Hawaii. Sigh…It’s really wintry here and I’ve been thinking about Hawaii. When I think about Hawaii, thoughts of bananas are not far behind. So, as a result, I have a major kickass banana treat for you this week.
Perhaps some explanation is in order. Two relevant pieces of information: 1. Bob and I will be celebrating both our 30th wedding anniversary and his 60th birthday this summer and we’ve decided to plan a trip to Kauai. 2. The last time we were there, I fell in love with bananas. Not just any bananas, Apple Bananas (also called Latundan or Manzana). These fat little cultivars grow in Southeast Asia and the Philippines and Hawaii, and are not shipped to the mainland US (sob, sob, sob).
On Kauai, apple bananas grow wild and are sold in farm markets and roadside stands. I went a little crazy (who am I kidding, it wasn’t just a little) buying and eating all manner of tropical fruit while we were on the island with Brian and his roommate two years ago. And then I tried to smuggle some of my new banana friends home. You’d think I’d have learned from the peanut butter smuggling incident on Maui several years earlier, but that is a story for another day. Needless to say, my considerable charm is historically wasted on Hawaiian TSA agents, and my attempts at small scale importing have been massively unsuccessful.
So, in celebration of our plans to return to the scene of a thwarted crime, I baked this tart (a fun and truly delicious twist on Tarte Tatin) with locally available Cavendish bananas (and yes, I do feel guilty for eating imported fruit…but have mercy, it’s February in New York). This is a variation on a recipe I’ve been developing using apples, and pears. It is great with all the fruit I’ve tried thus far, so feel free to experiment (and then leave me a comment). The cookie crust is just right, soft, a bit chewy, caramelly. Wait until you smell the heavenly aroma in the kitchen when this is baking!
The tart is perfect served warm with a scoop of homemade ice cream. Or any ice cream. Or very lightly whipped cream.
Banana Caramel Upside Down Cookie Tart
A word about bananas: The supermarket specimens you see in this post are organic. Bananas are not members of the “dirty dozen,” nor the “clean 15.” I tend to buy organic because I like to support organic growing practices when I am able. Do what feels right for you and your family.
The fruit I used for this post were riper than I would have liked for this particular recipe. In general, very ripe bananas are preferable for baking, but this recipe calls for cooking them twice. So, if you have the option to choose yellow, but less spotty ones, go for it. The tart will be prettier and more complex tasting. And if you can get Apple Bananas, make it with them; I am so jealous!!!
3 bananas, peeled and sliced crosswise, about ½ inch thick
1 cup organic cane sugar, divided
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt, divided
10 tbs. butter (1 stick plus 2 tbs.), cool room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
optional: flaky sea salt for finishing.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Make the cookie dough: Mix flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder, and ½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you want to mix by hand or with a hand mixer), combine the stick of butter (8 tbs.) and ¾ cup sugar. Mix on medium high speed until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well, stopping once to scrape the bowl. Add the flour mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, and place in the fridge while you work with the bananas.
Melt the remaining 2 tbs. butter in a 8 inch cast iron skillet. Add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and cook until the sugar is melted and bubbly. Place the banana slices in the pan and cook over medium heat until you see that the sugar/butter mixture is beginning to turn amber around the edges of the bananas. This will take 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the burner. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt.
Take the dough from the fridge and place on a piece of parchment. Using your hand, press the dough into a round that is 8 inches in diameter (see photo). Invert, the parchment over the bananas and peel away the paper. Carefully (don’t burn yourself), tuck in the edges of the dough. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and slightly puffed.
Run a paring knife around the edge and place a serving plate on top of the pan. Using an oven mitt or pot holder, swiftly and confidently invert the pan and plate together so the tart flips onto the plate. Use a small silicone spatula or offset spatula to replace and smooth any unruly pieces of banana or caramel. Top with flaky sea salt if you like.
Serve warm with barely sweet, lightly whipped cream or ice cream.