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banana pie

Looks good? Well, it tastes better. There is a story to this pie, but first a summary. This a chiffon-style pie with a liqueur-infused gelatin base folded into slightly sweetened egg whites and unsweetened whipped cream. Alright, I strongly sweetened the egg whites and I could not resist putting more sugar and booze into the whipped cream, but that is beside the point. I used banana rum for the very delicate chiffon, then garnished it with both banana slices and sugar coated blueberries. Even Suzen liked it. She said it was too sweet, but …

In 1970 the wonderful Craig Claiborne published a reader’s recipe for Brandy Alexander pie. It became one of the most requested recipes from The Times — pre-internet. Other readers improvised and sent in many personalized versions. Dick Taeuber, a statistician from Maryland, went berserk, perfecting the recipe and suggesting twenty different liquor combinations: chocolate mint, brown velvet, raspberry alexander, Cheri Suisse, … His full list was published by Claiborne in 1975 in The Times and now appears in The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

I have tried many different liqueur combinations, and enjoyed them all. There are two changes or points of order to consider when making this pie. First, it calls for ½ cup of liqueur. That may have been appropriate for the 1970s but we are all so much more sophisticated now. Amanda Hesser, in Food 52, says there is “enough alcohol to raise the hair on your neck and then make your neck wobbly too.” So, I reduce the liqueur to ⅓ cup — not counting that dash in the whipped cream — and I’m thinking of going even lower. This pie can rock you or be subtle.

Second, the recipe requires using a package of gelatin, heating it with liquids, and then letting it cool. I have made some real mistakes here. Once I let it not just cool but entirely solidify in the refrigerator — I just forgot about it because it was the fourth quarter and the Jets were about to fumble again. Solidified gelatin is not an easy item to fold into egg whites. And then I tried an ice bath where it did not all solidify, just the part on the bottom — I was watching a TV trial where they let the murderer off.

Be careful with your gelatin. Don’t over chill. Don’t let it solidify. Don’t cook and watch TV at the same time. Do let this pie chill for hours or overnight.

Let your imagination run wild. Is there, on a top shelf, some liqueur you bought in a stupor and never wanted to look at again? Now’s the time!

Dick Taeuber’s Cordial Pie

Yield: 6 servings, enough for up to 6 people but more like 3


  • 1 ½ cups gingersnap crumbs or graham crackers
  • ¼ cup melted butter, [⅓ cup graham crackers]
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • ½ [or less]cup total of liquors, Brandy, Crème de Cacao, …
  • 1 cup heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the crumbs with the butter. Form into a 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes. Cool.

Pour ½ cup cold water in a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Add ⅓ cup sugar, salt and egg yolks. Stir to blend.

Place over low heat and stir until the gelatin dissolves and mixture thickens slightly (it won’t be as thick as a custard). Do not boil! Remove from heat.

Stir the liqueurs or liquor into the mixture. [For this banana version, I used banana rum that literally was sitting on the shelf.] Then chill until the mixture starts to mound slightly.

Beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the remaining sugar and beat until the peaks are firm. Fold the meringue into the thickened mixture.

Whip the cream, then fold into the mixture. [Remember, Brian sweetened the cream here and added a splash of liqueur, which could be the same liqueur as in the gelatin or something complementary.]

Turn the mixture into the crust. Decorate as you desire. Here we used bananas and blueberries, but you can leave it alone, dot with whipped cream, shaved chocolate, … Use what works with the liqueur you have added.

Chill for several hours or overnight.

Source: Food52.com, a haven for all foodies