Banana Bread Pudding

We had invitations for a spring brunch on Sunday, and I’d offered to bring dessert, and I just wasn’t feeling inspired. Chocolate didn’t seem like a brunch thing, it’s too early for really great fruit yet, and I’ve made way too many citrus-based desserts lately.

The internet wasn’t helping much – it’s great for finding a recipe, but not so good at answering “What do I want to make?”. I found lots of coffeecakes (and I might go back and make some later), but coffeecake seemed too much like breakfast and not enough like brunch.

So I curled up on the couch with a pile of cookbooks, and finally decided on the Banana Bread Pudding from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It was fruity, it didn’t have any lemon in it, and I could do 95% of it the night before. And, no, it is not made with banana bread.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly as printed. I thought a caramel sauce would be better then the hot fudge. Also, Brioche is hard to find in grocery stores around here, and challah seemed to be a reasonable substitute. Egg-rich breads always seem to work particularly well for egg-based recipes, like bread pudding or French toast.

I sliced the bread, brushed it with butter, tossed it in the cinnamon and sugar, and toasted it. I should have been more generous with the butter – the sugar didn’t stick to the bread as well as I’d hoped, but I’d already made a mess before I realized what was wrong.

While the bread cooled, I made the custard, tossed in the bread (and dumped in the cinnamon and sugar that had fallen off), and poured it all into my 13×9, where it sat in the fridge overnight.

I also made a caramel sauce the night before, which was a bit of a mistake – the cooling and reheating process allowed the sugar to crystallize, making it very slightly gritty. Next time, I’ll make it and just keep it warm.

The next morning, I baked the bread pudding, and packed it up with the caramel, the toasted nuts, and the other 3 bananas that I’d bought but not put in the custard. The bread pudding reheated wonderfully, the caramel sauce a bit less so, but it was still good. I sliced up the bananas, and let people assemble their own plates so they could vary the toppings as they wanted.

It was very good. I’d certainly make it again – I’m always looking for dessert recipes that travel well, and this had just the right mix of familiar and different.

( see the recipe )

Turtle Tart

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on Vanilla Garlic. I’d been looking for an excuse to get myself a set of little tiny tart pans, and it pushed me over the edge. My favorite two restaurant supply stores didn’t have the mini tart pans, so I ended up making a trip to Williams-Sonoma. I got home, gathered ingredients, and got started. This is one of those recipes that takes a few hours, but only needs 15 minute chunks of attention here and there.

The crust is a traditional tart crust with some cocoa added. I used Hershey Special Dark Cocoa – I’m not generally a big Hershey fan, but it’s the darkest, richest cocoa I’ve ever found. It makes mind-blowing brownies, but that’s a post for another day.

Anyway, you make the crust, press it into the tart pans, bake them, then let them cool. Then toast the pecans, dice them finely, then sprinkle them on top of the crust. Next, make the caramel – I included the recipe from the original post here, but any soft caramel recipe will work. This one makes about twice as much caramel as you’ll need for the small tarts, but the leftovers are amazing on ice cream.

Pour the caramel gently over the pecans, sprinkle with kosher salt, then let them cool again. This is what they looked like before the ganache:

Turtle Tart

The ganache is easy – the recipe said to boil the milk in a saucepan, but I always burn milk in a pan. I just boiled mine in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. If all the chocolate doesn’t melt, you can put it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so at a time until it does. You don’t want it runny, just soft.

Spread it on top of the caramel, and you’re done!

( see the recipe )