Whipping up dessert in a hurry

banoffeepie4

Every time one of my staff members celebrates a birthday, I bring in a baked good just for them, something they don’t have to share with anyone else. When one of my staff members celebrated her birthday Friday and I knew I didn’t have a ton of time to make and decorate a cake, I instead chose to make a Banoffee Pie.

I first made a Banoffee Pie years ago after seeing Curtis Stone make one on “Take Home Chef.” It looked easy and I was pleased that I found it just as simple to make at home. The pie gets its name because it uses bananas and toffee. Making the toffee sauce is the only part that really takes much effort — and it doesn’t take much if you follow the instructions. The pie is framed by a simple graham cracker crust, filled with a base layer of toffee sauce, then topped with whipped cream with bananas folded into it. The rest of the toffee sauce is drizzled on top. It’s easy as, well, pie.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you get a lot more flavor than you might expect. When I first made it, I was worried about getting a mouthful of whipped cream, but the sliced bananas that are folded into it keep that from happening, and the toffee sauce on the top and bottom add a certain richness to it.

For the record, let me say that this is not a banana cream pie. There are bananas and cream, but they are not blended together as they are in the traditional desert.

Another plus is that you can do this in parts if you’re strapped for time. I made the crust and toffee sauce the night before, then made the whipped cream-and-banana filling the day of so it would be as fresh as possible.

This is a great option if you’re short on time and want to serve a light, flavorful dessert. It was a big hit with the birthday girl.

Ingredientsbanoffeepie1
9 ounces graham crackers, crushed

1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 14-ounce  can sweetened condensed milk

1 stick butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
5 small ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Chop the graham crackers in a food processor until they are finely ground.

Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and process to blend well. The crumbs should stick together when pressed.

Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate.

To make the toffee sauce, place a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Combine the sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a medium heavy saucepan. banoffeepie3

Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil without stirring until the color is deep amber, occasionally swirling the pan and brushing down the sides with a pastry brush dipped into water, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the condensed milk and butter. Continue stirring for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.

Remove the toffee sauce from the heat and spread 1 cup of the sauce over the prepared crust and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until the toffee is semi-firm. This can be refrigerated overnight if you prefer to prepare the rest on the day it will be served.

Keep the remaining toffee sauce at room temperature.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream in a large bowl until thick and very soft billowy peaks form.

Very thinly slice three of the bananas into discs.

Fold the sliced bananas into the softly whipped cream and spoon into the prepared pie crust.

Slice the remaining bananas and arrange them decoratively over the pie.

Re-warm the remaining toffee sauce gently over low heat.

Drizzle some of the sauce decoratively over the pie. If the sauce has thickened too much to drizzle, stir a few tablespoons of milk into the sauce to create a thinner consistency.

Cut the pie into wedges and transfer to plates.

Drizzle each pie wedge with more sauce and serve.

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Ring in the new year with an elegant treat

lemonmousse

I love the San Francisco Chronicle’s food section. It usually has a good selection of recipes that are easy enough for the average home cook. A few years ago, this recipe for Lemon Mousse was featured. At the time, my parents’ lemon tree was covered in fresh lemons that needed to be used, so this was the perfect selection. It was everything I had hoped for. Its light, citrusy flavor, creamy texture and candied lemon peel made for a great light dessert.

I thought this recipe would be a good finishing touch to a New Year’s Eve dinner. You can dish it out in small portions or large portions. I dished it into martini glasses to make it festive. Be sure to make it far enough in advance to give it the time it needs to chill. It even pairs well with a nice glass of riesling, so you can have your dessert and eat it, too.

However you ring in 2013, I hope you’re surrounded by family, friends and good food. Happy New Year!

Lemon peel garnish
3 to 4 lemons
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Using a serrated or vegetable peeler, cut strips from each lemon and julienne strips. Blanche the strips in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Pour into a sieve, discard the hot water and rinse the strips in cold water. (This process eliminates most of the peels’ bitterness.)

In a small saucepan bring the sugar and 3 tablespoons water to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar melts. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute. Add the blanched lemon peel strips to the syrup, and stir to coat them evenly with the syrup. Pour into a sturdy container and refrigerate until serving time.

Lemon Mousse
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon, at least 1 tablespoon
1 pint (2 cups) cold heavy cream

Set a sieve over a heatproof bowl and set nearby. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons water in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan until thoroughly combined. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and it registers 165° on an instant-read thermometer.

Immediately pour this lemon mixture into the sieve, pressing it through with a heat-resistant spatula. Discard the lemon zest that remains in the sieve. Allow the lemon mixture to cool before covering its surface with a sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate (up to 2 days) until you’re ready to finish the mousse. The lemon mixture thickens as it chills for several hours or overnight. To hasten the chilling, place over an ice-water bath and gently stir occasionally.

To assemble, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold half of the whipped cream into the thickened lemon mixture to lighten it. Whisk the remaining whipped cream in the bowl to thicken the cream more and fold it into the mousse. Divide it among 8 stemmed glasses or bowls and serve immediately, or refrigerate covered with plastic wrap for up to 1 day. Serve garnished with lemon peel.