Bananas Foster is an iconic dessert dish right up there with Cherries Jubilee and Peach Melba. Created in the early 1950s by New Orleans chef Paul Blange for Brennan’s NOLA restaurant, it has become a classic in fine-dining restaurants all over the world.
As a dessert, Bananas Foster is more than the sum of its parts, which are relatively few and uncomplicated ~ the basics being butter, sugar, bananas, and rum. Together, they transform over heat into something far more elegant than this simple list would suggest.
Generally speaking, I’m not much of a cooked-banana girl. By far my favorite way to eat a banana is freshly peeled, barely yellow, and firm enough to provide resistance when I bite into it. When I do cook with bananas, I prefer mine in muffins, cakes, and quick breads. So, Bananas Foster isn’t a dessert I would typically choose off a restaurant menu. However, its presence in the Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America book combined with the presence of nearly 10 pounds of ripe bananas on my counter inspired me to choose it now.
This recipe wasn’t difficult to prepare, and the smell that filled my kitchen while this was cooking was absolutely ambrosial (think hot buttered rum). It’s the kind of dessert that you can prepare for company, while your company is sitting around with their coffee ~ it takes only a few minutes from start to finish. Bananas Foster is traditionally flamed before serving, but the B@H/CIA cookbook doesn’t include instructions for that stage, so I didn’t flame mine either.
I chose to serve the warm Bananas Foster over Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, with a sprinkle of crushed toasted walnuts to garnish. The banana slices were sweet and just faintly tart, enrobed in the thick, rum-kissed caramel sauce, which was nicely complemented by the creamy coolness of the ice cream. The crunch of the walnuts provided the perfect counterpoint to the textures of the ice cream and fruit.
It’s something different to have in your dessert repertoire, a “grown-up” treat for a special occasion, maybe. I liked this one, and I’d make it again. Please take note of the modifications I list in my Baker’s Notes section; I did make some significant adjustments to the recipe.
- Although the recipe calls for “medium-high” heat, the first batch I made burned almost immediately ~ yes, I took pictures; no, I won’t show you. The second time around, I turned down the heat to medium, which was perfect.
- The recipe calls for white sugar but I found that the white sugar caramelized (read: burned) too quickly to converge with the butter into a decent caramel. The second go-round, I replaced it with brown sugar ~ perfection.
- When choosing your bananas, don’t go for overripe, baking-ready bananas. Instead, choose those that you’d pick if you were eating them raw ~ medium-firm and yellow. If you start with bananas that are too soft, you’ll end up with mush instead of nicely defined slices.
- Although the classic Bananas Foster presentation uses bananas sliced lengthwise and quartered, I really like the slices. They’re nicer, I think, to serve over ice cream, and they’re less awkward to eat with a dessert spoon.
- Next time, I think I’ll try using Malibu brand coconut-flavored rum and sprinkling with toasted coconut. Mmmm.