Banana Ganache Tarts

Banana Ganache Tart

Wotchers!

Here’s a very indulgent treat, just in time for Mothers Day.

I’m really rather pleased with the star of the recipe, the banana ganache. Looking at other online recipes, people SAY it’s banana ganache, but when you click on it, you find they’ve mixed it with chocolate or fruit or caramel or rum. Not that any of those aren’t delicious combinations, but I wanted something that captured the pure flavour of fresh banana, and here it is. Of course, as can be seen from the picture, I then proceeded to pour it ONTO chocolate and then slather it IN chocolate, but the ganache itself is wonderfully unadulterated and fresh-tasting.

This is one of my, what I like to call, Lego™ recipes. I take a brick from this recipe, and a brick from that recipe and click them together with some new bits and bobs to make a new recipe. In this case I’ve taken the mirror glaze recipe from the Sicilian Seven Veils Cake, and the chocolate pastry from the Midnight Meringue to make this very rich and delicious dessert. If you have some Crepes Dentelles biscuits, you could make the base out of the Feuilletine recipe (also from the Sicilian Seven Veils Cake) for a quick, no-bake recipe, or go cheap and cheerful with either cornflakes or rice crispies mixed with melted chocolate.

I’ve used a nifty trick to make individual servings by making a thin tray-bake and then using a flower-shaped pastry/biscuit cutter to cut out the un-glazed-but-set ganache. The mirror glaze is then poured over the top and makes for a seamless and wonderfully glossy finish.

I’m hoping some of you might try this for Mothers Day, but you can just as easily keep everything simple as a tray-bake. Another alternative is to use just the ganache either dipped in tempered chocolate or rolled in either cocoa or dessicated coconut to make bite-sized truffles. You could  also use the ganache in/on a cake, but plan ahead, because it does need several hours in the fridge to firm up before it is spreadable.

Banana Ganache Tart

Chocolate Pastry
100g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
60g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C 180°C Fan.
  • Grease and line with parchment a rectangular baking tin. You want something quite large, so the pastry and ganache layers will be thin. I used a roasting tin of dimensions 20cm x 30cm. If you’re not going to cut individual portions, a 24cm loose-bottom, spring-form cake tin is another option.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add the tablespoon of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base of your tin. Keep the layer thin – no more than 5mm before baking – otherwise it becomes to clunky for a delicate dessert.
  • Prick the pastry thoroughly with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Check pastry for done-ness (always a little tricky with chocolate pastry, but it will be firm to the touch and have shrunk from the sides a little when filly baked). Return to the oven until fully baked if necessary.
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Banana Ganache
275g banana – about 3 ripe bananas
25ml syrup [1]
140ml double cream
400g white chocolate
45g unsalted butter

  • Mash the bananas to a smooth puree. I’ve found the best way is to break them into pieces and then use an immersion/stick blender to get rid of all lumps. Alternatively, mash them by hand then pass through a sieve.
  • Put the banana puree, syrup and cream into a small pan.
  • Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a bowl.
  • Bring the puree mixture to a boil, stirring continuously, then pour over the chocolate.
  • Leave for 5 minutes to melt.
  • Stir gently until thoroughly combined. Set aside to cool
  • When the banana mixture has cooled to 35°C add the cubed butter and use the immersion/stick blender again to whisk it in. The combination of the butter and the vigorous whisking will help to emulsify and thicken the ganache.
  • If making the tarts/tray-bake, pour the ganache over the chocolate base and set aside to cool. Cover lightly with a flat sheet of parchment only – using plastic film at this point will trap condensation which will then drip onto your ganache – ew.
  • When completely cold, cover with film and chill in the fridge.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze
4 leaves (8g) gelatine
175ml water
150ml double cream
225g granulated sugar
75g cocoa powder

NB If you’re making the tray-bake, halve these quantities. If glazing individual tartlet portions, you’ll need the full quantity.

