Banana cream tartlets

Banana cream tartlets

I don't know how I got here. To banana cream tartlets. What started out as chocolate stout cupcakes somehow turned into maple whiskey muffins, then roasted banana whiskey muffins, then raw banana cream pie, and now: banana cream tartlets. Quite an unusual (and downright frustrating) transition, but I'm thankful for it. Because it made me realize how much I enjoy making pies. No, seriously. If I had to pick one thing to bake for the rest of eternity, it'd be pie.

You're confused; pie making is the bane of your existence. How could anyone enjoy it? For me, the entire process is theraputic. From pulverizing everything into tiny bits and rolling it out with a big, wooden pin, to vigorously whisking the shit out of some cream and carefully spooning it into each tartlet shell. This process, it calms the waves in my ocean and reminds me that sometimes I just need to get the countertops and space under my fingernails and hair and every saucepan in my kitchen completely filthy, just so I can have a reason to clean and make everything feel new again. And then, when the newness sets in, I'll sink to the kitchen floor with a piece of pie in my lap - a pie that I crafted, from scratch, with my own two hands - and I'll dig in and I'll have never felt more happy or proud to be able to call this my thing. So proud that I want to open the windows and scream to the wanderers below HEY GUYS! I made banana cream tartlets! Without eggs! Or dairy! I WIN!!! But I was too busy shoveling pie into my face to bother with informing anyone of anything.

Pâte brisée in the making
Vanilla cream filling
Tartlet pans
Pâte brisée

Then the pie on my plate disappears, along with my pride. The real obstacle awaits: verification from the unofficial master of taste testing. He takes his first bite and I wait anxiously for the seal of approval; the one where he nods his head, mid chew, and attempts to hum an Uh huh with his lips closed tight. He chews and chews and chews and, finally, his eyes dart to mine and he gives me the nod. He swallows, opens his mouth and, without saying a word, takes another bite. And I breathe a sigh of relief because HALLELUJAH! approval from my biggest critic who really doesn't like vegan versions of desserts that rely so heavily on eggs and dairy.

I win. You win. We all win. So, how about some banana cream pie in tartlet form?

Pâte brisée
Banana cream tartlets
Banana cream tartlets

Notes:  If you'd prefer to prepare all of the components early, knock yourself out. In fact, I highly recommend it. If you're not down with using soy milk for the vanilla cream, use lite coconut milk - no rice or almond milk, please. Also, if you're not using vanilla milk, add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 1 extra tablespoon of cane sugar. I added a bit of xanthan gum to the filling to give it a more pudding-like consistency - but if you don't have any on hand, don't worry about it. Same goes for the turmeric; I just added it to give the cream a light yellow tint. If you don't have a food processor, you can prepare the dough by cutting the butter into the flour; just make sure you get it nice and crumbly. It's important that the butter stays cold, so you may need to freeze the bowl several times while cutting. If you don't have pie weights, be sure to follow the tip in the recipe. Your tartlet shells will shrink if you don't weigh them down. Consider yourself warned.

BANANA CREAM TARTLETS

PATE BRISEE
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 tablespoons vegan butter, cold
1/4 cup water, ice cold

VANILLA CREAM FILLING
1/4 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum, optional
Small pinch of turmeric, for color
1 1/3 cups vanilla soy milk

TOPPINGS
Coconut whipped cream
3-4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced

Prepare the dough by combining the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with the S blade; pulse several times to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the container; blend for about 15 seconds, until the dough looks like coarse meal. Add the water and process just until the dough forms large clumps. To test if the dough is properly combined, press two pieces of it between your fingers. If the pieces stick together, you're good to go; if not, add an additional tablespoon (or two) of water. Roll the dough into a smooth ball and flatten. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until firm. If desired, you can refrigerate the dough for up to two days, or freeze it for up to one month. Thaw in fridge overnight before using.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the vanilla cream filling. Whisk the sugar, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and turmeric in a small saucepan. Add 1/3 cup of the milk and whisk until all clumps have dissolved. Set the saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining milk; stir to combine. It will take 5-6 minutes for the filling to start to thicken, so whisk every so often up until then. Once the cream starts to thicken, let it cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, whisking vigorously every 20 seconds or so. From the time you turn on the burner, do not let it cook any longer than 9 minutes. Remove from heat and let filling cool for 30 minutes. Whisk every 5-10 minutes to ensure the cream doesn't form clumps. Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to use. If refrigerating for longer than 1 hour, you may need to whip it with a hand mixer before using. Cream can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to three days.

Once the dough is firm, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Lightly oil five 4-5" tartlet pans; set aside. Divide the dough into five even segments and roll them into round balls. Roll out one ball of dough until it is about 1/4" thick. Fit it to one of the prepared pans, pressing it into the bottom and sides. Sweep the rolling pin over the top of the tartlet pan to crimp the excess dough, then prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Continue process with each ball of dough. Transfer the tartlet shells to a large baking sheet then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 375˚F. Once the tartlet shells have chilled, fill them with pie weights (or line with tin foil and fill with rice) and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes, until the edges turn slightly golden. Transfer the baked shells to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

To assemble the tartlets, line each shell with just enough banana slices to cover the bottom (if you're not going to consume them all immideately, skip this step). Top with vanilla cream then cover with more banana slices. Finish with whipped cream. And more banana slices. Or chocolate. Whatever your belly desires.

Yield: 5 tartlets