Caramel Banana Pudding Pie

adapted from: Ann Thornton/Food Network

1 box Nilla® Wafers

6 Tbl. butter, melted

3 large ripe bananas (I used 4)

1 c. salted caramel, plus more for garnish, recipe follows (1 cup caramel plus 1 tsp. fleur de sel)

vanilla pudding, recipe follows

1 c. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. almond extract (I used vanilla)

2 Tbl. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put 60 vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse until the cookies are finely crushed.  Reserve 1/4 cup to top the pie.  Stir together remaining crumbs with the melted butter 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 10-12 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. 

Coat the banana slices with salted caramel (1 cup caramel plus 1 tsp. fleur de sel).  Arrange half of the caramel-coated banana slices evenly over the bottom of the crust.  Spread half the hot, prepared pudding over the bananas, top with more caramel-coated bananas.  Spread the remaining pudding over the bananas.  Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

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 over beat, or the cream will become lumpy.  Spread the cream over the chilled pie.  Just before serving, garnish with a caramel swirl and the reserved wafer crumbs.

Creamy Caramel Sauce:

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 1/4 c. heavy cream

Over low 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 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture.  Be careful - the mixture is extremely hot.  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.  

Vanilla Pudding:

3/4 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks

2 c. milk

2 tsp. 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 eggs and egg yolks and continue whisking until a smooth paste is formed.  Slowly whisk in 1 cup of milk and once this is incorporated add the remaining cup of milk.  Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat whisking constantly until it reaches the thickness of chilled pudding, about 10-15 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 vanilla.