Early last evening, I stepped beyond my kitchen comfort zone when I set out to replicate this divine dessert from Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Kitchen Expedition (1997).
I can't remember the last time I attempted to make crêpes-if ever! I also haven't owned any non-stick cookware in decades, so made-do with our well-seasoned iron skillets. And, when it came time to 'pipe' whipped cream with a pastry bag, the paper pastry bags from a long-forgotten corner of a kitchen cupboard didn't quite measure up.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the results, during today's lunch with a couple of writing friends. With or without these chocolate crêpes, the sauce is absolutely AMAZING, too. Set aside several hours to put this dessert together and then savor every last bite.
Chocolate Crêpes with Pecan-Banana Sauce
(‘Voice of Experience’) notes reflect my experience when making a recipe
Special equipment needed
8” non-stick or well-seasoned frying pan
12” non-stick or well-seasoned frying pan
A pastry bag fitted with a medium-size star tip (V.O.E. – my paper pastry bag didn’t work well, so I made small, whipped cream dollops with a table knife)
¾ cup all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup buckwheat flour ¼ teaspoon salt
(a gluten-free flour!)
4 tablespoons unsweetened 2 cups milk
cocoa powder 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 4 medium-size bananas, peeled
1 ½ cups dark brown sugar and sliced, about 3 cups
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (use bananas that still have a little
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg green on the tips)
1 tablespoon vanilla 1 ½ cups toasted pecans
1 cup heavy cream ¼ cup Kahlua (V.O.E. – I made a
2 ounces butterscotch chips non-alcoholic substitute by combining
1/8 cup heavy cream and 1/8 cup
coffee balsamic vinegar)
Toast the nuts (V.O.E.) Set the oven at 350 degrees. Cover the bottom of a small baking pan with parchment paper and spread the nuts evenly across the paper. Bake/toast for 7 to 10 minutes, watching the nuts closely so they don’t burn. Allow to cool. If desired, chop them coarsely in a food processor. Set aside. I substituted walnuts for pecans.
Make the crêpes Combine the flours, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk together for about 1 minute until well blended (or use the paddle attachment for a standing mixer). Add the milk, oil, and eggs and whisk until the batter is well combined, about 5 minutes.
Preheat an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes. Pour ¼ cup batter into the skillet, tilting the pan to distribute the batter evenly and come slightly up the sides of the pan. Cook until the edges of the crêpe become slightly crisp, about 2 minutes. Then with a plastic spatula or your fingers, turn the crêpe over and cook for 1 minutes. Transfer the cooked crêpe to a sheet pan (it’s ok to stack them) and set aside. Repeat the process, wiping or scraping the spatula clean between uses, until you have made 12 crêpes. (V.O.E. – These instructions are spot-on. Follow them closely!)
Make the sauce In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, over high heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Whisk constantly until the butter melts and combines with the brown sugar, then whisk in the cream. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly to avoid burning, then reduce the heat to medium and add the butterscotch chips. Whisk until the chips melt, then reduce the heat to low, add the bananas and stir gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the toasted nuts and Kahlua. Set aside to cool, to room temperature. (V.O.E. – These instructions are also spot-on.)
Whip the cream in an electric mixer at medium-high speed until it forms still peaks. Place the whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size star tip.
Place one crêpe on a large serving plate. Pipe a circle of whipped cream around the edge of the crêpe and spread ¼ cup of sauce inside the whipped cream circle. Top with another crêpe and repeat the process until you have 6 layers. Repeat the process to create another 6-layer stack. Cut each stack into 4 quarters to make 8 desserts (V.O.E. This is a very rich dessert from which you can easily get at least 12 servings). Serve each quarter on a dessert plate and garnish with a rosette of whipped cream, if desired.
