“What is that?”, you may be asking yourself. To be honest, I’m not sure quite what to call this sweet and creamy concoction. It all started when I was brainstorming ideas for this Sunday’s dinner, which happened to be a dinner for three, instead of the usual two. I knew that I wanted to make a desert (after all, cooking for others is my go-to excuse for baking), but I wasn’t sure quite what it should be. My first thought was a peach dessert, which I knew would please our guest, but which would not please Brian (he as an aversion to stone fruits). My second thought was to make some sort of layered dessert, which somehow morphed into the desire to make a banana pudding parfait. In the end, I didn’t even make a parfait, but did incorporate some of the components that are typically included in a traditional banana cream pie.
It starts out with a basic vanilla pudding recipe, which includes milk (I used 2% but the recipe called for whole), cornstarch, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and a dash of dark rum. While I waited for the pudding to cool, I worked on a shortbread-like base, which I made my beating together softened butter and sugar, to which I added all-purpose flour, a touch of salt, a splash of cream, and crush pecans. The crust was baked for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked and golden in color. Here comes the best part–after the shortbread cooled, I spread a thin layer of dulce de leche on top. Dulce de leche is a caramel-like, milk-based sauce. It is sweet and creamy, and to my taste buds, less cloying than caramel. For this recipe, I happened to purchase a jar of dulce de leche from a specialty grocery store, but you can also make it yourself (see David Leibovitz’s recipe here). After spreading dulce de leche over the shortbread, I arranged thin slices of banana on top. Then, I spread an even layer of barely sweetened whipped cream on top. After that, I put the almost-finished dessert into the fridge and waited until dessert time. Just before serving dessert, I sliced a few bananas and arranged the slices on top of the whipped cream (the banana slices will brown if you try to do this earlier).
Now, let me warn you that there is almost no way to artfully present this dish. It is one of those tastes-better-than-it-looks desserts. To me, the presentation of this dessert doesn’t matter, and I assure you that if you serve this to your guests, they won’t mind either, it’s that good.
Something Like Banana-Cream Pie
For the pudding layer (adapted from Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book):
- 4 cups whole or 2% milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
For the shortbread layer:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the whipped cream topping:
- 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 ripe bananas
- 1/4-1/2 cup purchased dulce de leche (I used Terre Pampa Dulce de Leche)
Instructions for the pudding:
- Combine 3 1/2 cups of milk and all of the sugar and the salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- While the milk is coming to a boil, place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk in a bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
- When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 1 cup of the hot milk to the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly to ensure that the egg yolks don’t curdle. Once tempered (meaning the yolks have been brought closer to the temperature of the hot milk), add the yolk and milk mixture to the saucepan. Turn the heat to low, and stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil and allow it to boil for 1 minute, or until the mixture is thickened.
- Immediately pour the contents of the saucepan into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract and rum, and then cover the top of the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the pudding to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to use.
Instructions for the shortbread crust:
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Cream the butter and sugar together, using an electric mixer, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the flour, salt, and cream and mix on low until fully incorporated. Add the chopped pecans and beat on low until just mixed through (don’t overbeat!).
- Butter an 8-inch glass Pyrex dish and press the dough into the base of the dish using your fingers.
- Place the baking dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly golden around the edges. Remove and place on a rack to cool completely.
Instructions for the whipped cream:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla.
- Using an electric mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Use immediately, or refrigerate until ready to use.
Instructions for assembly:
- Spread a thin layer of dulce de leche directly on the shortbread base using a knife or cake spatula.
- Cut 3 bananas into thin slices and place the slices in a single layer on top of the shortbread base.
- Pour the pudding directly over the banana slices and smooth into a single layer using a cake spatula.
- Top with a layer of whipped cream, spreading the layer evenly over the pudding
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, slice 2 bananas into thin slices and arrange the banana slices on top of the whipped cream.