Banana Cream Puffs

These cute little puffs were my homage to banana cream pie, being comprised of a ripened banana custard, a mascarpone cream, and pate choux(cream puffs) with craquelin(thin sugar cookie). If anyone were to say that they love banana, these puffs are a great option, because that banana custard is natural banana flavor on steroids! What I love about pate choux is that the pastry, when baked properly, is light and airy with a crisp edge, and the craquelin layer that bakes around them results in nicely domed puffs with an even crunchier exterior for all of those textural good times! Especially with the buttery pastry, the whipped mascarpone, and the intense banana custard, the flavor profile is near-identical to a banana cream pie, so naming them banana cream puffs made sense for more than just one reason. And just to give them a cute little garnish to finish, I bruleed some banana slices to add some nice golden-brown color to the tops of the puffs, as well as to add a subtle caramel note to contrast the pleasant flavors of everything else. While these puffs are very cute to look at, there is one major pressure point to making these successfully, being the puffs themselves, which are made with pate choux batter. If the pate choux/puffs aren’t executed properly, then the end result are puffs that are sunken in and soggy. In short, you will have a very hard time filling them, and from there, everything else kind of unravels. So, to avoid that from happening, I’ll try to list my best tips and tricks on how to guarantee that your pate choux don’t deflate in the oven while you are making this recipe!

My first tip is with the choux batter itself. Make sure that the choux batter is wet enough to pipe. Sometimes, I find that if my pate choux have been cooked in the pot for too long, even after adding in enough eggs, the batter is basically the consistency of playdough. Good pate choux batter has a level of stickiness to it from the moisture content, and that is important, since that very same moisture is what allows the batter to puff up in lieu of baking powder or soda. If your choux batter is more of a dough consistency and it does not stick slightly to your finger when you press against it, beat an egg, and add some of that to the dough, little by little, until the dough begins to stick to your finger when pressing against it. The second tip would be the oven temperatures. You need to use two different temperatures in the oven. The higher oven temp is there to produce steam in your cream puffs, which will allow them to expand rapidly when baking the moisture out of them. The lower temperature is to cook the craquelin dough on top without burning it, as well as to draw out the residual moisture in the dough. After the baking is done, if you want to be extra safe, you can leave the choux in the oven, door BARELY open and the actual oven turned off, for an extra 3 minutes. This will allow them to come down to temperature gradually, and then you don’t run the risk of all of the steam getting let out of the puffs at once, which if they were undercooked would cause them to the deflate. And the third one is, be VERY mindful when opening the oven door. Besides the optional fail-safe step where you leave the door slightly cracked open after the choux should be done baking, never open your oven door. Doing so will cause all of the steam and hot air to be pulled out the oven, resulting in choux buns that will deflate and be soggy. Follow those steps, and arguably the hardest part of this recipe has been conquered!

A warning with the banana custard, while it is super easy to make, it is NOT appetizing to look at. The most technical part about making the custard is cooking the egg yolks, but the step with the blender is there to mitigate any possibility of the custard coming out scrambled or grainy. Even then, the color is unpleasant. To the point where I contemplated adding turmeric or even yellow food coloring to draw out the weird gray color of it. This is the side-effect of using super ripe bananas(I store my bananas in the freezer until they turn jet black, which intensifies the flavor fo them, but leaves them with a… slug-like consistency and appearance). However, the flavor of it is really banana-forward, and it could be the basis for some of the most delicious banana desserts out there. Which is the only reason why I am willing to tolerate such an off putting-colored filling! With the mascarpone cream, use a rubber spatula, not a whisk, when mixing so that the mascarpone does not split. And with the bruleed banana slices, if you do not own a blow torch, you can also broil banana chips with a thin layer of sugar to achieve a similar-looking garnish! If you are using a blow torch, amateur tip, do not blow torch your bananas on parchment. Pro tip, put some distance between the sugar and the flame. You just need the tip of the flame to graze the sugar for it to melt and caramel. Putting the first too close could cause the sugar or even the bananas to burn, and that will taste like butane, which would taste like how the banana custard should look.

For the ripened banana custard:
4oz banana milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp cold water
2 egg yolks
a pinch of salt
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a pot, melt down the sugar and gelatin into the banana milk. Temper into that mixture the egg yolks and salt, and then transfer to a blender. Puree with the bananas and vanilla extract, passing everything through a sieve to remove any lumps. Allow the cream to cool down, covered, in the refrigerator. Prior to assembly, mix the cream with a rubber spatula just to loosen it.

For the mascarpone cream:
4oz mascarpone cheese
1 tsp rum
1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
a pinch of salt

Mix together in a bowl, using a rubber spatula. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip.

For the craquelin:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
a pinch of salt

Mix to form a dough. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into 8 2-inch disks. Keep cold for now. Ideally you want these to be frozen solid, or chilled down enough to cleanly transfer onto the tops of your choux buns.

For the pate choux:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg
Craquelin dough

In a pot, bring the water and butter to a simmer. Once the butter is fully melted, mix in the flour and stir into a shiny ball. Cool down the dough ball and mix in the egg to form a batter. On a lined sheet tray, pipe into 8 puffs, keep each about 2 inches apart. Place on each dough ball the craquelin dough. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, and 350 degrees F for another 15. Cool before using.

For the bruleed bananas:
1 banana
granulated sugar

Right before garnishing, slice the banana into 1/2-inch thick slices. Sprinkle on top of each slice a thin layer of sugar. Brulee the sugar with a blowtorch until the sugar begins to turn golden-brown. Allow the sugar to cool down on top for at least 1 minute before attempting to plate with.

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