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
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