In my morning dose of “Top Chef,” I heard a contestant say, “Chefs who make desserts go home.”
But in the real world show, “Home Cook,” desserts, particularly baked goods, are another matter. Wish I had a buck for every time I heard someone say, “I don’t cook but I love to bake.” When we had fundraiser buffets at The Advertiser, proud Tiser bakers would jam the tables with their sweet creations. Check out any community cookbook and count up the desserts: That chapter is often the heaviest and the recipes are often the most complex or challenging.
Savory dishes — particularly entrees that go beyond the casserole school — are seen by many as challenging and a bit scary. But baking? Everybody thinks they can do it Which is odd, because really great baking is a complex science, a separate track for chefs, who take a special degree in it if they plan to pursue that route. I always thought it was the one I would choose if I had become chef. You work in a climate-controlled environment and most pastry chefs get to work a regular day shift — the best job in the house, I think, and one that requires a great deal of imagination.
But in “Top Chef,” the young chefs seem to trip up every time, perhaps trying too hard, reaching too far. And most have little experience in the area, so it’s a risk. Unfortunately, whenever they choose not to present a meal with a finish, the judges notice and comment disfavorably. Catch 22 for them.
But here’s one that did work in a Quick Fire challenge, Bananas Foster pie. Bananas Foster, invented at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans and often prepared tableside, is a warm dessert in which bananas are glazed with liqueur, flamed and presented hot in the sweet syrup.
While other chefs tripped over the simple challenge of baking a pie, chef Kenny Gilbet took this well-known idea and won with it.
I’ve simplified this one for the home cook, skipping one garnish he made: a chocolate ganache drizzled over the pie. You could also skip the second garnish, carmelized pecans.
I was intrigued by the way the fruit is bedded in a soft, sweet batter. I’m going to make use of this idea in my next cookbook.


Banana Fosters pie

3 cups flour
2 cups shortening
1 Tbl Chinese five spice
1 cup ice water
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter
5 bananas, sliced
1 cup currants
1 cup pecans
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup spiced dark rum
Filling Batter:
4 oz butter
4 oz AP flour
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbl baking powder
1 Tbl Chinese five spice
¼ tsp salt
4 oz dark brown sugar
3 whole eggs
Toffee Sauce:
½ lb butter
½ lb dark brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split
1 Tbl Chinese five spice
¼ cup currants
Candied pecans:
1 cup pecans
1 egg white
1 Tbl Chinese five spice
3 Tbl sugar
¼ tsp salt
For the Crust: Combine flour, spice, salt, and shortening. Add ice water and gently knead to form into dough. Roll out to ¼” thickness and place into pie pan. Lay parchment paper on dough with dried beans on top. Blind bake in 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
For the Filling: Heat butter in skillet until golden brown. Add bananas, currants, pecans, and dark brown sugar. Cook until caramelized. Deglaze with spiced dark rum (remove fruit from pan and heat rum in pan) and remove from heat, pouring glazing liquid over fruit. Cool.
For the Filling Batter: Combine butter and flour and mix together gently. Add milk, baking powder, five spice, salt, sugar, and eggs. Mix together gently.
To Assemble Pie: Place ¼ cup batter on the bottom of the pie shells. Add all of the banana mixture. Pour over remaining batter. Bake pie at 350-degrees F for 30 minutes, or until set and golden brown. Let cool before slicing.
For the Toffee Sauce: In a saucepot, heat together butter and brown sugar and cook until golden brown. Add heavy cream and whisk until smooth. Add vanilla bean, five spice, and currants. Remove from heat and allow to steep.
For the Candied Spiced Pecans: Combine all ingredients and mix well. Bake at 350-degrees F until dried out, golden brown, and crispy. Cool down.
Place pie pieces on dessert plates, drizzle toffee sauce over and garnish with candied spiced pecans.