Sunday, August 24, 2014

Banana Walnut Tart

I imagine that there are not a lot of people seeking out and wanting a banana tart.  However, that does not mean that it cannot be created with a delicious result.

This recipe comes from a chef that worked at Le Cirque for several years, named Francisco Guiterrez.  The executive chef, Jacques Torres published the recipe, stating that it was the most popular tart specials they had on the menu.  Flaky shortbread is filled with fluffy almond cream and then layered with sliced bananas.  The bananas encircle a blend of creamy caramel and crunchy walnuts.  Made in a circular tart pan, every slice with contain both bananas and walnuts.  Made in an oblong pan, the banana lovers will gladly go for the edge pieces and the nut lover will be patient until you get to the center pieces.  Either way, everyone will be happy with whatever part of this dessert lands on their plate.

The only issue I had with this recipe was concerning the volume of the components.  I am not one that likes to make excess to use elsewhere.  I would rather it all goes together with no waste.  Based on this, you will find the ingredient measurements a little strange, but it has all been altered in an effort to make sure every component is completely used. The almond cream filling recipe and the caramel walnut base recipe have been cut in half from the original.

This recipe states that it is for one 10 or 12 inch tart.  I made three 3 1/2 inch mini tarts and one rectangular tart (7'x10").

Francisco's Banana Walnut Tart
adapted from Dessert Circus at Home

Ingredients/Shortbread Dough
1/2 cup and 2 tbs cold unsalted butter, diced
1 2/3 cup cake flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1/3 cup water

Ingredients/ Caramel Walnut Topping
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk (whole, not 2%)

Ingredients/Almond Filling
4 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 large egg ( equals 2 tbs of scrambled egg)
2 tbs flour
1/2 cup almond flour
4 bananas
extra sugar (for sprinkling over top)

For the crust, sift together flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cubes of butter and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter into the dry ingredients.  The other method is by hand, grabbing handfuls of butter and flour, then rubbing your hands together to combine.  However, you would need to periodically run your hands under cold water and dry them.  That way no heat from your hands would melt the  butter. Either way, your mixture should end up as coarse crumbs with some small chunks of butter.

Then add all of the water to the dough and blend with a spoon or by hand.  Once the dough can hold a ball shape, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on your work surface for about 30 seconds.  Then flatten into a disc and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, make the almond filling.  Add the butter, almond flour and sugar to a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  The beating should help the sugar dissolve into the butter, creating a light and fluffy texture.  Then mix in the 1/2 egg, beating for about 3 minutes.  This process with make the mixture lighter in hue and put air into the filling.  The air will aid in the rising process when baked and keep it from being too dense. Lastly, fold in the flour, stopping once there are no dry streaks.  Set aside.

The caramel walnut topping starts by pouring the sugar in a saucepan and then placing it over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and let cook until the sugar is melted and becomes caramel colored.  Then pour in a stream of the heavy cream and continue to mix. Repeat the same process with the milk.  Once all is blended, take out a candy thermometer and then stir in walnuts.  Stir occasionally while the mixture cooks.  It should heat up to a temperature of 225 degrees as registered by the thermometer.  At 225 degrees, remove the saucepan from the heat and empty contents into a heat proof bowl to cool.  Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Again, dust the flat surface with flour.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Using your hands,  pat dough a couple of times on each side to soften it a little prior to rolling.  Roll out dough to 1/4" thick.  Make sure it exceeds your pan sides by 2 inches all the way around.  For the rectangle tart pan, you should have more than 2 inches excess.  Make the excess beyond 2 inches on the length of the dough and cut off to reserve for the smaller tarts.

For the big tarts, roll the dough over a rolling pin.  Then unroll dough into the tart pan and press into pan, forming into the interior shape of the pan.  Make sure the dough covers all inside surfaces tightly, using your hands.  It should all be compressed along the interior sides, corners and bottom.  Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan edges, making a clean cut of the excess.  If making the mini tarts as well, roll out all of the excess dough and cut in circles 5 1/2 inches in diamer, cutting and re-rolling as necessary.  Follow the same process to shape the dough in the pan and cut off excess.  Then dock the dough on the interior bottom of the tarts with a fork, to make sure it will not bubble when baked.

Take the almond filling and smooth over the interior dough, covering all the bottom of the tart dough evenly.  If making mini tarts, use about 1 tbs and 1 tsp of filling for each.  Then peel and cut one of the bananas into 1/4 inch rounds, cutting and discarding the small ends.  Lay the slices on the almond filling, starting with the outer edge and going inward.  Keep cutting the bananas and layering until there is only the center has the almond filling exposed. Leave a 2 inch circle (if using a 10 inch tart pan) or a 2x3 inch rectangle ( if using a rectangular tart pan) and 1 1/4 inch circle (if using a mini tart pan).

Cover the exposed almond filling with the caramel nut mixture and smooth over the top.  If using the mini tarts, measure out 1 tbs of the nut mixture and spread over the center of each.  Then sprinkle sugar over the top of the banana slices. Bake the tarts for about 35-45 minutes.  Each tart is done when the shortbread crust gets toasty and the filling forms a crust.  Remove from oven and place tart pan over rack to completely cool. 

Tips and Notes:

1.  Caramel can quickly burn, so to avoid this, turn your heat down to medium for it to cook up to the right temperature and be patient. Hope you have a candy thermometer that clips to the edge of your pan, I had to hold mine by hand the whole time....

3.  A dense pudding filling inside a tough cardboard pastry shell is not what you want, so avoid over mixing or beating when preparing the dough and adding the flour to the almond filling.

4. The recipe suggest dusting with powdered sugar or brushing with apricot glaze (1/4 cup apricot jam heated and mixed with 1 tbs water) for a nicer presentation.

5. The layering of the bananas can be single slices or have a slight overlap, whichever you prefer.

6. If preferred, add a splash of rum to the almond cream mixture for some extra flavor
                                         **LAST YEAR:Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake