1/2vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
1 1/2cupshalf and half
1 1/2tablespoonsunsalted butter, in a few pieces
2large (or 3 smaller) ripe but firm bananas
Whipped Cream Topping:
a small block of bittersweet chocolate for shavings
Make the crust:
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt. Add the butter, sprinkle over the vanilla, and rub with your fingertips until no large butter chunks remain and the mixture begins to clump together in a texture reminiscent of gravel. (If the mixture feels too soft or sticky, chill it for 5 or ten minutes, then proceed.) Dump the crumbs into an 8" tart pan with removable bottom and press evenly into the sides and bottom. Press it squarely into the sides as there is barely enough dough to fit. If the dough sticks to your fingers, dip your fingers in cocoa powder to remedy the situation.
Prick the bottom of the dough a few times with a fork, then freeze the crust until solid, 15-20 minutes while you preheat the oven.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet for easier maneuverability, and bake until puffed and firm, 18-20 minutes.
While the crust is still hot, sprinkle the bottom with the chopped chocolate. Let it sit a minute to melt, then use a small offset spatula, pastry brush, table knife, or your finger (careful - it's hot!) to spread the chocolate into a thin, even layer over the bottom and sides of the crust. Let cool until the chocolate is completely set (you can do this in the fridge if you like).
Make the custard filling:
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla pod and seeds. Whisk in the half and half. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium-high heat, whisking the dickens out of it, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pans with the whisk. You'll have to stop whisking for a few seconds to verify that the pudding is boiling, which you'll know by the big bubbles that pop gloopily. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue cooking and whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, whisk in the butter, then the bourbon. It should be the consistency of creamy yogurt.
Strain the pudding through a sieve and into a bowl. Press plastic wrap right on the surface of the pudding, and let cool at room temperature until warm, 30-45 minutes.
Assemble the tart:
When the pudding has cooled, spread half of it into the chocolate-lined shell. Slice the bananas evenly over the top, and cover with the remaining pudding. Cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface of the pudding. Chill until set, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until it billows softly. Add the vanilla and bourbon and continue whipping until it holds firm peaks. (If you take the cream too far, you can rescue it by folding in additional heavy cream until it loosens up again.)
Remove the plastic wrap from the tart, and spread the cream evenly over the top. Use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate over the top as though you were peeling potatoes.
Chill the pie for 30 more minutes to set the cream, if you have the patience. Remove the ring from the pan, place the tart on a cutting board, and use a sharp chef's knife to slice the pie into wedges, wiping the knife clean between each cut.
To store the pie, invert a large bowl over the top and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Dark or gold rum would be delicious substitutes for the bourbon here, though I do like the tart spiciness that the bourbon lends this pie.Lacking an 8" pan, you may be able to make this in a 9" pan, though you may want to increase the crust by 50% to make sure you have enough.Dutch-proccessed cocoa will give the crust the old-fashioned flavor of Oreos; look for cocoa that lists alkali as an ingredient. Guittard, Valrhona and Cacao Barry all make excellent dutch-processed cocoa. (I haven't tried making this crust with natural cocoa powder, so I'm not certain how it would turn out.)If you lack vanilla bean, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the custard along with the bourbon.Leave yourself 4 hours to complete this tart to allow for the necessary chilling, baking, and cooling; most of the time is inactive.Variation: For Bourbon Banana Butterscotch Cream Pie, use dark brown sugar in the custard in place of the turbinado sugar.Nutritional values are based on one of ten servings.