I have a super duper special treat for you guys!! I know you had a whole week of guests posts just not too long ago, but I have another one for you today! Back in March when I knew I was moving, I asked my dear friend Lisa if she would mind doing a guest post for you guys! She was so sweet to say yes, but life got a little crazy and stressful for her right around the same time, so we delayed the guest post for now. Which actually works out well for me because I still have a bit of unpacking to do. The majority of my house looks fairly well put together (and a good friend even came over and helped me decorate! Thanks Ammie!) but we've been kind of shoving boxes and random items into the guest room/office, and I really need to get to work on that. Especially since my parents are coming to visit soon. And there is still the little things, like where the heck do I store my giant collection of cast iron skillets?
OH! Today is my anniversary!! Four wonderful years married to one of my best friends! The last four years have been wonderful - crazy, slightly chaotic at times, a little exhausting at others, but I wouldn't have it any other way, because I get to be with you! I love you so much! Here is to another 71 years! :)
So, let me introduce you to my friend Lisa! Lisa is the awesome author/baker/photographic genius behind the blog Parlsey, Sage, Desserts and Linedrives! I met her when I first signed up for the Daring Kitchen back in 2009, and I've kind of had a huge crush on her ever since. She's super sweet, super funny, and everything she makes is just about spectacular. We became friends after the awesome opportunity of hosting a Daring Cooks Challenge together in which we made Cassoulet! Ok, enough of my gushing, I have boxes to attend to!
Hi everyone! First let me start by saying that I'm absolutely thrilled and flattered to be guest posting for Jenni. We go way back in blogging years, 2009 to be exact, via The Daring Kitchen. I liked her the moment I first spoke with her, and love her blog..leading to us hosting a Daring Cooks challenge together - Cassoulet in December 2010, if any of you are members of the Daring Kitchen and remember that one - the one where I made two pots of Cassoulet because my computer crashed and I lost ALL of my photos from the first one. Let's just say, I ate so much Cassoulet in one month, I could swear I was waddling when I walked. Regardless, it was such a pleasure hosting the challenge with her!
Speaking of waddling, I have a very rich and decadent dessert for you. It's a Caramelized Banana Pudding Cheesecake with a Salted Cashew Praline - Vanilla Wafer crust - an eclectic take on your basic banana pudding with vanilla wafers. Technically, this crust does not contain any crushed cashew pralines, although those would work well too, but combining the candied, salted cashews, brown sugar and browned butter with the vanilla wafer crumbs, gives it a crunchy praline flavor and texture.
I adapted the cheesecake base from a recipe from a Daring Bakers challenge back in April of '09. It's a uber creamy cheesecake, probably the creamiest I've ever had, so when you fold the caramelized bananas into the cheesecake batter, then bake in a water bath, it comes pretty close to a smooth, creamy banana pudding texture.
By the way, did you know you can split a banana into three equal strips by sticking a finger in one end of the banana and pushing into it? You can see this in my collage in this post. A really neat trick to have on hand when you want uniform chunks of banana.
Finally, when Jenni asked me to guest post for her back in March, (due to some worrisome and sad situations in my life, and Jenni's move, it was postponed way too many times!) I really wanted to create something beautiful, unique and delectable. Well, I conquered the latter two. Some rainy, humid weather hit as I was preparing it, so when it came to the beautiful part, it was a complete failure. I bruleed some banana slices to stick into luscious, fluffy mounds of whipped cream around the cheeesecake. The whipped cream started to melt and slide off, even though the bananas had cooled down completely.
I switched gears and decided to make a swiss meringue to pile on top and blast with my kitchen torch. I know meringue doesn't work well on rainy, muggy days, but I hoped the food gods would cut me a break. I guess I used up all of my 'break tickets' because no dice. I finally gave up and just stuck bruleed banana slices (which were starting to melt too) around the cheesecake and dubbed it 'rustic'. However, you can make it gorgeous, just avoid decorating on rainy, muggy days!
By the way, the first photo was straight from the freezer so I could get a clean slice for photos. The second slice photo is as it should be, creamy and slightly gooey!
Thanks so much for thinking of me for this guest post, Jenni!
Caramelized Banana Pudding Cheesecake with Salted Cashew Praline - Vanilla Wafer Crust
Toasted, Salted Cashew Praline-Vanilla Wafer Crust
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 stick (4 oz) butter, melted and browned
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup cashew praline, chopped finely (recipe follows)
Caramelized Banana Cheesecake Filling
Adapted from THIS cheesecake recipe
3 packages of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or the innards of 1 plump vanilla bean)
1 tablespoon banana liqueur, optional - I didn't use any, just giving you an option to enhance the banana flavor
Caramelized bananas (recipe follows)
1. Make Crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine vanilla wafer crumbs, cashew praline, and light brown sugar in a food processor with a few light pulses. Drizzle in melted brown butter and vanilla extract as you're pulsing, until crust holds together slightly when squeezed. Press the crust on the bottom and up the side of a lightly buttered 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom and side of a small glass to really pack it in. Place in preheated oven and bake for 5 - 7 minutes. Remove and let cool. Do not turn oven off, keep it at 350F for baking the cheesecake.
2. Make Cheesecake filling. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and liqeuer (if using) and blend until smooth and creamy. Gently fold in caramelized bananas.
4. Wrap outside of springform pan, from the bottom up, in tin foil (this prevents water from seeping into the pan). Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.
5. Bake 70 minutes, until it is almost done - but jiggly in the center. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake finish baking in the cooling oven for one hour. This prevents cracks in the cheesecake. After one hour is up, remove the cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill for several hours to overnight. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.
Serve with your favorite caramel sauce, toffee bits, whipped cream, bruleed banana slices*..or just enjoy as is :).
* To make bruleed banana slices..cut a banana into slices, any way you want. Sprinkle the cut sides, generously, with granulated sugar, and caramelize with a kitchen torch, or place on a lined sheet pan under the broiler, keeping a close eye on them so they don't burn.
Salted Cashew Praline
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 cup salted cashews, toasted
Heat a large heavy saute pan over medium heat, until hot, but not smoking. Sprinkle sugar around the pan and drizzle with corn syrup. Cook, without stirring, just gently shaking the pan if some areas are turning color quicker than other areas, until whole mixture turns a golden amber color, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add cashews; stir until they're completely coated. Cool on parchment lined pan. Store in an airtight container. Yield: about 1 1/3 cups cashew praline.
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 to 3 bananas, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Heat a large heavy saute pan over medium heat, until hot, but not smoking. Sprinkle sugar around the pan and drizzle with corn syrup. Cook, without stirring, just gently shaking the pan if some areas are turning color quicker than other areas, until whole mixture turns a golden amber color, about 6-8 minutes.
2. Stir in butter until smooth (caramel will sizzle), then add chopped bananas and cook until they're caramelized but still slightly firm, about 4 -5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the caramel doesn't dry out, until cool and ready to fold into cheesecake batter.