Baking the seasons: We can depend on bananas to brighten up our bakes whatever the time of year. Here they lend their sweetness to an indulgent American-style bourbon, chocolate and cream tartlet and an exceptionally easy ice-cream
I saw on Instagram the other day that some people have started growing bananas in California another reason to be homesick in London in February. While we cant boast a local banana crop here in the UK, we do have access to good bananas all year-round, since they do not have a specific growing season. At Violet, we are known for our banana bread, but more can be done with the fruit of this giant herb which, I was surprised to learn, is not a tree. There are many banana varieties, but we tend to use the cavendish, which is the type grown for export, picked green, and left to ripen gradually from the banana boat to the shop shelf.
There is a fleeting sweet spot with banana ripeness, so you have to be vigilant with your fruit bowl. At that moment, the green fades to yellow. No longer astringent with starchiness, the sugars develop and the fruit softens ever so slightly. The perfume is perfect and no brown spots have formed yet. This is the moment to use your bananas in this weeks recipes.
Bourbon banana cream tartlets (pictured above)
Banana cream pie, or this tartlet version, is the American dream dessert. The forgotten banana that is so readily mashed into our favourite cakey bread is elevated here to dizzying new heights, suspended in clouds of boozy cream and custard, becoming rich and luxurious.
180g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp ice water
100g dark chocolate
3 medium bananas (ripe, but not covered in brown spots)
For the custard
2 egg yolks
340ml whole milk
50g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cream
300ml double cream
2 tsp bourbon
tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
Cocoa powder, to serve
1 For the pastry, add the flour, sugar and salt to a blender and blitz briefly to combine. Add the cold butter and blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Combine the yolks and water, then add all at once. Mix until it just comes together (about 30 seconds or less). Wrap well in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes, but soften slightly before rolling.
2 Butter the insides of 6 individual pastry rings or individual tart shells. On a surface lightly dusted with flour, roll out the pastry until about 3mm thick. Cut circles about 6cm larger in diameter than your tart shells or rings. Press the pastry circles down into the rings and trim off any excess. Freeze or chill them for 15 minutes.
3 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Line the chilled pastries with pieces of baking paper. Fill with baking beans so that you can blind bake them. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking beans, then return to the oven to bake a further 5-10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool.
4 On a very low heat, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Do not let the water boil rapidly, as this can cause it to burn. Stir the chocolate and pour it into the bottom of the baked pastries. Rotate the shells as you go, so that the chocolate coats the inside in a nice, thin even layer. Put in the fridge to chill. This can be done the day before.
5 Arrange a fine sieve over a medium-size bowl. Whisk together all of the custard ingredients thoroughly in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put over a very low heat and whisk constantly for about 10-15 minutes, or until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. When the custard is ready, pour through the sieve and into the bowl. Give the custard a stir to release some steam, then press a piece of clingfilm on to the top of the custard so it does not form a skin. Chill for at least an hour. This can also be done the day before.