Friday, August 29, 2008

the birthday baking week: banana cream pie

It always seemed most birthdays occurred during June. That was until I met a plethora of people who happened to celebrate in August...3 of them in the same week that I decided to bake for.
And guess what? I succeeded!
First up: Todd, the turning-39 rockstar with the cutest little kid. Who was not picky about anything I made, but told me he loved pie. And bananas.
Banana cream pie, it was.
Honestly, my first attempt, but I do well with pairing flavors and winging it. So I did. And it was delicious and adored by all.

Banana Cream Pie
pie dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 t salt
½ cup butter, cold
2-3 T ice water

chocolate layer:
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz cream

pastry cream:
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 T flour
2 t vanilla
3 bananas, sliced

rum whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 T rum (or more if you prefer, and who doesn’t love more alcohol...?)

1. For the dough: Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Combine the dry ingredients together. Cut in the flour until thoroughly mixed and add in water a little at a time until a dough forms. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Roll out and fit around a 9 inch pie pan. Dock and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool.
3. Meanwhile: heat up the cream and pour over the chocolate. Whisk to melt. This seems like a rather stupid-small amount. And it is. I usually make big batches and keep it in the refrigerator to melt and use whenever I need it. The usual ratio is 1 to 1.
4. For the pastry cream: heat up the milk. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until nice and combined. Slowly ladle in some of the hot milk and whisk quickly. No scrambled eggs, please. Ladle in about half of the milk then pour it all back into the pot and let it come to a slight boil. Once the cream has thickened, take it off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Chill.
5. The whipped cream is simple: whisk the cream and slowly add in the sugar and rum. Whisk to medium-stiff peaks and you’re done.
6. In assembling, pour the chocolate ganache over the crust and make a thin layer. Add the sliced bananas. Pour in the pastry cream and top off with the whipped cream.

It’s gooey and a bit messy and super delicious.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

a list for the rainy day

current weather: tropical-storm-possibly-hurricane-really-annoying-and-rainy.
throughout the years i've devised this small list of places i'd just love to eat one day. it continues to grow. but here is the current standing:

My To-Eat List
1. El Bulli, Spain: currently the best restaurant in the world and a forerunner in the latest culinary fad, 'molecular gastronomy'. The whole restaurant itself comes across as very fascinating to me.

2. The French Laundry, California: I remember the moment Chef Richard stated "The French Laundry is the best restaurant in the world" and I immediately thought "this is a place I want to know".

3. Chez Panisse, California: I will say Ruth Reichl’s memoirs and funny Berkeley stories had me draw interest in Chez Panisse. Aside from Chef Richard who also made it a point to mention the true passion of Alice Waters.

4. Charlie Trotter’s, Chicago: Chef Richard talked a lot about chefs and food professionals he felt we had to know. Charlie Trotter was a big name. I’ve grown fascination ever since.

5. Big Bar, Chicago: whatever, I saw it on "Unwrapped". They have giant martinis and giant chocolate cake. Sorry, but a girl can’t ask for anything more.

6. Le Bernardin, New York: Eric Ripert interests me. Him and his sexy french accent. Oh, I cant help it!

7. Oh, anywhere in Paris.

le sigh...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

it's bananas! (b-a-n-a-n-a-s!)

it is, oh, about 95º outside right now.
yeah, it’s not like the 108º in vegas, but guess what?
it still sucks.
and it just has me craving something icy cold and delicious.
no, not beer.
but good guess.
ice cream.
banana ice cream, to be exact.
with chocolate. and walnuts. sort of a homemade version of ben & jerry’s chunky monkey.
can you resist??
hell no.
i liked this recipe when i came across it cause it seemed simple enough, and i loved the fact that it didn’t call for a ridiculous amount of eggs. if it’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s eggy ice cream.

this is just perfect. and there is a pretty good chance it will all be gone by tomorrow. i just cant help it...

Banana Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
(recipe from Cat Cora at - though some changes have been made)

1 cup cream
1 pint milk
1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar (or regular granulated)*
2 egg yolks
2 bananas, pureed**
½ cup mini chocolate chips, or chocolate chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped.

1. Heat cream, milk, and 1 cup of sugar to a light boil.
2. Meanwhile whisk yolks with remaining 1/4 cup sugar. When liquid has come to a boil, slowly pour into egg mixture while constantly whisking. Pour about 1 cup of the liquid in.
3. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot and bring back up to a boil until it thickens. It won’t thicken too much because there is a small amount of egg, but it should lightly coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and add in the pureed bananas.
4. Cool completely, for about 1 1/2 hours.
5. When mixture has thoroughly chilled, pour into ice cream machine and churn 20-25 minutes. About 20 minutes in, add in chocolate and walnuts and continue to churn until done. Freeze until hardened.
Or, you could do like me and eat it right out of the machine, freshly churned. It’s just irresistible.
Looks like you’ve got yourself an icy cold treat for those long summer days.

*alright, i'm a vanilla sugar whore. i just can't help that. the recipe called for vanilla bean (which is just as good) to be seeped with the cream and milk. one teaspoon of extract added in at the end works wonders, too.

**the recipe called for 1/2 cup banana, chopped. for more banana flavor, i pureed 2 bananas. i'm sure the former is great, too.