Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie


1 box vanilla wafers (60 to 65 cookies)
3/4 stick butter, melted
3 large ripe bananas
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup homemade caramel, recipe follows, or 1 cup prepared caramel
Vanilla Pudding, warm, recipe follows
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse until the cookies are finely crushed. Reserve 1/2 cup to layer in and to top the pie. Pour the remaining crumbs in a 9-inch pie plate. Pour the melted butterover the top and, using a spoon or your hands, combine the ingredients. Press the mixture in the bottom and up the sides and onto the lip of the pie plate. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Peel and slice the bananas, adding them to a bowl. Stir the salt into the caramel sauce and toss the banana slices with the salted caramel. Arrange some banana slices evenly over the bottom of the crust. Spread half of the warm Vanilla Pudding over the bananas, top with some more crushed vanilla wafers (reserving some for garnish) and more caramel-coated bananas. Spread the remaining Vanilla Pudding over the top.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Add the almond extract and sugar and beat until peaks form. Make sure not to overbeat, or the cream will become lumpy and butter-like. Spread the whipped cream over the pie. Just before serving, garnish with a caramel swirl and the rest of the crushed vanilla wafers.

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream


Combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. This is the only time you can stir the sugar. If you stir it while it's cooking, it turns to rock candy. Place the saucepan over medium to low heat until the sugars start to dissolve, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sugar starts to caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not stir while this is happening. You've got to watch the pot, because it goes from caramel to burnt really quickly. And be careful, the mixture is extremely hot!

Turn off the heat and stand back to avoid splattering. Slowly add the cream. Don't panic - the cream will bubble violently, and the caramel will solidify. Just give it more time to liquefy again-trust me!

Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits. Yield: 3 cups.

Vanilla Pudding:
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 egg yolks
2 large eggs
2 cups milk, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour until all of the lumps are gone. Once it is a fine powder, whisk in the egg yolks and whole eggs and continue whisking until a smooth paste is formed. Slowly whisk in 1 cup milk, and once this is incorporated add the remaining 1 cup milk. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it reaches the thickness of chilledpudding, 10 to 15 minutes. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will be thick enough to hold soft peaks when the whisk is lifted.) Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
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