Momofuku Milk Bar's Banana Cream Pie

November 8, 2014


I know it's November, and I really should be showcasing pumpkin-spiced, fall-inspired desserts. BUT, my mind has been on Banana Cream Pie. Why? After I watched Momofuku Milk Bar's Pastry Chef Christina Tosi whip up this Banana Cream Pie in the first season of Mind of a Chef, my mind would always circle back to this pie when thinking of desserts. I was intrigued when Tosi mentioned the importance of using "ripe" bananasand she means as-dark-as-you-can-get bananas. With the bananas being so ripe, it seriously intensifies the banana flavor and gives the custard amazing depth. Now, let me forewarn you: this recipe is very lengthy and requires some patience. That being said, when you taste the fruits of your labor, the work will be justified with one bite of this rich, creamy and heavenly pie.

Momofuku Milk Bar's Banana Cream Pie
(Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook)
Makes one 10-inch Pie

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Crumbs:
(makes about 2 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Chocolate Crust:
(makes one 10-inch pie crust)
1 3/4 cups chocolate crumbs
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Banana Cream Filling:
(makes about 3 cups, enough for one 10-inch pie)
3 very ripe bananas (the darker, the better)
1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream, separated
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Directions:
For the Chocolate Crumbs:
1. Preheat the oven to 300 (F).
2. Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until fully combined.
3. Add 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and mix on low speed until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.
4. Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, breaking the clusters up at the 10 minute mark. Once the crumbs have finished baking for 20 minutes, let cool. Allow to cool completely before using in a recipe.

For the Chocolate Crust:
    1. Pulse 3/4 cup chocolate crumbs in a food processor until they are sandy and no sizeable clusters remain. (Save 1/4 cup chocolate crumbs to be used as a topping when the pie is finished.)
    2. Transfer the sand to a medium bowl and, with your hands, toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter and knead into the sand until it is moist enough to knead into a ball.
    3. Transfer the mixture to a 10-inch pie dish. With your fingers and the palms of your hands, press the chocolate crust firmly into the tin, making sure the bottom and sides of the pie tin are evenly covered. Wrapped in plastic wrap, the crust can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days, or in the fridge for 2 weeks.

    For the Banana Cream Filling:
    1. Combine 2 ripe bananas (saving the third non-ripe one for later), 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup milk in a blender and puree until totally smooth.
    2. Once the mixture is completely smooth, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3 egg yolks and continue to blend until homogenous. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, and clean the blender canister (or medium bowl).
    3. Bloom 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin by sprinkling it evenly across the surface of a small bowl filled with 2 tablespoons of cold water. The gelatin is bloomed when it is soft, about 2 minutes. 
    4. Whisk the contents of the pan (from the 2nd step) and heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and, once it's at boiling point, continue to whisk vigorously for about 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match.
    5. Transfer the contents of the pan back into your blender (or medium bowl, if using an immersion blender). Add the bloomed gelatin (from the 3rd step) and 3 tablespoons butter and blend until the mixture is smooth and even. Add 1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring until it is a bright, artificial banana yellow.
    6. Transfer the banana mixture to a heatproof container, and let cool in the fridge for as long as it takes to cool completely, about 30 to 60 minutes.
    7. When the banana mixture has cooled, make whipped cream by combining 3/4 cup heavy cream with 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar in a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cream and sugar combine to create medium-soft peaks (don't over-mix!).
    8. Add the cold banana mixture (from the 6th step) to the whipped cream and slowly whisk until evenly colored and homogenous — the mixture should turn into a pale yellow. 
    9. Once the banana cream is ready, pour half the mixture into the chocolate pie shell. Cover it with a layer of sliced bananas (from your remaining banana), then cover the bananas with the remaining banana cream. Sprinkle the top with remaining chocolate crumbs. The pie should be stored in the fridge and eaten within a day.


    Bon Appetit!

    Evil Eye Dark & Stormy

    October 28, 2014


    Lately, I've been all about the Moscow Mule. And because I'm not thew biggest vodka fan (but LOVE the ginger-beer and lime combo) I've been trying out various alcohols in place of it, like gin. But, when I found out a Dark & Stormy was basically a Moscow Mule with rum, I was immediately on board. This year for Halloween, I'm opting to forgo any crazy festivities and curl up to a scary movie with a downright delicious cocktail instead—and what cocktail more fitting than this "Evil Eye" Dark & Stormy?

