My favorite time to visit New Orleans is during springtime. Azaleas radiate with blushing hues, early blooming magnolias perfume the streets, breezes from the river tousle my golden locks, and the air is softly sweetened with the city’s many treats. I always stand astonished at Aunt Sally’s as pralines the size of moon pies studded with toasted pecans lay in a row, basking in front of an old fan, awaiting their fate to be boxed up and devoured within mere moments. Looming next door at Café Du Monde is a different type of lure, one that was deep fried and laden with powdered sugar, begging to be washed down with a café au lait.
New Orleans offers another treat, one that entices and excites as it gleams and glows with its amber flames and saccharine scent. Brennan’s Bananas Foster. There is a tinge of delight that never grows old as this famous dessert is prepared tableside, blazes and all. Even though I sit in pure elegance of the restaurant, the combination of cinnamon, butter and sugar will always remind me of the swamp and the bananas added to the concoction of tiny pirogues bubbling away in the murky darkness. No amount of sophistication will ever make me outgrow my bayou roots. As my imagination twirls, rum is added to the sauté pan and whoosh. The flickering flame engulfs everything in its sight. Surrounding tables applaud at the spectacle while the spark dies down and all that’s left is bourbon-brown bananas scented with spicy cinnamon and sugary rum.
Traditionally, this delectable dessert is spooned over ice cream, but I decided to do a spin on this New Orleans classic. Once the bananas have browned in the sugar and butter, I mash the whole mixture together and use it as a filling for a crêpe cake, delicately adored with whipped cream spiced with rum and caramelized bananas. Springtime couldn’t get any sweeter.
1 stick of butter
2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoon of vanilla
7 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
½ cup of good, dark rum (optional)
In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt butter in the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the pan. Stir until dissolved and add bananas. Whenever the slices begin to brown and soften, carefully add the rum (if using.) Light the pan with a long match or a torch. Allow the flames to subside. Let cool and mash with the back of a fork or a potato masher until thick and almost a puréed consistency.
Crêpes: Adapted from Tyler Florence
½ cup of water
2 cups of milk
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of vanilla
4 tablespoons of sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
Combine water, milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, sugar and salt in a blender. Blend until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture is no longer lumpy. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Add the butter to the mixture and blend for just a few more seconds. Let the mixture rest in the fridge for an hour.
Place a nonstick skillet on medium to medium-low heat. Brush butter onto the pan. With the batter in one hand and the hot skillet in the other, slowly pour the batter into the pan and twirl the skillet in the other so that there is enough batter to purely coat the bottom of the pan. Let the crêpe cook just until brown at the edges, flip with a spatula and brown on the other side. Flip onto a plate and continue with the remaining batter.
Rum Whipped Cream:
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of rum
Whisk all of the ingredients in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. The whipped cream should be able to hold a peak if inverted.
Creating the Layers:
Banana Foster Purée
Rum Whipped Cream
*Note: For the caramelized bananas, sprinkle sugar into 1” slices of banana. Using a torch, carefully caramelize the top of the banana like you would a crème brûlée.
On a cake stand, place one crepe on the bottom of the stand. Spread a thing layer of the bananas foster purée onto the crêpe. Repeat with remaining layers until you add the last crêpe (or run out of filling! Whichever comes first.) Finish the last crêpe with a topping of the rum whipped cream and adorn with caramelized bananas.
Amber Ryder-Wilson was born into a Cajun family in which making roux became a rite of passage. She is a freelance writer and the author, recipe developer and photographer for the Southern memoir-style blog www.fortheloveofthesouth.com.