So to make a banana dish more sophisticated and altogether less appealing to small children, it needs intervention of some sort. Booze would normally do the job, but I’ve recently had a banana and Baileys combo on the menu and need to put some space between us before I reprise that particular pairing (but don’t let that stop you – add 50ml of Baileys to the ingredients and add it at the same time as the cream).
Salted caramel is another sure-fire crowd pleaser and coupled with peanut it’s a case of ‘job done girlfriend’.
Using a food processor the cheesecake can be done and in the oven in under 25 mins, 20 of which will be waiting for the base to firm up in the fridge. It takes just over an hour to bake in the oven, which leaves you time to wash up, whilst whipping up a quick peanut brittle in the meantime like nothing’s happened. The peanut brittle is simply sugar and peanuts.
I always bake my cheesecakes in a water bath and would advise you to do the same. There is less chance of the top cracking due in part to the high moisture content in the oven, and it will maintain a low, gentle temperature at the outer extremities of the cheesecake which otherwise can be prone to drying out and becoming grainy.
(Portions in to 12)
175g digestive biscuits
35g melted butter
100g caster sugar
4 whole eggs + 1 yolk
75ml double cream
2 tablespoons of cornflour
500g mascarpone or cream cheese i.e Philadelphia
225g mashed banana (with a few squirts of lemon juice)
The seeds of one small vanilla pod
For the brittle;
150g caster sugar
110g roast salted peanuts
Chop the peanuts in the blender into what might be described as ’niblets’, (by whom I’m not sure but let’s go with it for now) the idea being they will give a little texture to the biscuit crumb base. Remove the peanuts momentarily whilst you whizz the digestives into crumbs. Crush any rogue pieces between thumb and finger before adding back in the chopped peanut along with the melted butter and pulse briefly to combine.
Scrape this into a 22cm cake tin, preferably a spring-form or a loose bottom will do, and smooth to a level with the back of a spoon without applying too much pressure, but making sure your edges are neat and compact.
Take a piece of aluminium foil and fold it in half to form a square, a cake-tin-and-a half wide. Place the cake tin in the centre and fold the foil up the sides to encase the tin and make it water tight. Repeat this once more to be on the safe side.
Pop this in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up.
Meanwhile, peel the bananas and mash them with a fork in a bowl with a few squirts of lemon juice (Jiff will do just fine for this) to prevent discolouration.
Fill the kettle with water and put it on.
Put the mascarpone in the food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times to loosen, lessening the chances of finding lumps later, then add the cream and do the same again. Then add the eggs and the extra yolk, the cornflour and vanilla seeds and pulse again. Finally add the banana and pulse just enough to combine.
(By using the pulse button we can prevent over mixing the filling, which will most likely do two things, neither of which are disastrous, but you will a) introduce too much air into the mix which will cause your cheesecake to puff up as it bakes, crack, and deflate in an unsightly manner, and b) you will obliterate the banana leaving no trace of it other than its taste.)
Place the cake tin in the roasting tin, scrape the contents of the mixing bowl into the cake tin, and fill the roasting tin with recently boiled water up to at least a third but preferably half way up the side of the cake tin.
Slide this into the oven, middle shelf - so you can keep an eye on what’s happening to the top of it without having to drag the whole thing out, then give it 45 mins at 170 ⁰C before checking. The total cooking time will be somewhere around 1h 15mins, but you may want to cover the top of it to prevent it from taking on too much colour, with a piece of baking paper. You might like a darker top, who knows.
To make the peanut brittle, place the sugar in a small heavy bottomed frying pan and place it over a low heat. Agitate the pan gently as it starts to melt and caramelise but don’t stir it, the more it melts the bolder you can be. Once you have a dark amber caramel chuck in the peanuts and now stir them to coat each one, before tipping the whole lot onto a piece of baking paper to set. But whatever you do, do not be tempted to lick the spoon or shove your finger in the pan. The caramel is somewhere in the region of 190 ⁰C and sticks like molten caramel to a blanket.
As you enter the final 20 mins of cooking time, intermittently check for wobble in the centre: ideally it should be firm and have a springy feel to it much like a sponge cake and be slightly domed. If in doubt, give it another 5 mins and repeat. When you’re happy with it, turn the oven off (leaving the cheesecake in) and leave the oven door ajar by as little as you can without it springing shut again. Give it 10 minutes like this, then remove it from the oven, take it out of the water bath and unpeel the foil.
10 minutes after that run a sharp pointy knife carefully around the outside of the cheesecake to loosen it from the side of the tin, then pop the spring-form mechanism to release it. Leave it on its base until it’s cold, then pop it in the fridge. Leave it a good few hours before attempting to portion it, using a hot, wet knife.
As for the brittle, once its hardened off break it into pieces of whatever size you like, or chop it more finely and sprinkle.