    Ingredients:
    Dark. spiced rum
    Freshly-squeezed lime juice
    Ginger Beer (make sure to use ginger beer, not ale!)
    Lychee Berries (lychees canned in syrup can be found in the international section of the grocery store)
    Brandied cherries

    Directions:
    (Makes one drink)
    2 ounces dark, spiced rum
    3 ounces ginger beer
    1/2 ounce lime juice

    In a tall glass full of ice, combine the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice with ice and stir well. Add a couple lychee-cherry "evil eyes" to each drink.

    Lychee-Cherry "Evil Eyes": Take a brandied cherry and place it into the lychee berry cavity. Tah-dah! That's all that's needed for adding a dose of Halloween into your boozy refreshment.


    Have a deliciously spooky Halloween!

    Mushroom + Herb Farro Risotto

    September 20, 2014



    I've been on this new kick lately of trying new grains. This is where farro came in...Farro is an Italian grain that's packed with fiber, magnesium and low in calories and fat. Not to mention it's delicious and can be used in salads, soups and is very versatile. I'm drawn to its nutty flavor and because of this I thought it was a perfect fit for a fall-inspired risotto. Because the farro is a pretty tough grain, it has to be par-cooked before you jump into making the risotto, but the beauty of it is that it'll yield a more firm, al dente texture that you don't necessarily get with Arborio rice. When the nuttiness of the farro is brought together with pungent sage, woody mushrooms and chives, it becomes an essence of fall.




    Mushroom + Herb Farro Risotto
    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients:
    1 1/3 cup farro
    24 ounces chicken stock
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
    1 sm-med yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
    2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
    2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
    2 Tablespoons chopped chives
    1/2 cup Parmesan, finely grated (+ a piece of the rind)
    1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese, divided
    1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

    Directions:

    1. Par cook the farro: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add farro and lower the heat to medium. Cook for  15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

    2. Warm the chicken stock in a pot on medium-low heat. 

    3. In a medium-large pot, sweat the onions in a few Tablespoons of olive oil , salt and pepper, on medium heat until translucent (about 5-10 minutes).

    4. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the farro and cook for an additional 2 minutes (to pearl).

    5. Add wine and cook until reduced almost completely. 

    6. Start to add the stock, ladle by ladle. Add one ladle, then wait until the liquid reduces almost completely, then add another ladle, and so on until the stock is gone. (**Be patient! The risotto process from here on out will take about 30 minutes!) During this process, be sure to keep and eye on the farro and stir with a wooden spoon after every time stock is added.

    7. After 30 minutes, the farro should be tender but not mushy. Pull from the heat and add the butter, 1 Tablespoon of the ricotta, Parmesan, chives and sage. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

    Ricotta Topping
    While the lovely risotto cooks and works it's magic, you can whip up this ricotta mixture (a dollop will go on top of each plate to finish).Combine ricotta cheese (all 1/2 cup besides 1 Tablespoon), 1 Tablespoon of chives and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix together and pop it in the fridge to chill.

    Assembly
    Spoon risotto into bowls or onto plates. Garnish with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of chives. 

    Ta-Dah! I hope you like this risotto variation of mine!


    Bon Appetit everyone!


    Cast-Iron Lemon Chicken

    August 18, 2014




    Last year in NYC, when we had just moved, we were stuck to cook with just one cast-iron skillet (before our boxes came). When I was really craving a classic roasted chicken, this is the alternative I conjured-up. Now on my repeated list for quick weeknight dinners, I cook this one-skillet wonder up when I want the classic flavors of chicken, lemon & potatoes,  but don't feel like dealing with the fuss of a whole chicken.

    Cast-Iron Lemon Chicken

    Ingredients:
    2.5 lbs. chicken (I used a combination of legs & thighs, though you can opt for whatever cut you'd like)
    1 lb baby yukon gold potatoes, roughly cut into medium-small cubes
    1 onion, roughly chopped into large cubes
    3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
    2 lemons, sliced thin
    3 sprigs rosemary, roughly chop the leaves
    3 sprigs rosemary, whole
    1 handful of thyme, roughly chop the leaves
    Olive Oil
    Paprika
    Salt & Pepper

    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. 

    In a mixing bowl, combine chopped potatoes, onion, garlic, chopped rosemary & thyme with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper & toss. Add to cast iron skillet. Layer the sliced lemon on top. Scatter the 3 full rosemary sprigs on top of the lemon.

