I think I am going to float away with all this heavy rains we've (cape cod & the islands) have been having. We either have the 3H's (hazy, hot, and humid) or we have the leftover would-be-tropical-storms that are now pure rainmakers for us living on the oceanside. Making tarts, pastries and the like can be tricky when you've got 85 degrees temps, high humidity and high dew points OR pure rain and pure humidity. Keeping the doughs chilled and dry can be tricky. So I had to wait a bit to make this...and then poof, there was one day that I could make this as we were finally lacking the humidity. But my first baking adventure was not this, no, it was croissants-- from scratch I might add. Trying to find a decent croissant around these parts is impossible, as is a decent espresso. Trust me I almost thought of driving all the way to nyc to get some croissants here, and then a quick trip to Baked to see my friend. When you have a craving, you have a craving, right? So I didn't make croissants, but got inspired to make a banana custard (totally random I know).
Before I share the recipe with you, I wanted to see if I am one of the only ones that has not seen the movie Julie & Julia? I want to, but I don't want to. My memories of Julia Child are perfect for me, I would hate to have something else change that. Julia Child was a huge part of my childhood. I was the young child glued to the TV set wearing my "Coke bottle" eyeglasses, watching her brutally take apart a chicken, flambe a crepe, and able to conjeur up the creamiest of sauces with little to nothing on hand. I loved her ease and her strength (all at once) in the food preparation; not mention her ability to take the boring meals and make them superior. Remember those were the times when frozen dinners were big and famous (very scary to me). I was not into Sesame Street, I wanted to see Julia's food masterpieces. But you know what I loved best of watching her? It was those times when she had people taste her food; the expressions on their faces; the noises coming from their mouths--that was what got me the most excited and truly one of the reasons I love to cook today. Julia and my father, the ones who taught me how to order my meals in french at the age of 9-10 while dining at the finest restaurants. Julia and I both knew exactly what it took to make the perfect bearnaise sauce, how to use a sauce mère as base for other sauces, that a bordelaise sauce was best for meats only, and knowing by eye-gauge when the filet mignon was done to perfection. I also knew what frites are and how to ask the waiter for extra sauce, on the side, just for my frites--si vous s'il vous plaît! (my father wanted me to practice my french too). The waiters were amazed and stunned when I asked this, but I loved it when they bent all the way down to listen intently to me while writing notes down on their scratch pads. Remember when waiters used plain old pads to take orders? If I could, but wasn't because of the fire aspect, I was certain I could easily flambe brandy crepes. We would dine, frequently at Maison Robert in Boston. It is now closed, but it was one of the best french restaurants in the world. When it closed in 2004, my heart sank a bit; it was a fine establishment, offering the finest in french cuisine, maitre de's, and one of Julia's many favorite places to dine in Boston. One of the many sommelier's there was a close friend of our family, who has since retired but travels the world counseling restaurants (nice eh?). But the main reason I loved it was because Julia loved it, and she sat there. I always tried to imagine which private table she sat at, was it the one with the closed curtains? Or the one closet yet most private to the back kitchen? What was the first topic of food she talked with the head chef or maitre de? See, big memories for me and Julia. I'm still thinking on going to see the movie, but I don't know.....
cook notes: If you want perfect round tart without fluted edges, then invest in some tart rings. I used mini cake tins (see below) and was only able to get 2 good ones. So my suggestion? If you want to impress people with perfect tart rings and are short on time? Buy some premade tart crusts. I have and they are very good. Found them at Whole Foods in the bread area.
Banana custard tarlettes
Sweet Tart Dough
by Dorie Greenspan
8oz plain flour
2oz icing sugar
4oz butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk
Using a food processor, blend the flour, icing sugar and pinch of salt with the cubes of butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and pulse gently until the pastry comes together. If the pastry is not binding properly, your egg yolk may not have been big enough, so add a little water or milk, a teaspoon at a time until it does come together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to fit your tart tin(s). Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and put it buttered side down on the pastry, bake for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes until nicely browned. (see my note at the end!)
Banana Custard (the original is vanilla bean custard)
adapted from Gale Gand
2 cups half & half
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas (I added this, if you don't want to add then use vanilla beans)or you can use banana extract/oil if not using real bananas
1 vanilla pod & beans if not using banana
whipped cream (if using)
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon sugar
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk (if not using bananas this is where you add the vanilla bean) to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the empty saucepan.
Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Take the 2 ripe bananas and pulse them through a food processor until no chunks are visible. Strain this through a fine sieve (to get all the tiny bits out, optional)--you could also just use banana flavoring in place of the real bananas. Mix in the banana with the pudding, then pour pudding into individual dessert dishes and/or tarts, then chill. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. (The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap if you are keeping it longer than that.). Once the custard was set, just decorate with fresh fruit. If you want whipped cream just whip the cream and 1 ts of sugar in a bowl until stiff peaks forms.
Note: I used mini cake pan tins as I did not want the fluted look this time around. Just make sure to use a glass roughly the same size as the pan to push down the dough or if you have oven-proof glasses then leave the glass in there to help it shape up right during cooking. I do not recommend this as a couple of my tart crusts did not come up right; the ones in the pic are my best ones--only 2. Best if you use the mini fluted ones for safer results.