Flambé Banana Bread with Caramelized Pecans Recipe

Cake à la Banane Flambée et Noix de Pécan Caramélisées

[Flambé Banana Bread with Caramelized Pecans]

One of the things I love the most about kitchen activities is that they come in all shapes and sizes to fit your mood, and how much time you have on your hands. Whether you’re looking for instant gratification or a way to spend some quality moments with your pans and spatulas, there is a project out there that’s perfect for you. And even for one given dish, there are always plenty of options, high-road or low-road, super quick or more involved.

Take banana pecan bread for instance, a.k.a. the most rewarding way to salvage bananas for those of us who always buy far too many at a time. If you’re expecting friends for brunch and you woke up a little late, you can whip one up in under 20 minutes, and it will bake as you shower and set the table. But say you have a lazy Sunday afternoon ahead of you, no obligation of any kind, and a simple desire for something homemade and sweet by tea-time. Perhaps then you will choose to kick things up a notch, caramelize the pecans, and flambé the bananas in a little rum.

A little more time happily spent at the stove, a tad more cleanup — but really, what’s a saucepan and a skillet in the grand scheme of things –, and the reward is this: a warm, moist-crumbed loaf with a top that has developed the shadow of a crisp, crunchy morsels of pecans to encounter in every bite, and a concerto of rich, aromatic flavors brought to you by the bananas, the muscovado sugar, and the rum.

Cake à la Banane Flambée et Noix de Pécan Caramélisées

For the pecans:
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
A good pinch of salt
20 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter, diced
100 grams (1 cup) pecan halves

For the bananas:
20 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter
A good pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas (about 20 cm or 8 inches long), peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar
2 tablespoons good-quality dark rum

For the batter:
240 grams (2 cups) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
50 grams (1/4 cup) butter, diced
150 grams (1 cup, loosely packed) muscovado sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup light (15% fat) cream

Caramelize the pecans. Set a sheet of parchment paper or a silpat on the counter. Combine the 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. When the mixture starts to simmer, let it caramelize for a minute, add the salt and butter, and let melt. When the mixture simmers again, cook for one more minute, add the pecans, and cook for an additional minute, stirring continuously to coat. Dump onto the prepared sheet of paper and spread the nuts out in a single layer. Let cool completely and unclump the nuts when dry.

Flambé the bananas. Combine the butter and salt in a large skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to smell nutty, add the bananas, sprinkle with sugar, and cook for two minutes, stirring from time to time. Ask anyone who may be in the kitchen with you (kids especially) to take a few steps back. Add the rum to the skillet, light up a match, and, with great caution and a quick hand, get the flame close to the surface of the bananas to set the rum aflame. Let all the alcohol burn out (it will take about 10 seconds), stir, and remove the skillet from heat.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Prepare the batter. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small mixing bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor. (Alternatively, you can prepare the batter by hand in a large mixing bowl, using a sturdy rubber spatula.) Add the egg and process until combined. Add the bananas and mix again. Add the cream and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture (sift it in if you’re doing this by hand) and process until just combined. Don’t overmix.

Fold in the pecans by hand using a spatula, pour the batter into the prepared pan, level the surface, and bake for about 50 minutes, until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, remove the loaf from the pan, and let cool on the rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The loaf will keep for a few days on the counter, tightly wrapped in foil.

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