March 4, 2024
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March 4, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Using a grocery de­livery website, I ordered four organic bananas. Four seemed just the right number. They’d rip­en and within four days, they’d simply go from sweet to sweeter before crossing the line into that dark-brown-now-I-must-bake-banana-bread-against-my-will ter­ritory. I don’t care for banana bread.

However, instead of finding four bananas in the box, I found four bunches. That’s a lot of bananas.

Two bunches went into the downstairs re­frigerator, one in the kitchen fridge and one on the counter. Four weeks later I had one large bunch of very dark, chilled bananas remain­ing. Refrigeration had slowed the ripening pro­cess. But their time had come. Something had to be done. And so, this week’s recipe is for Ba­nana Tarte Tatin, something I had never seen, let alone eaten, but seemed logical.

Tarte Tatin has always been a favorite in our house. Apples, butter, sugar, puff pastry, a dex­terous flip onto a plate and voila! Messing with a favorite is always dicey, but it had to be done. And the result was lovely, leaving the very con­cept of banana bread in the dust.

Bananas, with significantly lower water content, were even simpler to use in this reci­pe. Instead of simmering the fruit in the cara­mel, I could lay the halved bananas right on top of the hot mixture, cover with the pastry, and bake in a hot oven, allowing the pastry to puff without worrying about over-cooked fruit.

I enjoy making rough puff pastry, and en­courage readers to at least give it a shot or two. It’s quite rewarding and can be done in less than one hour. But in the real world, when we’re often pressed for time while faced with dark bananas just screaming to be managed, purchased ready-made puff pastry is a great al­ternative.

What You Need:

Non-stick skillet, about 10 inches across, with a metal handle for cooktop to oven baking

6 very ripe bananas

1 ¼ C. sugar

4 T. butter

Your favorite puff pastry recipe or brand

Two large sheets wax paper

Flour for dusting

Rolling pin

 

Serving platter that will fit perfectly over the skillet with room to spare

Optional accompaniments: crème fraiche, vanilla ice cream, crème Anglaise, or nothing at all

Recommended: Oven mitts with a grip­ping surface

Preheat oven to 400°.

In the non-stick skillet, melt the butter and sugar together. To avoid clumping, I smear the butter all over the bottom of the pan and then sprinkle the sugar over the layer of but­ter. Place on medium heat. Allow the mixture to melt and change from light to a richer, deep­er golden brown color. Do not stir until the sug­ar is entirely melted. Frankly this does not need stirring but if you see that the ingredients are cooking unevenly, use a wooden spoon or wooden spatula to gently push the mixture into a better position. Remember that the color you want is a darker golden brown, but not a dark color. A burned taste can be passed off as a sophisticated crème brulee touch to a very short extent. Do not, under any circumstanc­es, touch the mixture or taste what remains on the spoon. The temperature of caramel will give you a burn that will make you hate me, or baking. Neither one is acceptable.

When the caramel has attained the right color, remove from the heat. Peel the bananas and cut each one in half to keep the curved shape. Carefully lay the halves onto the caramel, positioning them in a decorative, pinwheel manner.

Remove the puff pastry from the re­frigerator. Sprinkle flour on one sheet of wax paper. Place the pastry dough on the floured paper. Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the dough and cover with the second piece of wax paper. Working quickly, roll out the wax paper covered pastry to a ¼ inch deep circle that will fit over the skillet. Drape the pastry dough over the bananas and with a wooden spoon, push the edges down to somewhat “enclose” the caramel and bananas.

Dock the pastry (poke holes in several plac­es with a fork), and immediately place the skil­let into the hot oven. You must be extremely quick about this. Puff pastry will rise when the cold butter is hit with high heat in the oven. If you linger and the butter in the pastry melts, you will have a flat and less palatable result.

I baked mine for 25 minutes, using my own rough puff pastry. Time will vary de­pending on the pastry you use. Consisten­cy and butter content will be different in homemade or brand purchased. Check af­ter 15 minutes.

When the top of the pastry is golden brown, the tarte should be ready. If you’ve done everything right, the crust will be flaky and cooked through. If you feel the pastry is still a bit raw, though golden, re­turn it to the oven.

Allow the tarte to cool for about ten minutes. During that time, I noticed that my pastry had shrunk and bananas were peeking out around one part of the edge. I used a blunt knife to carefully push the ba­nanas back under the pastry.

To invert onto a platter, cover the skil­let with the plate larger than the diameter of the skillet. Speed and traction are your friends during this process. An oven mitt with gripping stripes is ideal. With one mit­ted hand on the underside of the plate, and one mitted hand holding the skillet han­dle, quickly invert and rest the platter on the counter. The tarte should make an au­dible “plunk” sound as it hits the plate. If you have heard nothing, tap and wriggle the skillet. The non-stick surface should al­low the tarte to drop intact. If you see piec­es of caramelized banana or spots of cara­mel in the pan, simply remove them and fit them into their spots on the tarte.

Serve at room temperature.

This was delicious. I chose to serve it with crème fraiche because the caramel it­self is already quite sweet. Enjoy! You will never go back to banana bread again.

By Lisa Reitman Dobi

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