Winter Teatime Recipe #2: Banana Cream Tartlets
In my last post I mentioned that I would be posting my favorite new recipes from my little winter tea I gave last week. While scones are traditional tea fare, these banana cream tartlets take liberties with the standard high tea menu. They ended up on my tea menu because, 1) I am smitten with my Tartine cookbook and therefore 2) must take every chance possible to try a new recipe out of it, and 3) as it was a winter time tea, many of my summer time recipes didn’t seem quite right (except for my lemon squares, which are right just about any time of year!).
I have to admit that they are a lot of work. Quite a lot. So be sure you clear a little time (or perhaps, a lot!) in your schedule and are prepared to spend some patient minutes (perhaps hours) in your kitchen. But trust me, your hard work will pay off. These tartlets were, by far, the hit of the tea. All the girls raved about them, and they were definitely in a class of their own on the tea table. Of course all that raving is a result of all that time, and home made components.
The long journey to these tartlets begins with making your own shells, continues preparing your own caramel, completing the pre-assembly preprations with the gentle concocting of your homemade pastry cream.
Of course when I made them for the first time, I didn’t know if all this work was worth it. Especially for me, who hates making pastry and usually fails superbly at it, but when one of my tartlets broke a little, I took the opportunity to make sure they were worth all my effort, before I served them up. And oh my. It was good. It was really that good.
Hit of the Party Banana Cream Tartlets
adapted from Tartine’s recipe for Banana Cream Pie (pg 54)
Fully Baked and cooled tart shells (recipe below)
3 oz bittersweet scholate, chorsely chopped (I used Valhrona)
1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 Tbsp sugar
Caramel (recipe below)
Pastry cream (recipe below)
1-2 Ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch think rounds
Bittersweet choclate bar for making curls
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup very cold water
3 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup + 5 tbsp unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 1-inch pieces
In a small bowl, add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Keep very cold until ready to use.
Put the flour in the bowl of a food processor and scatter butter pieces on top. Pulse briefly until mixture forms large crubs and some of the putter is still in pieces the size of peas. Add the water anda salt mixture and puls for several seconds until the dough begins to come together in a ball but is not completely smooth. YOu should still be able to see some butter chunks.
On a lightly floured work surface, divide dough into 2 eaul balls, sahpe each into a disak 1 inch think, and chill for 2 hours or overnight, wrapped in plastic wrap. Place a piece of wax paper on your work surface. Place the disk in the middle and cover with another piece of wax paper. Roll until 1/8 inch thick. Use a large glass or free hand cut large circles. Press into muffin tins to create shells. Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour until firm to the touch. (The cookbook says you can also freeze them at this point for up to two weeks and bake when needed without defrosting).
Preheat oven to 375. Line each shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (I used dried beans successfully).Bake for 10-15 minutes (perhaps 20), until dry and pale. Remove weights and paper and return to oven for another few minutes. If it rises up in the middle, gently pierce with a fork. Let them cool completely before filling.
I used this food processor method when I made them, but be careful. I don’t think my bowl was as big as they were imagining and the dough started to gum up at the bottom before it could fully mix in the other ingredients. I dumped it out and hand mixed it. My dough had these strange gummy-stretchy areas and I though I was doomed, but after chilling, rolling and baking, they seemed to turn out fine.
2/3 heavy cream
1/4 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used superfine, to avoid a grainy caramel)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
Pour cream in a small, heavy sauce pan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pods into the milk. Place over meduim-high heat and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.
In a medium to large, heavy saucepan (I used my large soup pot), combine sugar, water, salt, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture is amber colored. (The cookbook says this takes 5-8 minutes, but mine took slightly longer). Remove from the heat.
The mixture will continue to cook off the heat and become darker, so make sure to have your cream close by. Carefully and slowly add the cream to the sugar syrup. The mixture will boil vigorously at first. Let the mixture simmer down, and then whisk until smooth. Add lemon juice. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
Add the butter all one at a time, whisking constantly after each addition. Whisk the caramel periodically as it continues to cool. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. You won’t use all of it for the tartlets, so you have plenty left for ice cream and other treats.
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tbsp chunks
note: Tartine suggests sieving your cream, but as I don’t have one I skipped this step and it still turned out fine.
Put milk, vanilla bean seeds (scraped from bean), and salt in a medium heavy saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure milk solids aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan (they can scorch and ruin your cream).
While the milk is warming (keep a close eye on it by working nearby), whisk together cornstarch and sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream (they suggest 2 minutes). The mixture must come just to the boiling point, but you don’t want it to boil vigorously, or you will curdle the pastry cream. Remove from heat by pouring into a waiting bowl or other container. Let cool for 0 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat.
When the pastry cream is about 140 F (or coolish lukewarm) whisk the butter in, one chunk at a time, whisking smooth before adding the next chunk. Cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate to cool. It will keep, well covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days.
With all your components prepared, cooled, and ready to go, you can begin you assembly.
Melt the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave (watch it carefully, you want it just melted. When there is still a couple chocolate chunks in it, I take it out and stir it to finish the melting). Using a spoon, coat the bottom of each tartlet shell with the chocolate. Return to the fridge for about 10 min. to set. While the chocolate is setting whip your whip cream with a bit of sugar until it holds medium-firm peaks.
Remove shells from fridge and drizzle caramel over the chocolate (if your caramel set like mine did while cooling, or from being stored in the fridge overnight, warm it slightly in the microwave until it can be drizzled). Now fill the tartlets almost to the tops with pastry cream, leaving room for the bananas. Arange the banana slices evenly over the pastry cream, and then lightly press them into the cream. Top with whipped cream and chocolate curls. To make the chocolate curls, place the chocolate, witht he smooth side facingyou, on the countertop. If the chocolate is cool, warm it slightly by lightly rubbbing it with your palm (this works great, but be aware you will have a chocolate hand). Position the bar on the edge of the counter to stabilize it, and use your body to block the bar from falling off the counter (apron!). Now, using long strokes, scrape the warm surface with a chef’s knife to form curls.
Chill tartlets for about 3 hours. Serve cold. They will keep for about 4 days in the fridge. (I can vouch for this. I made them Weds. morning, and we ate them through Friday night.)