Friday, April 17, 2009

The Bananas Foster Cheesecake Was A Big Hit Indeed!

Easter was coming and I usually make a cheesecake. I’ve made all kinds – chocolate, lemon, New York style, my mother’s creamy recipe, with every kind of fruit…..but this year I was looking for something new and different.

I love recipes and collect them from everywhere – the internet, newspapers, guests, magazines, friends…..I cut out the recipes and stuff them into my collection of cookbooks. I think I’m somewhat organized, but Bruce says that if I made a new recipe every day of the year for the next 20 years, I’d never run out. And so it was that I found this recipe –from a 1999 issue of Gourmet Magazine. They give credit to CafĂ© Vermilionville….a quick look on Google reveals an historic inn in Louisiana. Their crawfish beignets sound wonderful.

But back to the cheesecake. On Saturday afternoon, I start on the recipe. I am somewhat “storage challenged” at The Artist's Inn…and the specialty pans get pushed into the cabinet above the refrigerator. This means that there is no way (at 5’4”) I can reach them. Do I take the time to go get a chair from the dining room or a ladder from the basement? No. And there’s no tall husband around to retrieve the springform pan I see hiding in the far recess of the cabinet. I grab my handy wooden spoon and start poking. I manage to close my eyes just before I feel the first object come crashing down. The edge of a tart pan hits me between my eyebrows, followed quickly by the bundt pan and several mini-muffin pans. I know I’m in trouble and manage to reach into the freezer, grab an ice cube, and head for the bathroom. Watching the pink water run down the drain was not encouraging. The tart pan had left an inch-long gash. My only hope was that my eyes would not turn black and blue and that swelling would subside by the time I had to give a presentation on herbs the following Tuesday.

Apparently, some families are quite amused at another’s expense. So was the case for the Garrabrandts. As family members arrived for the holiday, I heard several jokes – “Jan, I think the recipe called for a “dash”, not a “gash”, another suggested planting a sprig of rosemary on my forehead and yet a third (this was my husband) thought it would look good with a jewel covering the wound. My day was not complete until that evening, as we were coloring eggs, Bruce’s niece, Heather, accidentally bumped the cup of blue die and sent a tidal wave of blue water heading my way. Now I not only was sporting a gash between my eyebrows but also had blue die from my forehead to my waist. Did I mention that I was wearing a cream and aqua sweater?

All’s well that ends well: The stains came out, my eyes never turned black and the swelling went down. Best of all the cheesecake was, indeed, a hit of the culinary kind. I hope that you have a less exciting adventure if you make it. I served the praline topping separately and found that it was just a bit much…..you may not need it at all. I also made a cream cheese crust – rather than the graham cracker one. As for that banana liqueur – I had it left over from some trip to the islands long ago, but the liquor store usually carries those cute little bottles by the check-out. If not, I think it’s a good excuse for a little trip to the Caribbean. You can also add to your rum collection while there. Enjoy!

For crust:

½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
nine 5 x 2 ½-inch graham crackers
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
12 to 13 Italian savoiardi ladyfinger cookies

For bananas foster filling:

¼ cup sliced almonds
½ stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons banana liqueur
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
4 medium firm-ripe bananas

For cream-cheese layer:

5 large eggs
1 ½ pounds cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons banana liqueur
1 tablespoon vanilla

For praline topping:

1 ½ cups pecans
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 10-inch springform pan. Wrap outside of entire pan with heavy-duty foil to waterproof.

Make crust: Melt butter and cool slightly. In a food processor finely grind graham crackers with granulated sugar and blend in butter until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom of springform pan. Halve cookies crosswise and arrange upright, rounded edges on top, around side of pan, pressing lightly into crust to stabilize them.

Make filling: In a shallow baking pan toast almonds in one layer in middle of oven until pale golden, about 5 minutes. In a 10 to 12-inch nonstick skillet melt butter with brown sugar over moderate heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in liqueur, rum, cinnamon, and vanilla and simmer mixture, whisking until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat. Halve bananas crosswise and cut lengthwise into 1/4 –inch thick slices. Add bananas to butter mixture and cook over moderately low heat, turning them gently with a spatula, just until softened, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle almonds over bananas.

Make cream-cheese layer: In a bowl whisk together eggs until just combined. In a mdedium bowl with an electric mixer beat together cream cheese and granulated sugar until light and fluffy and slowly beat in half of eggs, scraping down side of bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally. Slowly beat in remaining eggs and stir in liqueur and vanilla.

Pour half of cream-cheese mixture into crust and bake in middle of oven 10 minutes. Cool layer on a rack 5 minutes. Gently spoon filling evenly over layer, arranging bananas so they are not overlapping. Pour remaining cream-cheese mixture over filling and put springform pan in a large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to reach halfway up side of springform pan. Bake cheesecake in middle of oven until filling is set in center and top is golden and firm, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool cheesecake in springform pan on rack. Chill cheesecake, loosely covered, 1 day.

Make praline topping: Preheat oven to 350. In a shallow baking pan toast pecans in one layer in middle of oven until a shade darker, about 5 minutes. In a 2 to 2 ½ quart heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar over moderate heat, stirring util smooth, and stir in water until incorporated. Stir in pecans and cool topping to room temperature. Serve cheesecake with praline topping. Serves 10 to 12.

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