Not yo mama's puddin' pie: Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie

Are you a fan of banana pudding pie? If so, I think you'll love this version with the addition of a salted caramel sauce. The caramel adds the tiniest bit of saltiness and takes your average pudding pie up a notch to something extra rich and gooey. Hence, why this aint yo mama's puddin' pie! There's also another lingering taste you can't quite distinguish, but the pie has a hint of alcohol or "booziness" which adds another dimension of flavor. Why? I do not know. Perhaps it was the addition of almond extract to the topping which will make your guests say, "hmmm...what is that?" Heck, I even said it and I made the dang thing.

After eating the pie I discovered I'm not a fan of whipped cream. I'd say the topping is purely optional IMO. Or perhaps I'd use a thinner layer next time rather than the entire amount - but that's just me. With or without the whipped cream, if you're a fan of banana puddin' pie this should not be missed. You'll definitely go bananas over this one :)

Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie

Adapted from Dessert First
Makes one 9-inch pie

• 1 box vanilla wafers (65 cookies)
• 6 tablespoons butter, melted
• 3 large ripe bananas
• salted caramel sauce plus 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, recipe follows
• Vanilla Pudding, recipe follows
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Put 45 vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse until the cookies are finely crushed. Reserve 1/2 cup to top the pie. Stir together crushed vanilla wafers and butter in a small bowl until blended. Firmly press it into the bottom, up the sides, and onto the lip of a greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool until completely cool, about 30 minutes.
Coat the banana slices with salted caramel. Arrange half banana slices along with caramel sauce evenly over the bottom of the crust. Spread half of the Vanilla Pudding over the bananas, top with vanilla wafers, and remaining caramel-coated bananas. Spread the remaining filling over the vanilla wafers.
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 cream over the pie. At service, garnish with a caramel swirl, and the reserved vanilla wafer crumbs.

Caramel Sauce
• 3/4 cups sugar
• 3 tbs water
• 1/2 cup + 2 tbs heavy cream

Over moderate heat, mix the water, and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 to 10 minutes. Do not stir. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful - the mixture is extremely hot! Once it starts to smell smoky take it off the heat immediately.
Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. 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.
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. Once cool add fleur de sel.

Vanilla Pudding:
• 1.5 oz box instant vanilla pudding & pie filling (I used Jello Sugar free fat free)
• 3 cups cold 2% milk

In a bowl whisk together the pudding and milk for two minutes until thickened. Refrigerate until ready to use.