Every family has a collective pool of memories; the time that one of the kids’ pants fell down while crossing the street, or the birthday party that got rained out and mama and papa earned serious points by moving the kiddie pool into the dining room. Most of my family’s memories are good and they make us laugh. I hope yours are, too. But with the sweet memories come some bitter ones, ones that are harder to remember because we don’t always want to. But I believe it does our families a great injustice to celebrate only the sweet times. A diet of honey and sugar with no kale or brussels sprouts does not a healthy body make.
As it happens, today is an anniversary of a bitter memory in my own family. Three years ago on this day, I was admitted to a hospital because of pregnancy-related complications, and I stayed there for three months. It wasn’t the happiest time of my life, but I remember it every year. And this year, I’m inviting my family to remember with me. I’m not sure yet what that will look like, but tonight we will gather around the table and remember that bitter time together. And we will celebrate the sweetness that the Peanut is there with us, because for many months we weren’t sure she would be.
We have other bitter memories that we share together; the loss of grandparents and great-grandparents; the loss of a daughter and sister who we never knew; the diagnosis of chronic illness; and we have different rituals surrounding how we remember each one. We have made tribute posters, watched home movies, read poems, looked at photographs, and lit candles. And we’ve discovered that there is always a nugget of sweetness waiting to be found beneath the bitterness. This is not a glass-half-full-optimism, nor a Pollyanna philosophy. It is simply a universal fact of life that you can’t separate the bitter and sweet. They are there to be experienced together.
I wanted to make a dessert that would celebrate this fact. I knew I wanted pudding, because pudding is such a comforting food. And I knew I wanted chocolate, for the same reason. I wanted it to feel special, but not happy-clappy special. And of course I wanted to be able to eat it, which meant it needed to be dairy/gluten/soy/refined sugar-free. So I experimented with a few favorite recipes until I had this Bittersweet Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. You could serve the pudding in cups without making the pie, but the crust and cream are so easy and elevate it to a truly special dessert. My family loved it. I hope yours does, too.
Bittersweet Chocolate Banana Cream Pie
Increase the dates, or add honey if you want a sweeter pudding.
Source: Erin at Plan to Eat
- CHOCOLATE CRUST
- 1 1/4 c almond flour
- 1/4 c cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 c palm shortening
- 2 Tbs honey
- 4 very ripe avocados
- 2 very ripe bananas
- 20 dates chopped
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cacao powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch sea salt
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 1 c coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- WHIPPED COCONUT CREAM
- 2 cans full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge
- 2 Tbs honey
- pinch sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- For the crust, place all the crust ingredients in a food processor. Combine until the ingredients start to hold together into a ball. Grease a pie plate with coconut oil or butter and press the dough into the pie plate, forming it evenly across the bottom and up the sides.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes; let the crust cool.
- For the pudding, in a food processor puree the avocados, bananas, dates, cocoa powder, cinnamon and sea salt until very smooth. This will take a few minutes; be patient!
- In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, coconut milk, and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Add to the food processor and blend until silky smooth.
- Spoon the pudding into the crust; cover and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.
- When ready to serve, open the cans of coconut milk. You should see a thick layer of cream that has separated from the milk. Spoon this cream into a mixing bowl with the honey and sea salt. Whip with a stand mixer or hand beaters until light and fluffy. You can either spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie and chill again until firm, or slice the pie and serve with a dollop of cream on top.