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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Brain Dead Simple Desserts That Will Drive Your Dinner Guests Bananas

Best Banana Cake Around

Active Time: 45 minutes Total Time: 10 hours (includes overnight chilling) Serves: 12 
For the cake:
2¼ cups sifted cake flour, plus more for flouring pan
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon, plus a pinch of salt
½ cup vegetable oil
5 large egg yolks
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1½ cups shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted (optional)
3 firm-ripe bananas, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds (optional)

For the icing:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2¼ cups sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1½ tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the banana filling: 
2 cups cold heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
3 large overripe bananas, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
5½ ounces instant vanilla pudding mix
1¼ cups whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Sift flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt together into a bowl. In this order, add the following, one at a time, to flour mixture stirring after each addition: oil, egg yolks, juices and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer at low speed to whisk egg whites, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until opaque. Slowly add remaining sugar and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form. Stir in a quarter of beaten whites into flour mixture, then fold in the rest.
4. Pour batter into greased pan, smoothing the top and rapping once on the table to eliminate air bubbles. Place on middle rack in oven and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan, upside down, on a rack.
5. Remove cake from pan, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
6. Make icing: Place all ingredients except vanilla in a large stainless steel bowl. Use an electric mixer or a whisk to beat until combined. Fill a wide, deep skillet with 2 inches of water and set over medium heat. Bring to a steady simmer and place bowl in skillet, making sure water level is at least as high as egg whites inside bowl. Beat on low speed until mixture reaches 140 degrees, using an instant-read thermometer to monitor temperature. (Do not stop beating or egg whites will overcook.) Increase speed to high and continue to beat exactly 6 minutes. (Icing will be very thick.) Remove from heat, add vanilla and beat on low speed to cool, 2-3 minutes. Set aside. (Use within 6 hours.)
7. Make banana filling: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, 2-4 minutes. In a large bowl, toss bananas with lemon juice. Add instant pudding and milk to bananas and stir. Gently fold in whipped cream. Set aside.
8. To assemble, use a large knife to slice cake horizontally into three even layers. Place bottom cake layer on a large plate. Spread half of banana filling on top, then lay second cake layer on top of filling. Spread on remaining filling, then lay third cake layer on top. Spread icing over top and sides of cake. If you are garnishing with coconut or banana rounds, distribute them over top and sides of cake. (Bananas should be added just before serving as they will brown quickly.) Serve immediately or refrigerate and then serve.

Banana Cream Pie

Active Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 3½ hours (includes chilling) Serves: 8

For the vanilla cream filling:
⅔ cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
6 large egg yolks, well beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small bits
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the pie:
1 homemade 9-inch basic pie crust, or store bought  pre-baked, or frozen + thawed
4 large very ripe but not overripe bananas, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Make vanilla cream filling: In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt until well-blended. Gradually whisk in, one at a time, milk, heavy cream and egg yolks, whisking until no yellow streaks remain.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. Custard will begin to lump. Off heat, scrape sides of saucepan with rubber spatula and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain.
3. Return to heat and, whisking constantly, bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter, then vanilla. Lay plastic wrap directly on surface of filling, to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool. (Cooled filling can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.)
4. Make pie: Spoon a third of vanilla cream filling into crust. Scatter half of sliced bananas evenly over filling. Repeat process. Top with remaining filling.
5. Lay plastic wrap directly on surface of filling. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours.
6. In a medium bowl, whip cream with sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form, 2-4 minutes.
7. Before serving, spread whipped cream evenly over pie. (Pie may be slightly runny when cut.)

Bananas Foster

Total Time: 15 minutes Serves: 1
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 banana, sliced in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Small pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon dark rum (such as Myers's)
1 large scoop vanilla ice cream
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and cook until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add banana to pan in one layer and cook until fruit browns and begins to caramelize, about 1 minute per side. Toss with sugar and cinnamon and cook until sauce thickens and begins to caramelize, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Meanwhile, warm rum in a small saucepan over medium heat. Use a match or a lighter to ignite alcohol and pour flaming rum carefully over bananas. Shake pan and stir until flames die out.
4. Serve in dessert bowls with vanilla ice cream.

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