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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Still Hung Up on Bananas

Seriously, do I need more potassium? Or maybe it's just that my rhubarb is a little on the slow side this year, because of our cool spring (though I did finally make rhubarb tartlets following this recipe, omitting the ginger because I'm out at the moment). Anyway, two recent banana trials were delicious.
Banana-Chocolate Bread
adapted from The New Best Recipe


As you can see from the picture, I made half a recipe (because that's how many overripe bananas I had) in two small loaf pans. Here is the recipe for one large loaf or 3-4 small loaves:
2 C flour
1 1/4 C walnuts or other nuts, chopped coarse (optional) (I omitted)
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, grated or chopped fine
10 T sugar
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3 large overripe bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 C)
1/4 C plain yogurt (I used whole-milk maple, but I bet buttermilk would have worked, too)
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare pans with butter and flour or baking spray. Toast nuts, if using and they aren't already toasted. Whisk together dry ingredients, including chocolate and nuts if using, in a large bowl. Mix liquid ingredients in a medium bowl. Lightly fold wet ingredients into dry with a rubber spatula until just combined, then put into loaf pan(s). Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes for a large loaf. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Next up was banana cream pie. Yes, banana cream pie!!! I initially called my sister-in-law to get the recipe of a friend she had used for a pie she brought to a church function, but it turned out that that particular pie recipe included a special brand of boxed pudding that could only be acquired at Albertson's. Once I got over my shock that this friend would rely on a mix, I decided I'd rather go it alone and make it from scratch from ingredients I already had on hand. It was sooooo, so so good.
Banana Cream Pie
adapted from The New Best Recipe


For the crust, I decided I wanted a pâte sucrée rather than a traditional pie crust, and I wanted it in a tart pan instead of a deep-dish pie pan (I don't own any regular pie pans). So I used the crust part of the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Poached Pear and Almond Tart (Sept/Oct 2002).
Pâte Sucrée

1 large egg yolk
2 T heavy cream
1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
3/4 C powdered sugar
1/4 t salt
10 T very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Whisk together liquid ingredients in a small bowl. Combine dry ingredients in food processor with a few pulses, then scatter butter pieces over the top and pulse until the mixture looks kind of cornmeal-y and there aren't any pieces of butter larger than a small pea. Sprinkle liquid over the top and pulse until dough is just coming together. Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a thick disk, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 48 hours.

When you're ready to bake the shell, roll out the pastry (letting it warm up just enough to become malleable if it's been in the fridge longer than an hour) and transfer it to the pan, then freeze for 30 minutes while the oven heats up to 375. Line the dough-filled pan with greased heavy-duty foil and fill it with pie weights, place it on a baking sheet, then bake until the edges are just beginning to color, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, very carefully remove foil and weights, and return to oven to bake another 10 minutes or so, until edges are golden. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Cream Filling

1/2 C plus 2 T sugar
1/4 C cornstarch
1/8 t salt
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 C milk (2% or whole)
1/2 C evaporated milk
1 t vanilla
2 T unsalted butter

2 medium-large bananas, perfectly ripe (no green, no brown)

1 C chilled heavy cream
1 T sugar
1 t vanilla

Whisk dry ingredients in a medium saucepan. Add the yolks, then immediately but gradually whisk in the milks. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first, and then constantly as the mixture heats up. Once it begins to simmer, cook for one minute more (I didn't check to be sure, but based on other recipes I've seen for pastry cream, which are also thickened with egg yolks, I'm pretty sure that this would be about 200 on an instant-read thermometer). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Pour the filling into a pie pan or other shallow pan and put plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling. Let cool 20-30 minutes.


Scrape half of the pudding into the cooled shell, smoothing into an even layer with a spatula. Slice banana 1/4-inch thick and arrange on surface of filling. Top with other half of pudding, replace plastic wrap on surface of filling, and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least three hours.

Whip cream, sugar and vanilla together until it forms soft peaks, then spread on top of filling. Cut and serve immediately. Swoon with delight.

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