Monday, October 1, 2012

Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch

There are bananas that are past their prime in the Brave Astronaut fridge, so some Banana Bread may be in the making.  Naturally, this recipe caught my eye as well.  But it may be a little more involved than I'm prepared for - with my fall allergies in full swing.

From the Smitten Kitchen.  Of course.
If this site could have a single prologue, it would go like this: It all started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always? I wanted something simple but got carried away. A search for a lasagna I could love became a Mount Everest of a Lasagna Bolognese; a hankering for a great game-day snack became a mash-up of Welsh rarebit and pull-apart rye bread; and a hunt for a quiche that could serve a crowd became a 4 1/2 year vendetta until I triumphed over those 137 square inches of buttery flaky shell. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I’m likely scaring away people who just wanted something simple to cook (I promise, the next recipe will be so simple, you might, like me, weep and wonder where it’s been every rushed weekday night of your life thus far.) 

In this case, I started daydreaming about the place where a simple crepe would intersect banana bread and from there, I couldn’t stop. Well, I had to stop for a week because my book’s first pass pages came back (guys? It looks so pretty, I can’t wait to show you) and when they dragged it from my apartment (I, um, wasn’t done yet), I found that my cooking mojo had left with it. If you’d like a delightful recipe for banana flatcakes (what I affectionately called the first flop), I’ve got one. Then, I was so low on groceries, I had only the exact number of eggs I needed for the recipe, and like something out of a bad comedy skit, I managed to smash the egg on the outside of the mixing bowl, all of my hopes of getting this recipe to you in a reasonable frame of time dribbling down the side and puddling on the counter. (If this ever happens to you, promise me you won’t leave the kitchen in disgust, if only because cleaning up that egg an hour later is only going to double your grump.) Then my son demanded the last speckled banana, the one I’d been saving to try the crepes again (the nerve!), and it was a few days before the next batch were ripe enough to use. 

I am, if little else, the queen of excuses right now.

When I finally triumphed over the banana crepe, I was so relieved that I got carried away. Know this: You can make banana crepes for breakfast as soon as possible. You can dust them with powdered sugar or dollop them with a little plain yogurt mixed with a spoonful of maple syrup and drop of vanilla extract and everyone will love them. You can go a step further, maybe even turning them into banana blintzes, filled with lightly sweetened farmers cheese, and browning them in a pan. Or, you show no remorse and do as I did, and whip a lightly sweetened filling of cream cheese, Greek yogurt and a little bit of sugar, spread it thinly between each crepe as you stack them high and again, you can stop right there. You can dust this with powdered sugar and serve it in wedges and totally win at breakfast. Or, you can simmer a tiny batch of salted butterscotch sauce with toasted walnuts and serve it with this previously innocent wedge of crepe cake, either puddled over the top or passed alongside the meal and it will be almost insanely decadent (more insane if I hadn’t made a great effort to keep the sweetness of the crepe stack within greatly in check), but I see no reason to let that stop you. 

Banana Crepe Cake with Yogurt and Walnut Butterscotch
A whole bunch of cooking notes and tips: First, crepes are magical. Once you accept that the first one always goes in the trash, that things are really much easier with a non-stick pan (I use this one; it’s my only nonstick these days and it is worth its weigh in gold) and if you struggle with crepe-flipping, try to embrace my weirdo two-spatula crepe-flipping technique, described below, you will hit your stride and wonder why you don’t make crepes more often. And you should, they keep fantastically well in the fridge, for a few days, even. They reheat well. They never stick to each other so you can just stack them up, no fancy separators required. 

A note about banana flavor: The crepes taste the most strongly of banana when served simply. As other ingredients are added, like this filling, the banana flavor is less loud (but the overall flavor tumbles dreamily together). If you’d like it to scream banana, you might add paper-thin slices of banana throughout the crepe layers — it will also stack the cake higher. 

This is perfect for a decadent brunch meal or party. I think of it as a replacement for french toast, coffee cake or buttery pastries. And although it sounds completely over-the-top, I made a great effort to keep it at least a little breakfasty: the crepes are barely sweetened, the filling remains tangy and only moderately sweet and the butterscotch is as small of a yield as needed to just cover the top. And it (pardon the pun) totally takes the cake. 

If you’d like to pass the walnut butterscotch alongside cake servings, rather than drizzling it over the top of the cake, I recommend you double the yield, and keep it warm so it stays pourable. If it still seems too thick, a little extra cream will thin it. 

Yield: 11 to 12 9-inch crepes, or a 1 1/2-inch cake

Banana crepes
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing pan 
  • 1 large (will weigh 6 ounces/170 grams be about 6 inches long when unpeeled) speckly ripe banana (should yield a scant 1/2 cup peeled, pureed) 
  • 1 cup (235 ml) milk 
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour 
  • 4 large eggs 
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • Pinch of ground cloves
Cream cheese yogurt filling 
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese, well-softened 
  • 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) plain Greek-style yogurt 
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Walnut butterscotch topping
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream 
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed dark brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup (about 50 grams) chopped walnuts, toasted 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, or to taste 

Make the crepe batter: Blend banana in a food processor until totally smooth. Add melted butter, blend again. Add remaining ingredients and blend until they are combined. Transfer batter, which will look pretty thin, to a bowl (even easier later if it has a spout), cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, preferably overnight, and up to two days. When you remove the batter, it will seem surprisingly thick. Stir it to redistribute the ingredients before using it.

Cook the crepes: Heat a medium skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, brush pan thinly with melted butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet, swirling it until it evenly coats the bottom and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden and the top is set, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip* the crepe and cook it for 30 seconds on the other side, before transferring it to a plate to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. You can stack your crepes and they should not stick together. Let crepes cool completely.

* Here’s my Weirdo Two-Spatula Crepe Flipping Method: I have two spatulas handy, one flexible fish-style spatula (these are my favorite, for everything, because they’re so thin) and one smaller, like an offset icing spatula. I slide the larger one just a little bit under the crepe and lift it enough that I can slide the smaller one under. I lift it enough that I can get the larger one far underneath the crepe, then use the larger one alone to flip it. It makes it very easy, I promise. 

Make filling: Whip cream cheese until fluffy, then beat in yogurt, 1/2 cup at a time. When fully combined, add sugar and vanilla then beat until rich and fluffy, just another minute.

Assemble crepe cake: Lay first crepe on a cake plate or serving platter. Spread with 1/4 cup of the yogurt-cream cheese filling. Repeat with all but the last remaining crepe, which should be stacked but have no filling on top, as it is the lid.

Make walnut butterscotch sauce: Combine the cream, brown sugar and butter in the bottom of a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as it reduces and thickens. You’ll know it’s done when it becomes thick and smells toasty. Stir in the vanilla and salt, then walnuts. Immediately pour over stack of filled crepes, nudging the butterscotch to the edges with your spoon — if it goes over the edge, so be it.

Serve immediately, or keep in fridge until ready to serve. Crepe cake keeps for up to 3 days, possibly longer, but good luck with that.

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