Greatest Dessert Find

An opportunity to cook for a friend who recently severely broke his leg came up yesterday and since I had so much housework to do, I seized the moment.  I’d much rather help someone out, especially when cooking is part of it, than vacuum or fold laundry. (And I wonder where my son’s avoidance of non-preferred tasks comes from.)  I was going to make pork chops, but I must have purchased old ones because they were no good.  So I changed to a Moroccan style (of course) stew with chick peas, chicken, tomatoes, peppers and kale.  I served it with couscous.  I ended up saving a little for us, which came in handy when our dinner plans changed at dinner time.  The boys ate it all without complaints and they really loved the couscous (it’s so quick and easy to make too).

But what I really was excited about making and giving was the dessert.  It was the ultimate recipe that I’ve been trying to find but not quite finding the right one.  But this Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding was it; this one is really what I had been searching for all along.  The differences that make this recipe stand out against my other attempts are using less flour and baking it in a water bath but most of all roasting the bananas in their skins.  Roasting the bananas changes the chemistry of the starches/sugars before you mash them and their sweetness really comes out.  As one friend said, you could probably just take those mashed bananas and serve them over ice cream at that point.  I made the recipe in a one large dish a few days earlier but didn’t roast the bananas and realized what a difference it made after doing it.

The recipe comes from Ruth Pretty’s Favourite Recipes.  Ruth is a well-known New Zealand chef and author who has catered to cultural and political elite including royalty.  She has an amazing cooking school and catering facility on the Kapiti Coast, which I have had the pleasure of having touring with my close friend who works for Ruth.   Ruth herself was very sweet and I was truly in awe of her operation.  Well, I found the recipe while I was looking through the book trying to find a Pavlova recipe.  When I read it I knew I’d stumbled across the bestest of Sticky Toffee Puddings!!

Sweet Basil’s Sticky Banana Pudding via Ruth Pretty

3 ripe bananas (skin on)

180g unsalted butter, room temp

180g (¾ cup + 3 Tbsp) sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup flour

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

Grease 10 ramekins or other oven safe dishes.  Pour toffee sauce into base about ¼ inch deep and set aside.  Preheat oven to 200ºC (392ºF).  Place whole bananas in a baking dish and bake in their skins for 10 minutes or until they are mushy.  Cool.  Peel off the skins, mash and set aside. 

With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth.  Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add banana and vanilla and mix well.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt into mixture and fold in.  Spoon batter into ramekins (allow for expansion) and place in a roasting dish.  Pour hot water to about 2 cm deep (or halfway up sides of dishes) in the roasting dish and cover entire dish with foil.  Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes (until they’re spongy to touch).  Remove foil and cool on a rack.  To serve: run a knife around side to separate then tip upside down onto a plate, pouring toffee sauce from bottom over top of the pudding.  Add any additional warmed sauce you’d like and serve with whipped cream.  Sea salt on top is a nice option.This picture doesn’t really do it justice.  I was having camera trouble and this was the best I could do.

Of course my kids loved them… and the friend I made them for did as well! 

Birthday Week

My eldest son just turned 9 two days ago.  9!  As my friend’s daughter reminded us they’re now in their last single digit year.  So bittersweet.  Well, time for all the sweets to overcome any bitterness.  For my son’s school celebration I made a Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding per his request. And for his at home celebration, for which I wasn’t there because I had an event at Whole Foods an hour away,  I made vanilla cup cakes with meringue frosting (very similar to Fluff) and naturally colored sprinkles.  We had friends over the following night and I figured I should use up the remaining merignue frosting and made a vanilla layer cake with chocolate cream center.  It was the first time in years that I’ve successfully baked a layer cake.

I found the Sticky  Toffee Banana Pudding recipe on Bon Appétit’s website.  I had made it the week before but found the cake part too similar to banana bread, so this time around I cut down on the flour.  It was less bready but still needs tweaking.  It is so delicious— bananas and toffee, how can it not be good!  My son’s class loved it!  My youngest son was off from school and was also able to join in the celebration. A couple of kids said they had to lick their plates it was so good.  (Now that’s a compliment!)  I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding (adapted from original by Lauren Chattman)

Banana Cake:

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

3 Tbsp brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temp

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 tsp dark rum

2 tsp vanilla

Toffee sauce:

⅓ cup cream

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

½ stick butter

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment an 8×8 square baking pan.

Sift together twice the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.  Using an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in one egg at a time.  Add bananas, rum and vanilla.  (Looks curdled).  Add flour mixture in 4 parts, beating after each addition.  Spread batter into pan and bake for about 35 minutes until toothpick or skewer inserted into center  comes out clean.  Spread half the toffee sauce over cake and return to oven for 6 minutes.  Cool on rack for at least 20 minutes.  Serve with remaining toffee sauce and whipped cream or ice cream.

I will post the cupcake and birthday cake recipes soon.