SF was! This caught my eye because he couldn't have bananas for a long time and now they are back in...perhaps I will try this will maple syrup...where there is a will, there's a way. right?

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I added some dark choc to the filling at the end, and used a cornflake crumb crust. Pie's chilling as I write, can't wait to eat it tomorrow! Thanks for another wonderful recipe :)

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous James said...

These are looking amazing, making my mouth water especially the coconut-banana cream pie.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger foodchallengedfoodie said...

Instead of eggs, 1 12oz pack of silken firm tofu can be a successful substitution in custards provided there is no soy intolerance.


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