With Thanksgiving just around the corner my mind is on food more than usual. For the last 10 years, my husband and I have happily played host during the holiday. I would be in charge of the turkey, traditional sides and a dessert or two while my family would take care of the rest. Each year after feasting, a stuffed cousin, aunt or uncle, without fail, will comment about how much food is still leftover and why did we all make so much? Even though everyone is sent home with containers full of leftovers, my husband and I would still be left with days and days worth of food in the refrigerator. I am convinced that we all possess the I-only-know-how-to-cook-for-an-army gene. This year will be different, however. My youngest sister made a special request to take over hosting duties so we could celebrate Thanksgiving in her new home. Not a problem at all, I said.
I happily agreed to relinquish my hostess duties this year for a very selfish reason: I wanted to focus more on baking. Yes, I still plan to roast a turkey for I look forward to one dish each year that is best when prepared with leftover turkey and turkey drippings. And I may still prepare my Yam and Apple casserole since it is the only Thanksgiving dish my husband ever requests. Oh, and we also celebrate a post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving with good friends and I’ve been assigned potatoes for that dinner. Still, I anticipate having more time to focus on baking a few treats; it seems to be an obsession lately.
In order to whittle down my ever-growing list of “must makes”, I have decided to focus on my strongest sweet cravings (and of course requests from my family). Three items top my list and I am determined to make them all this year for the first time. I won’t share what the other two are just yet but one of my biggest cravings has been for a really good banana cream pie. I’ve dreamed of digging into a smooth, silky pastry cream, sliced ripe bananas, just a hint of chocolate–all cradled by a buttery, flaky crust. I was not in the market for a shortcut recipe but when I came across one that had the potential to satisfy craving one of three, I had to try it.
Frozen puff pastry is such a godsend for quick desserts. The only prep necessary for this recipe was the pastry cream and that was easy. In my pictures the cream looks lumpy but I assure you it wasn’t. There were no egg or corn starch solids in there–the cream came straight out of the refrigerator and I transferred it (rather unceremoniously) into the other bowl so I could take my pictures in a hurry. In fact, I’ve used other pastry cream recipes before but this has just become my new go-to for créme patissiére. Don’t think I’m being pretentious for using the latter term, especially since the inspiration for these turnovers screams All-American. I just recall my husband’s exclamation when he had his first taste…despite the fact that I used not-so-ripe bananas and that I didn’t add enough filling to the turnovers…These are just as good as anything I’ve tasted in any Paris bakery. Sweet success.
* I still plan to make a real banana cream pie and I’m inspired to take this basic pastry cream recipe to new heights but I assure you, you will be happy eating these turnovers.
* from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook (Serves 6)
- 1 cup half-and half (I used fat-free and it was still very good)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Flour for dusting dough
- 1 pound puff pastry dough, defrosted but cold2 large ripe bananas1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar.
1. In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half, 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together cornstarch and remaining sugar. Add 2 yolks and stir until mixture is smooth.
3. Temper the egg yolk mixture by ladling about 1/4 cup simmering half-and-half into the bowl and whisk well to combine. Transfer mixture into simmering liquid, whisking vigorously. Allow pastry cream to bubble for 5 seconds, then remove pan from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Transfer to small bowl, cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
4. Unfold puff pastry dough on floured surface and dust with flour. Using a pizza cutter, divide dough evenly into six 5-inch squares; arrange squares on work surface with a point facing you.
5. Working quickly, peel bananas and cut into thirds. Slice each third lengthwise in two pieces. Place 1 tablespoon pastry cream in lower center of each dough square, 2 banana slices on top and dab with more cream. Brush dough edges lightly with water. Fold points of each square down to form triangular turnovers. Press edges of each with fork, and refrigerate on parchment-lined sheet pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place oven rack in lower position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
6. In small bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy; brush on turnovers. Sift confectioners’ sugar over surface of each. Bake until well-risen and deeply browned, about 40 minutes, turning sheet pan once halfway through. Serve warm with caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream or more pastry cream like I did.