For Thanksgiving, Ben got me Heston Blumenthal’s (what I believe is his) 5th cookbook, Heston Blumenthal at home. After giving me his 4th book, The Fat Duck Cookbook, last year for the holidays, Ben was excited that the recipes in this one seemed a little more manageable compared to the extravagance of Blumenthal’s restaurant cuisine. For those who aren’t familiar, these books (and probably the 3 that came before them) feature gorgeous photography and the recipes are very impressive… but they aren’t necessarily the most accessible… especially for someone cooking on the budget of a soon-to-be unemployed-very-recent-college-graduate.
To me, other than the beauty, one of the most exciting things about Heston Blumenthal at home is the fact that there are sections toward the back of the book on things like condiments, sides and cookies. These recipes seemed really do-able, so that was a huge plus. One of the recipes that seemed both intriguing and easy to me was his recipe for Banana and bacon cookies.
Other than having to measure out all of the ingredients in grams (which would have been a lot easier had I not left my handy food scale at school across the country), it was a really doable recipe. When all was said and done, the cookie was alright. The consensus among the the taste-testers (Ben and his housemates) was that the flavor combination was good, but the texture of the cookie was a little too fluffy, almost like a pancake. (Disclaimer: Heston is incredible, I am in awe of him, and I will continue to try and cook in his footsteps… these just weren’t a ten).
Accordingly, I decided that it’d be fun to try and take Heston’s flavor mashup and attempt my own spin on it. It would also be a great excuse to use this handy-dandy banana slicer, which was a gift to Ben from Merri (Dad’s girlfriend and a frequent finder of things that are awesome) as part of an attempt to turn him into my sous chef (it’s a process, but he’s definitely getting there).
Almost instantly, I thought of banana cream pie. I figured that I could find a way to make a graham cracker crust that utilized the flavor and texture of the bacon. To get an idea, I consulted the internet, then created my own version. One issue I considered, is that a banana cream pie with bacon crust could be really heavy. In an effort to lighten the dish up a bit, I thought of two things: 1) I would base/take inspiration for my recipe off of a lighter version of banana cream pie, courtesy of Ellie Krieger, and 2) I would make mini pies using a muffin tin so that the serving size is automatically very reasonable.
The result: a mini banana cream pie with bacon graham cracker crust for only about 150 calories. Not bad, huh?
- 6 graham crackers (full sheets)
- 6 slices of bacon
- ⅓ cup pecans
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp unflavored gelatin
- 3 Tbsp water (room temperature)
- 1½ cups non-fat/skim milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 2½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 bananas (medium, very ripe, but not too mushy)
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Optional: banana slices for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the pecans on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until the nuts begin to brown and become fragrant, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the bacon on a griddle or in a pan until very crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel to cool. Into a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the crust, making sure to break the larger items into pieces so that they will be easier to break down. Pulse the crust ingredients until you are left with a crumb mixture that resembles wet sand.
- Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or a little bit of oil. Evenly divide the crust mixture between the 12 cups and press the crumbs into a thin layer, working it as far up the sides of the cup as possible. You can use a small cup (like a shot glass) to press it in more evenly. Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, or until it has browned a bit. Allow it to cool before filling.
- To prepare the filling, put the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top to prevent clumping. Stir the gelatin until it appears to have absorbed all of the water. In a medium sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, flour and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg yolk. Pour the milk mixture into the sugar mixture and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the pudding thickens and begins to boil, about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the gelatin and the vanilla. Let the pudding come to room temperature before filling the crust.
- While the pudding cools, slice the bananas, about ⅛-1/4 inch thick. Place about ½ of the banana slices in the bottom of the muffin cups. Top those slices with about half of the pudding. Top that with the remaining banana slices, then the remaining pudding. Refrigerate the pies for a couple of hours so that they can set fully.
- To make the whipped cream, whisk (either by hand or with a hand mixer) until it becomes frothy. Add the sugar and vanilla. Then, continue to whisk until you have stiff peaks and the mixture is thick and spoonable.
- To plate, work a knife around the sides of the pie and gently remove it from the muffin tin. If some of the crust remains in the muffin cup, you can use it to garnish the plate or to sprinkle on top of the pie. Spoon the whipped cream into a plastic bag and push it into one corner. Snip the tip of the corner off with scissors, and pipe a small dollop of whipped cream onto to the pie. If you like, garnish with a slice of banana.
Notes for Improvement: The pie itself isn’t super sweet (which is okay with me actually), so if you like a sweeter dessert, consider increasing the amount of sugar, either in the pudding or in the whipped cream topping. I also found that the bacon overpowered the banana a little bit. I think that to remedy this, next time I would use bananas that are a bit overripe so that the banana flavor is more intense. The biggest issue for me was that the crust didn’t hold together quite as well as I would have liked. I think that in my next attempt, I would try reducing the bacon down to 4 slices, replacing the other 2 with a couple of tablespoons of butter, to act as a glue. What I did, however, was use the extra crumbs on the plate and to sprinkle over the top. In my opinion, that looked pretty sweet.
The semi-successes of both Heston and my banana and bacon creations have lead me to conclude that a) bacon and banana do go together quite well, but b) it’s a little difficult to figure out what highlights both flavors while maintaining a proper balance. Maybe I’ll attempt a revisit to this mashup down the line. Banana bread with bacon bits baked in? Banana pancakes with a bacon topping. The possibilities are… well… there are some.