Looking at this cookbook again reminded me of the day-a couple of decades ago-when Prudhomme gave me a signed copy as we sampled potential dishes for his new restaurant in a Kansas City casino. He was warm, welcoming and very personable.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ruth Reichl around 2009, when she spoke during a gourmet meal in an upscale Kansas City, MO restaurant (which has since closed). Her massive Gourmet Today cookbook had recently published, as the beloved Gourmet magazine-where she was editor for a decade-prepared to shut down after nearly 70 years of operation.
As I sought recipes for this year's chocolate blog, I found Reichl's Devil's Food Cake with Marshmallow Frosting, inside Gourmet Today. Full of butter and brown sugar, this dense cake topped the edge of the 8" x 8" pan in which I baked it.
Although I've long known that bringing eggs to room temperature before using them in a recipe is good practice, I appreciated Reichl specifically noting these eggs should stand out for a full half hour. I also appreciated her note that the recipe should not incorporate Dutch-process cocoa powder, especially after I recently completed a story on cocoa powder differences, for The Chocolate Professor (stay tuned for the specific story URL).
I baked the cake just over 45 minutes and the top cracked open a bit, so I would definitely watch the baking process closely, from about 35 minutes.
But when it came time to make the frosting, I diverged from Reichl's recipe. Not a fan of corn syrup, I didn't want to purchase a bottle of this stuff that I otherwise never use. Instead, I bought some mini marshmallows whose leftovers my toddler grandsons will appreciate.
I greased a spatula, and a small bowl that would serve as my double boiler, threw in several cups of marshmallows and several tablespoons of water and watched the melting process. I turned off the heat and then drizzled this mixture across the top and sides of the cooled cake. But with plenty of mixture remaining, I eventually covered the entire top surface while leaving the side drizzles in place.
This wasn't anything close to a whipped frosting. Would I have preferred Reichl's recipe? Perhaps. But, in the meantime, we're thoroughly enjoying the flavors of this decadent dessert.
Over many years of food writing, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with several well-known chefs. I met the gracious and friendly Lidia while dining at one of her New York restaurants, during the 1990s. I also had the pleasure of ‘introducing’ her to the larger Kansas City community via my news article for a local alternative newspaper-before she opened her first non-NYC restaurant, Lidia’s Kansas City. Since then, I’ve met Lidia and dined at her Kansas City restaurant a number of times.
For my first chocolate recipe of 2022, I chose her delicious Chocolate Biscotti Pudding/Budino di Gianduia. It appears in my autographed copy of the cookbook, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, written with her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali. Now, I’m thrilled to share my experiences making this creamy, decadent dessert, with you. Buon appetito!
Hazelnuts are an integral part of both the texture and flavor in this recipe, and I highly recommend preparing them before you assemble other ingredients for the dessert. Though time consuming, removing the skin from hazelnuts is quite easy if you follow these instructions, that originally came from five-time James Beard award-winning chef, Alice Medrich.
You'll feel like you're doing a chemistry experiment as baking soda meets boiling water meets unpeeled nuts, creating a pinkish black liquid in the pan. But it's really amazing how readily the skins come off when you follow this method.
Now you're ready for the rest of the recipe (see link above). Allow plenty of time!
Lidia suggests that you finely chop the bittersweet chocolate for this pudding. But with a food processor on hand, I used it instead. I also crunched up biscotti and hazelnuts in the processor. And when it came time to sift the cocoa powder, I used a sieve because i don't own a sifter.
This was the moment when I added hot milk and cream to my egg and sugar mixture, before stirring the entire combination together and then adding other ingredients.
With no plastic wrap in the house, I cut open several eco-friendly plastic bags to place beneath and atop the completed pudding mixture, and then placed it in the refrigerator.
We savored this mouthwatering treat with large dollops of whipped cream that I slightly sweetened. Because, despite Lidia's suggestion that the cream didn't need sugar, that isn't how we roll in our house. Enjoy, to the max.
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I love crafting stories about fantastic food & beverages, must-visit destinations & eco-friendly topics. I wrote a 350+ page book about Kansas. And I've worked with dozens of additional clients - from Fodors.com & AAA magazines to USAToday.com & WanderWithWonder.
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