Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brown Sugar Banana Cream Tart

I love bananas. I love how aromatic they are, how very tropical and warm even when they aren't really warm. A while back though, I swore off bananas in the name of local eating. It was one of those things from far away I just couldn't justify. I had to have coffee. Sugar can be gotten closer to home. With good storage, there was local fruit available to me year round without the need to buy something imported from Ecuador. I also swore off coconut, but that is another story.

My parents, however, are tried and true, nearly patriotic banana eaters. There are always bananas available. They are so available that we have fed some to the babe. He is starting real food, you know. I tried first the really natural millet porridge. He wouldn't eat it. Until, at least, we added mushed bananas. Now the little stinker won't eat much of anything else. This is now the household joke against me and my local-eating efforts.

I try to laugh. I am not really very good at laughing at myself though.

So in an effort to take myself a little less seriously, to celebrate my son's 7 month birthday, and to relish the moment of luxury in which I live, I made banana cream pie. Actually, I made brown sugar banana cream pie with toasted almond crust.

I love bananas and I love, love banana cream pie. I dream of banana cream pie. The only problem? Too often bakery-bought pies are too pasty, too light, too...what? processed? white? I find that the light pies just don't satisfy. So this time I tinkered with the darker things in life. I toasted the almonds for the nut crust. I used brown sugar instead of white for the custard. I toasted the bananas with brown sugar and butter. Simple changes. But big changes.

And how did it turn out? Well, definitely not your typical banana cream pie. My dear mother and sister say it should be called Toasted Almond Pie.

Actually, I hated it. Actually, I overcooked the custard and used previously frozen yolks so something went awry with the thickening, and we ate the damn tart in the living room in front of the TV (which I despise), watching What Not To Wear (not the ideal atmosphere). My sister says it was not sweet enough; I thought it was too sweet. Mother says it was too almondy (for a banana cream pie); Brother added more almonds. Obviously, something was wrong. Drizzle caramel on it Sister says. I say, feed it too the chickens.

The funny thing? We all had seconds.

* * * * * *

I tried the tart 24 hours later and it was lovely. Atmosphere does a lot, but time in this instance is essential. I am revising...the original post did not have the recipe, but I am adding it after all. The poor tart just needed some time.

Brown Sugar Banana Cream Tart OR Toasted Almond Banana Tart
adapted from the Coconut Cream Tart in Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts

I am including the crust and filling instructions. The recipes make two tarts with some filling and some crust left over. Don't be tempted to eat the tart prematurely. As the above story shows, it just is not worth it. Instead, use the extra pie crust for Almond Shortbread and top with whipped cream and fresh bananas and/or strawberries. This might keep you from unnecessary tragedy.

For the Crust:
10 ounces finely chopped (not too fine!) toasted almonds
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the tart pans.
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Divide mixture in thirds. Press one third in each tart pan, making it 1/3 inch thick, adding more to the pan from the extra third if needed. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are golden brown. Let cool on racks before filling.

For the Filling:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups scalded milk
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 bananas
a few tablespoons butter
more brown sugar, for sprinkling

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar cornstarch, and salt. Stir in scalded milk and mix until smooth. Cook over medium, stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture thickens.

Whisk about 4 tablespoons of the hot milk into the beaten egg yolks until well blended. Stir the yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk and cook over low heat until the custard is smooth and thickened. Do not let boil. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Set aside.

Melt the butter over high heat and sprinkle the pan lightly with brown sugar. Slice two bananas at a time, cutting 1/3 inch thick right onto the hot pan. Sprinkle a little more sugar over the tops of the bananas. Let brown, a few minutes. Turn over to brown more. Place cooked bananas into the prepared cooled shell and place in the freezer to cool off the bananas rapidly. Repeat with the second tart and the other two bananas.

When the bananas are cool, pour the custard into the baked tart shells and refrigerate at least 24 hours to let the banana flavor meld into the custard cream.

Whip the cream until stiff and spread evenly over tarts. Refrigerate another half hour. Decorate with more toasted almonds (or praline!) and serve in a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere, maybe with black tea or coffee. Enjoy!


  1. I do love your blogs, sister! You are so hilarious! And an excellent cook and gourmet. I think I get what you mean now about it being too sweet - it could be less sweet for very light, delicate goodness, or it could be made sweeter, by addiing a few more ingredients, such as caramel. Oh, and maybe a layer of brown sugar on top of the crust and more nuts, like Brandon did, and...pears. Isn't that a great idea? But if you add pears, there should be some chocolate, too. I thought of the pears last night as I was driving home. Perhaps, a layer of pear sauce on top of the brown sugar on top of the crust, under the banana cream? I feel like watching Waitress again, with Kerri Russell as the pie genius. Amanda, you are a pie genius.

  2. Yes! Pears are a lovely idea--actually I think this tart is a turning point in my culinary experimentation. I know how to listen to a poem as it develops, and soup, and salad, but not desserts as much.

    You are right about the delicate and deeper. I didn't even realize it at the time, but what was off was that it was too sweet for delicate, but not satisfying enough for a full caramel or butterscotch or full-on brown sugar cream. I am itching to make more now, to try the pears, to make a praline topping for the other tart sitting lonely and abandoned in the fridge. Thanks for you comment!

  3. Despite what you said, your pie looks great. I hope your son had a wonderful birthday.