As part of my recipe development process, I do a lot of research, whether related to ingredients or techniques. One of my favorite things to look into are cuisines that I am not closely familiar with. It’s always exciting to think about the flavor combination treasures to be found in parts of the world, that I haven’t been fortunate to know. Toffee banana is one of those – I made a note of it some time ago and recently got around to playing with the idea.
Toffee bananas are a classic Chinese dessert, which consists of deep-fried bananas, generously topped with toffee and garnished with sesame seeds. You’ll see that the tart I came up with has very little to do with the original idea, but it’s those kinds of things – recipe titles, ingredient pairings, or even color combinations, that often give me a push to come up with new dishes that I’m excited about.
The thought of cooking whole bananas has always intrigued me, but my fear was that the already sweet fruit would become unbearably saccharine. This tart turned everything around for me – the cooked bananas are sweet of course, but they also get a heavenly, creme brûlée-like caramel crust and become even more buttery and tender.
Under the layer of the transformed, cardamom-kissed bananas in this tart is a slather of date ‘toffee.’ You couldn’t find a more perfect ingredient than dates for creating a healthy and whole-food based toffee. They have it all – the thick, rich texture, the sweetness, the caramel color.
The spelt crust is my go-to quick tart crust – it’s unsweetened and with a touch of salt, making a perfect bed for the decadent filling. Together, everything combines into an impressive whole. I’ve made this tart a couple of times, and it’s been hugely popular with my friends. I get requests to re-make it more than anything else I’ve been cooking lately.
And I want to say a few words about the elegant plum-tree spatula in the photos. It was sent to me by a reader, Violet, who has an online shop, where she sells wooden fruit tree wares, hand-carved by her father. I was incredibly touched to receive a few of their items in the mail all the way from Europe, pictured below. Each piece has character, warmth, beauty and utility. The pricing is very fair too, especially considering the unique quality of each ware. Head over to Whole Grain Homes – perhaps you’ll find a beautiful piece for your own kitchen.
Enjoy the weekend.
- 1 ½ cup sprouted/whole spelt flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup neutral coconut oil - chilled, plus more for oiling the pan
- 4-5 tablespoons purified icy-cold water
- 10 large, soft dates - pitted
- ½ cup almond butter
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil - soft, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 small bananas - cut in half lengthwise
- 5 cardamom pods - green shells removed, freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons neutral coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- Place flour and salt into a food processor. Cut oil into small pieces and add to the flour. Pulse until mixture resembles sand. Add 4 tablespoons cold water and pulse to combine. Test the mixture by pressing it between your fingers - it should come together. If not, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it sticks between your fingers.
- Oil a 9-inch tart pan thoroughly. Press the dough against the bottom of the pan into the even crust, starting in the middle and working up the sides. Prick with a fork several times and let chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).
- Cover the crust with a piece of parchment paper and place baking beans inside. Bake blind for 20 minutes. Let cool.
- Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Spoon toffee inside the crust and even out with a spoon.
- Pre-heat oven to 400° F (200° C).
- In a spacious pan, warm oil over medium heat. Add bananas, cut side down, followed by cardamom. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden, flip carefully and cook the other side for 1 more minute.
- Arrange banana slices on top of the toffee inside the crust. Sprinkle with coconut sugar.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and bananas are caramelized. Let cool before slicing.