    Wash the chicken and pat-dry with paper towels. Once patted dry, rub olive oil on the chicken (front & back!). Season with salt, freshly-cracked pepper and paprika (both sides again!).

    Cook at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes (the high-heat will crisp-up the chicken skin). After 10 minutes, lower the heat to 400 degrees F and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, or until a thermometer register 165 degrees F.

    **Note: Depending on the size of your potatoes, you may need to pull the chicken from the skillet when finished and continue cooking potatoes & veg until tender



    Bon Appetit!

       

    Baked Brie & Jam Pops

    July 25, 2014

    I'm baaaaack, everyone! Sorry about the long, unexpected hiatus... Some major computer issues happened that kept me from posting some recipes I've been wanting to share with you guys! Like these ooey-gooey-buttery baked brie pops (yes, they are as delicious as they sound). I wanted to create a fun, twist on a baked brie appetizer to go with wine & other nibbles while boating with friends a few weeks back, and this is what I came up with! Super easy and super tasty, pillows of puff pastry are filled with apricot & strawberry-rhubarb jams topped onto brie slices. The "pop" stick is added as a whimsical little twist, and you can guarantee everyone will be 'ooooh-ing' and 'awww-ing' over the adorable outcome. Hope everyone has a fabulous summer weekend!

    Ingredients:
    Brie Cheese
    Jam of choice (just be sure the jam is a more firm jam, that way   it won't leak from the pastry puffs)
    Puff Pastry (either puff pastry squares or an entire sheet is fine)
    Cake Pop sticks (cut in half // popsicle sticks work as well)
    Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with a trickle of water)
    Sparkling Sugar for topping

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Cut the cake pop sticks in half using kitchen shears.
    2. Cut brie into slices.
    3. If using puff pastry squares(like I did, pictured below): cut the squares in fours (each square you used should be somewhere around 2x3 inches. If using puff pastry sheets: you'll need two puff pastry sheets. For each sheet, it should yield 24 rectangles (making 12 pops). On a floured work surface, cut puff pastry into long vertical slices, then cut across horizontally.

    Assembly:
    1. Lay one pastry square down, insert cake pop (press down so it is indented inside the brie & pastry square, this will keep the stick from falling out). 
    2. Add 1 tsp. jam on top of the brie slice. 
    3. Brush the other edges of the pastry square with egg wash and top with another pastry square. Press down gently. Then, use a fork to crimp the edges.
    4. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the entire pop.
    5. Sprinkling sanding sugar over the top.
    6. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F., or until golden brown.



    Bon Appetit!


    Summer Solstice

    June 21, 2014


    It's only fitting that the Summer Solstice falls on a Saturday. Celebrate with beach trips, bike rides, lounging by the pool, eating ice-cream & popsicles, making s'mores by the fire, or whatever you see fit. It's gorgeous, so get outside! Happy Summer everyone!

    Bourbon Banana Bread

    June 18, 2014


    There is nothing like noshing on a freshly-baked piece of banana bread wile having your morning coffee. And, who doesn't like bourbon? And while it would have been fun (and entertaining) to watch my family devour heavily booze-laden banana bread at 8am, I opted to add just enough bourbon to intensify the banana and nut flavors. Shredded dark chocolate weaves into the banana bread, giving every bite a subtle cocoa essence. This bread is perfect to make for the weekend (or anytime for that matter), as I can guarantee you it will probably be consumed as a not only breakfast, but as a snack, coffee counterpart, and dessert too.



    Bourbon Banana Bread
    Makes one 9x5 loaf pan

    Ingredients:
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    3/4 teaspoons salt
    3 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar
    1/4 cup bourbon
    1 Tablespoon molasses
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    3 large bananas, smashed with a potato masher
    1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped with a knife
    2 ounces dark chocolate, shredded/roughly chopped with a knife

    Directions:
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

    2. In a kitchen mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (using a hand-mixer is fine, too), mix the sugar and eggs on medium for about 1 minute. Add the bourbon, vanilla extract, and molasses. 

    3. Turn the mixer to a lower speed and add the vegetable oil,  then the smashed bananas.

    4. Add the dry ingredients that were set aside in the beginning. Mix until the flour mixture is combined (dont overmix!). Add 3/4 cup of the chopped walnuts and chocolate and fold them in with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to incorporate them. 

    5. Pour into the loaf pan that's been coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup walnuts over the top. Bake for 60-70 minutes (when a toothpick comes out clean from the middle, it's done).


    Bon Appetit everyone!