Friday, November 2, 2012

Sleepless And Going Bananas

My pal Rick Rodgers, author of Thanksgiving 101 and too many other cookbooks to count, was in town just in time to escape the devastation back home in New Jersey.  We went to Bar César for lunch yesterday and, since November is still rosé weather in globally-warmer-than-ever Northern California, we each had a glass with our charcuterie and cheese… and then shared a second. We walked around the neighborhood afterwards, checking out the offerings at the Cheeseboard, the menu at Chez Panisse, and the chocolate chip cookies made with lard at the 1-year-old Local Butcher Shop. (The cookies were interesting but we really did miss the flavor and carmelization that comes with butter). We parted around 3:00, after tasting Hungarian tortes and sipping espresso at Crixa Cakes.  Such fun! But yikes!

To counter the buzz of alcohol, sugar, and caffeine (and lard?), I decided to walk the 2 miles home.

I was in bed but still awake at 2 AM, 3 AM, and 4 AM... then I gave up and played Words with Friends on my Iphone and exchanged silliness with David Lebovitz on twitter for a while. I got up and cleaned out a drawer.  Back in bed, I worried about the election, wondered if the Buckwheat Walnut Crackers were baked at the right temperature, and finally started counting good things to do with bananas—instead of sheep.

I got this far: 

1. Grilled Sandwich: filled with sliced bananas, peanut butter and honey.

2. Bananas and Cream: slice bananas into a bowl with heavy cream and garnish with a couple thin orange slices, and perhaps a drop of orange flour water.

3. Bananas and Yogurt:  slice bananas into a bowl with plain yogurt, honey, and pistachios, walnuts, or peanuts.

4. Creamy Banana Yogurt “Pudding”: mash banana with an equal amount of plain yogurt. Sweeten and seasoned to taste with a bit of honey or brown sugar and pinches of cinnamon or cardamom. Top with chopped walnuts or pistachios. Top with extra pinches of spice.

5. Exotic Chocolate-Dipped Popsicles: mash bananas and season to taste with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Freeze in popsicle molds, unmold and dip in chocolate (see below), and shower with optional chopped walnuts or sprinkles.

6. Chocolate Banana Blintzes:  fold three slices of banana and a spoonful of thick ganache into each crepe, as for blintzes. Keep refrigerated until ready to sauté (very briefly) in butter. Serve immediately.  Full recipe in Chocolate Holidays (Artisan, 2001) 

7. Ice Cream Sandwiches:  free banana slices until hard. Process them in a food processor until thick and creamy with a texture like soft serve ice cream. Return the mixture to the freezer to firm up.  Scoop and press between thin crunchy oatmeal cookies.  Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the freezer.

8.  Chocolate Dipped Bananas: impale bananas on sticks and freeze solid.  Dip frozen bananas in warm chocolate dip (see recipe below), and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

9. Butterscotch Bananas Foster:  Cut bananas in half crosswise and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Make Butterscotch Sauce from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan, 2012)using Bourbon or Scotch, or warm purchased sauce in a skillet.  Heat the bananas in the sauce and serve with vanilla ice cream.

10.  Chocolate Banana Waffles: Sauté banana slices in a little butter. Serve on chocolate waffles. Top with crème frâiche. Full recipe in Chocolate Holidays (Artisan, 2001)

11. Salted-Caramel Banana Bread Pudding: recipe in Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan, 2012)

I could have gone on, but blessedly fell asleep around 6 AM.

Bananas are so long and curved that you would have to triple the recipe to fill a container large enough to submerge a whole banana!  The solution is to make a banana shaped trough out of heavy-duty foil (as described in the recipe) so you can submerge the banana horizontally (in a custom shaped container) without needing too much extra chocolate.  A little clarified butter added to the chocolate prevents a super thick coating and produces a pleasingly crisp coating that is not too hard to bite. 

Makes about 1 1/3 cups, enough for a dozen or more popsicles or 6 to 8 medium bananas, frozen on sticks.

10 ounces dark chocolate (I use Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet)
1/4 cup clarified butter (or ghee)
2 pinches of salt, more to taste
1 cup chopped nuts or chocolate sprinkles, optional

Put the chocolate, clarified butter, and salt in a stainless steel bowl set in a wider skillet with less than an inch of not quite simmering water.  Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Taste and adjust the salt if necessary, just to brighten the flavor of the chocolate, without making it salty.  Remove the bowl and let the chocolate cool to lukewarm. Line a tray with wax paper and set nuts or sprinkles close at hand, if using.

For popsicles: pour the chocolate into a narrow container deep enough to dip the entire popsicle.

For bananas: Place a large piece of heavy-duty foil loosely over a bread pan that is longer than a banana.  Using the pan for support, mold the foil into a narrow trough— slightly wider and longer than a banana and deep enough to submerge the whole fruit, held by the stick, and lowered with the curved side down.  Fill the trough with chocolate; refill the trough as necessary with the remaining chocolate.

Dip each popsicles or frozen banana into the chocolate and sprinkle immediately with nuts or sprinkles, if using.  Set dipped items on the lined tray.  Put the tray in the freezer until the chocolate is completely hardened. Transfer treats to a container or zipper lock bag and keep frozen until serving.  Excess dip can be kept in the fridge or freezer and used again. 


  1. I'm a chronic insomniac. I'm going to start doing similar food-related meditations!

    I adore Rick Rodgers' work. He's so prolific, and his recipes are tasty and reliable, always! (Just like yours).

  2. Oh, I'm afraid I'm not a fan of bananas at all but I am a HUGE fan of your books. I've got all of them now ~ even the Out of Print ones. They sit right alongside my Maida Heatter books.

    Thank you for signing the new ones for me at Book Passage. I wasn't there (being on the other side of the world and all) but the nice people at Book Passage made sure I still got my precious signed copies which I plan to keep forever.

    I have also recently hunted down a precious signed copy of Cocolat. It's a little tattered but it's still gorgeous.

    Can I say that every recipe I've made from your books is amazing! I only have to say that I've made something by Alice and it's gone before I know it. I'm told that I should only bake "from Alice" now on.

    Best, Judy

  3. Sounds like a fun evening. Booze keeps you up at night,and the caffeine and lard don't help.

  4. I'm sure you've tried this but when I make banana ice cream (which is fairly often) I roast the bananas with a bit of honey and sea salt and cover them with their skins. The result is a much more interesting, sort of "full" banana flavor. Thank you for all the incredible advice over the years. Your guidelines on chocolate substitutions in Bittersweet have been invaluable in my professional life. Thanks.