Nuts for nutty nut-less decadence

July 6, 2007 in baking, cooking, Food Porn, fruit

banana-praline-450-1

(Banana tart with soybean praline base, enrobed with banana chocolate sauce)

Nuts, especially peanuts and walnuts, are lethal for my oldest child.

They are also delicious, found in many of the desserts that make life worth living, and are almost impossible to simulate. I do not like peanut butter, don’t miss it, but I have always felt bad that my daughter has never had a praline.

I think I first had a praline at a Stuckey’s in Texas, when we were driving down from Iowa, back in 1979. We were moving to a place we had never visited and a sort of landscape and heat we had never experienced. I was a bit shell-shocked from the intense aridity and brightness that you have in those mineral lands, so different from the humid monotonous cornfields that I had always known in my childhood. We stopped for a break and got out into the life-draining heat and sun that immediately set my black hair on fire with absorbed heat. We ran into the cold of the Stuckey’s, all new to me, and I walked around marvelling that a whole store that seemed to sell only candies with gobs of nuts stuck to them would be plunked down in the middle of nowhere. I think their biggest item is the Pecan Log Roll, a white tooth-fusing confection with pecans molecularly embedded on the surface. I begged my dad for just a bit of something and that turned out to be a praline. I adored it and left all pecan log rolls for others with less refined palates (kidding).

My favorite place to get and gobble pralines is Aunt Sally’s in New Orlean’s French Market. You can (or you use to be able to) stand and watch them make huge kettles of pralines. When we were at home and not in New Orleans, My mom would make them during our Justin Wilson phase (Ah Gaahrontee).

For me pralines are a seldom treat and not something to really binge on once you buy or make them. I love making them because their aroma is just about 1000 times more enticing than any cake or cookie or baked chicken will ever smell. They are also relatively easy to cook up and you don’t need to know how long to store them because they never make it past about 5 minutes.

A good banana nut bread is in that same category. For these reasons, I have been hunting around for a way to make nut-free but nutty pralines and banana nut bread and my first try came out with something so decadent and amazing that I am going to share it with you today but I do not think we will make it again for some while, its that fattening!

I used roasted unsalted soybeans. Yup. You see them in the store but I bet you don’t buy them much. They are hard to snack on because they have skins on them. Annoying. I finally figured out how to get rid of the skins on a cup of beans. Rub a handful in your palms and then, as you pour the beans from one hand to the other, blow away the skins. It can be messy but it works!

I used dried buttermilk from Saco to boost the complexity of the flavors. I love cooking with this stuff. If you do not have it, simply omit it and this recipe should work for you.

Ginger sour cream buttermilk banana bread with praline soybeans

(adapted from the basic sour cream banana bread recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. bananas, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons dried buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. praline soybeans (see below)

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar together very well. Add in the ginger, vanilla, eggs and beat until incorporated. Mash the bananas and then mix with the butter-sugar well. Whisk dry ingredients together (flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder, and baking soda).

Add the well-mixed dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with 1/2 cups of sour cream. Fold together until smooth. Gently fold in the cooled praline soybeans.

Pour into 2 large greased and floured loaf pans and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 F. Use the knife test to see if its done, when it comes out clean, the cake/ tart is done!

For the tart shown at the top, I greased a small tart pan with a removable bottom. I put down a layer of soybeans and then poured praline mixture over the top of it to set it into a “crust” for the tart. Pour some batter over the crust and bake the small tart for about 30 minutes, check with a knife.

Praline soybeans

Ingredients:

  • 1 C water
  • 1 C white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C 1/2 and 1/2 cream
  • 1 C de-hulled roasted unsalted soybeans

Directions:

Simmer water and sugar in stainless steel pot until it begins to become a medium brown and is thickening. CAREFULLY add the cream (it will pop and spatter really HOT molten sugar), stir to bring it all up to temperature. Let simmer until it reduces about 1/2 and add soy beans, mix, pour out onto greased foil, cool.

Banana Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients:

Directions:

In a small saucepan over medium to high heat, dissolve sugar in the water, bring to a boil. Turn to medium low and add the chocolate. Heat until just simmering and remove from heat. Add in vanilla and banana flavoring. Enrobe your favorite things.

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