  • Soak the gelatine in plenty of cold water. I leave the sheets whole, as it is easier both to fish them out of the water and to shake off the excess water from them once hydrated.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.
  • Continue stirring and, once the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil.
  • Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture reaches a temperature of about 104°C.
  • Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool for 5 minutes. Keep stirring as the base of the pan will still be very hot and might burn the mixture. If you’re glazing individual tartlets, pour the mixture into a jug and prepare your tartlets (see below).
  • Leave to cool until the mixture reaches 50°C, then drain the gelatine and stir into the mixture until it is fully dissolved.
  • Let the mixture cool further until just 35°C and is beginning to thicken and set.
  • If you’re making the tray bake, pour the glaze over the cooled and chilled ganache and leave to set. Chill in the fridge. Otherwise, see below:
    • Glazing individual tarts
    • Select an appropriately-sized cutter. I used a flower-shaped cutter of diameter 8cm. Other shapes might include hearts or stars. This might sound small, but as already stated, the ganache is very rich, and anything larger is going to push the portion size toward sickly.
    • Grease the cutter, inside and out, with a non-flavoured oil. Almond oil is very mild, personally I used grape-seed oil. The ganache is very sticky and the oil will help the cutter pass easily through and, more importantly, help it pass easily out again. NB: Be sure to clean and re-oil the cutter after each use.
    • Use the cutter to cut out shapes and move them to a wire rack. Make sure they are evenly spaced out on the rack as this is where they will be glazed. If the cut tartlets are reluctant to come out of the cutter, run the point of a sharp knife around the edge of the cutter from the underside.
    • If the glaze is still too warm, put the rack into the freezer to firm up the tartlets.
    • When the glaze has cooled enough to pour, put the wire rack with the tartlets over a bowl wide enough to catch all the drips.
    • Slowly pour the glaze over the tarts one at a time. Pour onto the centre of the tart and the glaze will spread smoothly across the surface and down the sides. Don’t rush this. If you have to go back and ‘patch’, then the glaze will not be smooth. It is better to glaze 3 or 4 tarts perfectly first time, than glaze them all in one go but have to go back and patch up the missed bits.
    • The glaze that drips through the rack into the bowl can be re-used, provided it is done at once, before it has cooled too much. Set the rack aside and scrape the glaze back into the jug. Replace the rack over the bowl and continue glazing.
    • Allow the glaze to cool, and chill thoroughly in the fridge until required.

[1] I used maple syrup because I had some, but any liquid sugar will do – honey, golden syrup, agave, etc.


Ultimate Dessert

A slice of the ultimate dessert

Wotchers!

Here’s a little something that popped into my head trying to combine a childhood favourite (banana custard) with an all-American classic (banana cream pie).

Instead of using custard powder from a tin, I wanted to make proper, egg-yolk custard with a vanilla bean for flavouring. Whilst scanning the recipes on Tastespotting I noticed several recipes included peanut butter as an additional flavouring. Others had used chocolate. I thought: bananas, peanut butter, chocolate, custard – what’s not to like? Why not pile all four together into one glorious, outrageously decadent dessert?

Let us pause here for a confession – I find that all the huge, towering and generally overblown portions seen on many American food shows make me slightly unwell: it’s just too much food. If it tastes good, why does it have to be stacked 20-25cm high? Do 30 slices of brisket taste any better than two slices? The desserts are frequently the same. It really doesn’t make my mouth water to see a whole mountain of cream and cake and custard and toppings and goo and anything else that can be thrown at a dessert poised precariously on a woefully inadequate plate.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching American cooking shows. For a long time I was a great Man v Food fan, although the pig-out ‘challenges’ I found a bit gross. Now I’ve moved on to Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He shows some delicious food, and best of all, you see the restaurant owners making some of their best sellers, and the recipes are usually available on the food network website. There’s lots that I would like to try, but I’d make them in normal, regular-sized portions rather than the vast quantities shown on the show.

So with this dessert, I wanted great flavours, but in a restrained quantity. The slice in the photograph is just 4cm high, and 10cm long. For all it’s petite dimensions, it tasted amazing. I had to send the rest with my husband to his work, otherwise the temptation might have been too great.

I talked about this a bit on Twitter, but for those that missed it, the rundown of the layers, starting at the bottom, is: chocolate crust, banana slices, vanilla crème patissière, banana slices, peanut butter cheesecake, double cream, cocoa. I’ve tried this layering both ways – custard on the bottom & custard on the top, and I think it actually works better from a texture perspective, with the custard layer on the top, which is not how the slice in the photo was done, but it’s entirely up to you which way round you layer it.

Apart from being OMG AMAZING, this dessert is great because you can make everything separately and then just assemble it when convenient. Having said that, I found it was better if the custard was poured when warm, but you can use it cold just fine. This is very much a Lego dessert – I’ve taken recipes for each element from here and there and clicked them together to make something delicious. The chocolate crust is actually the scaled down recipe from the Midnight Meringue. I halved and tweaked a Raymond Blanc recipe for crème patissière and adapted the peanut butter layer from a pie recipe I found on the web.

I hope you enjoy the flavours enough to give this recipe a try, because together they are fabulous.

Ultimate Dessert

Chocolate Pastry
100g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
60g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C 180°C Fan.
  • Grease and line with parchment a loose-bottomed, 20cm tart tin.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add the tablespoon of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base of your pie tin. If you’ve got extra pastry left over, you could press it into the sides to make a full tart shell.
  • Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking beads and bake blind for 10 minutes.
  • Remove beans and parchment and return to the oven until fully baked (8-10 minutes).
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Crème Patissière

4 large egg yolks
40g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
15g plain flour
10g cornflour
250ml whole milk

  • Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.
  • Put the seeds into a bowl with the yolks and sugar.
  • Put the pod into a small saucepan with the milk and put it over the lowest possible heat to infuse.
  • Whisk together the vanilla seeds, yolks and sugar until they are pale and creamy.
  • Whisk in the flour and cornflour and set aside.
  • Bring the milk to a boil and strain it through a fine sieve to remove the vanilla pod.
  • Whilst whisking, pour the hot milk down the side of the bowl onto the egg mixture.
  • Make sure , whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the pan.
  • Keep whisking the mixture over a low heat until it thickens.
  • Pour the thickened custard into a bowl and lay cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

100g cream cheese, room temperature
2tbs icing sugar
100g smooth peanut butter
125ml double cream

  • Whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
  • Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate.
  • Add the peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
  • Add the double cream and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

To Assemble
2 medium bananas
200ml double cream
cocoa for sprinkling

This is more of a suggestion than hard and fast rules. Order the layers how you like. If you have some food-grade acetate, use it to line the edge of the tin – it will make for a cleaner edge to the dessert when you slide it out.

  • Slice one of the bananas extremely thinly and lay the slices in a layer on top of the chocolate crust.
  • Select your next layer – peanut butter or custard. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle and pipe the filling over the banana slices. You don’t HAVE to do this, but just spreading with a spoon tends to make the banana slices lift up and move out of place. Make sure the banana slices are completely covered – this will help to slow down the browning of the banana.
  • Slice the second banana thinly and place in a layer over the piped filling.
  • Put your second layer into the piping bag and pipe over the second banana layer. Again, make sure the banana slices are completely covered.
  • Whip the double cream to soft peaks and spread lightly over the op of the dessert.
  • Sprinkle cocoa over the whipped cream.
  • Cover lightly with cling film and chill until required.

Banoffi Pie cupcakes

Wotchers!

Here’s a different take on a classic recipe – Banoffi Pie Cupcakes!

Banoffi Pie itself evolved as a variation of the American dessert pie known as Blum’s Coffee Toffee Pie. At The Hungry Monk Restaurant in Sussex, the original notoriously problematic caramel filling was easily created by boiling unopened tins of sweetened condensed milk, which unfailingly produces a deep, flavoursome caramel every time. Adding a layer of bananas created the classic dessert we know today.

Banoffi Pie was on the menu of the first bistro I worked in (as a waitress), and it was also the first ‘professional’ dessert I managed to recreate myself. Once you know the secret of making the filling, it’s an absolute breeze to whip up – I always have 1 or 2 tins of caramel in my cupboard in case a dessert is needed at short notice.

The original recipe called for unopened tins of condensed milk to be simmered for 4 hours – which was this dessert’s only drawback. A beady eye had to be kept on the saucepan, to ensure that it didn’t boil dry, because that way lay exploding tins and rains of boiling caramel. There are many alternative methods for making the caramel out there on the internet, and you can even buy tins of caramel ready made (in the UK its made by Carnation) – but they are twice the price of condensed milk and are a poor relation in terms of both flavour and consistency to the caramel you can make yourself. By far the safest, easiest and most foolproof method of making your own caramel filling is in the slow cooker (see below).

I’ve been messing about with the idea of making this classic dessert into a cupcake for quite some time, and there have been several versions along the way. This version is the one I’m most happy with: it’s faithful to the original, yet serves up all the flavours in cupcake size.  A light and fluffy banana cake mixture is baked in a shortcrust pastry case, filled with caramel and topped with an unsweetened coffee-flavoured cream – the pastry and the coffee cream help offset the sweetness of the cake and the caramel. Delish!

Banoffi Pie Cupcakes – Makes 12-ish

Foolproof Caramel Filling

  • Take as many tins of sweetened, condensed milk as you wish to turn into caramel and place them in your slow cooker.
  • Fill the slow cooker with water until it covers the tins by about 3cm
  • Put on the lid and switch on the cooker to Low. Leave overnight (8-12 hours, depending on how dark you like your caramel).
  • In the morning,  switch off the cooker. Using tongs, remove the tins and set aside to cool.
  • DO NOT OPEN until the tins have cooled completely. The contents will be boiling hot and under pressure, and burns WILL result. Be sure to label these tins as caramel, as they will be virtually indistinguishable from uncooked tins.
  • You will need 1 tin for 12 Banoffi Pie cupcakes.

Shortcrust Pastry
125g butter – very cold
250g plain flour
50g icing sugar
ice water

  • Put the butter, flour and sugar into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Put the ice water in a jug/bowl on the work surface. With the food processor running, add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time until the mix comes together. NB Do not pour ice water straight into the mix, as it is easy to add too much. The time it takes to add the next spoonful of water after the first means that the machine can mix the water in properly. Continue to add water one spoonful at a time. When sufficient liquid has been added, the mixture will come together in a ball. Tip out the pastry and knead lightly until smooth – about 1 minute. Wrap in plastic film and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Once chilled, roll pastry out thinly and cut out rounds using a pastry cutter. Use the circles of pastry to line a well-greased 12 cup muffin tin. NB Because I wanted the pastry to be smooth all the way round, I actually made a template based on the size of my muffin cups.  To make your own template, take a piece of kitchen foil and press it firmly into one of the holes in your muffin tray until it fits snugly against the sides and bottom. Remove the foil and use a pair of scissors to cut down the side of the foil and around the base to make a curved ‘wall’ template and a circular ‘base’ template.
  • Put the lined muffin tray in the fridge to chill whilst you mix the banana cake.

Banana Cake
125g cake margarine (Stork)
200g caster sugar
3 ripe bananas – mashed
60ml plain yoghurt
2 large eggs
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
300g plain flour

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Cream the margarine and the sugar until fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing the first in well before adding the second.
  • Add the mashed bananas and the yoghurt and mix thoroughly.
  • Mix the flour, bicarbonate and baking powder and add to the wet ingredients a spoonful at a time. Stop mixing when fully combined.
  • Spoon into the prepared muffin tin, filling each pastry case 3/4 full. NB A quarter-cup measure can be useful if, like me, you have a rather deep muffin tin. Depending on the size and juiciness of your bananas, this might make more batter than is required. Have some paper cases set out in a second pan ready to take any leftover cake batter – they can all bake at the same time.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then tun the pan 180 degrees, to ensure even browning. Cook for a further 7-10 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
  •  Remove the cakes from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Coffee Cream
600ml double cream
1-2 tbs espresso coffee powder

  • Add coffee powder to cream and whip until stiff.

Decoration
Caramel (there will be some left over from the filling)
Milk
Biscuit crumbs – 1 crunchy biscuit (crushed) will be plenty
Banana chips

To assemble the cupcakes

  • Using a sharp knife, cut out a cone of cake from each cupcake and discard.
  • Fill the hole with caramel – 1 teaspoon should be sufficient.
  • Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the coffee cream and pipe swirls on top of each cupcake. Make sure to cover the caramel filling completely.
  • Using the leftover caramel, mix with a little milk until of a pouring consistency.
  • Drizzle caramel over the piped cream.
  • Sprinkle with biscuit crumbs and top with a banana chip.

Cost: £4.78 (August 2011)

Cross-section of a Banoffi Pie cupcake