By Tommy C. Simmons, an enthusiastic cook
Photograph by Tommy C. Simmons
I can't harvest bananas from poolside-planted banana bushes like my late father-in-law did at his home in Baton Rouge, LA. It's too cold in Georgia, where we now live, to grow bananas, but I do love the flavor and musty aroma of freshly-picked bananas and was able to enjoy several fresh banana dishes while on a Holland America cruise in the southern Caribbean this winter.
St. Lucia Banana Pudding With Praline Topping is a delicious reminder of a wonderful Holland America Caribbean cruise.
The bananas had been harvested on St. Lucia, one of the lush and gorgeous tropical islands we visited. Since returning home, I've had a yearning for a rich banana dessert, reminiscent of the wonderful tasting banana pudding we enjoyed aboard the M/S Koningsdam so I decided to try and make a banana dessert tribute to the St. Lucia banana growers.
My banana dessert is topped with roasted Georgia-grown pecans in a brown sugar glaze – kind of like a Bananas Foster addition to a banana pudding. Pretty rich, I know, but it's a wow combination, I promise.
Home kitchen-tested recipe
St. Lucia Banana Pudding With Praline Topping
Serves 12. Recipe by Tommy C. Simmons is adapted from a Banana Cheesecake recipe featured in "Homestyle Cookbook" by Southern Living.
1 ½ cups crushed Biscoff cookies
¼ cup chopped pecans, roasted
¼ cup butter, melted
3 large bananas, sliced, and divided
1 tbl. lemon juice
2 tbls. brown sugar plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
3 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar (or light brown sugar)
3 large eggs
1 tbl. Grand Marnier liqueur
2 tsps. vanilla extract (use Mexican vanilla, if available)
4 tbls. butter
2 tbls. whipping cream
Handful of pecan halves, roasted
2 tbls. rum
Combine crushed Biscoff cookies, ¼ cup chopped pecans and ¼ cup melted butter in a bowl. Mix with your fingers so everything is blended. Press into bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake crumb crust atop a foil-lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Combine 2 of the sliced bananas and the lemon juice in a small saucepan. Stir in 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly about 1 minute or just until sugar has melted. Remove from heat and set banana mixture aside.
Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer 3 minutes or until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup granulated or light brown sugar, beating until blended.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in Grand Marnier and vanilla.
Pour into crust-lined springform pan. Spoon tablespoonfuls of the banana mixture evenly over top, and swirl gently into batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until center is almost set. (Baking time may take longer, it does in my oven.) Remove from oven and cool completely. Run a knife around edge to release banana cheesecake from springform pan. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
To make Praline Topping: Melt 4 tbls. butter in a large skillet, stir in remaining ½ cup brown sugar, whipping cream and heat until bubbly and thickening. Toss roasted pecan halves, remaining banana (sliced) and heat until thoroughly hot. Stir in rum and cook a little more just enough to warm the rum without evaporating it.
Remove cheesecake from refrigerator. Let sit for 15 minutes. Pour warm Praline Topping over the cheesecake. Slice and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
Editor's Note: We congratulate Tommy C. Simmons, GardenSMART's food editor, on being named the 2017 recipient of the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society's 11th annual Grace "Mama" Marino Lifetime Achievement Award. Simmons, the former food editor at the Advocate Newspaper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, currently lives in Waleska, Georgia, with husband David. She started her career at The Advocate in 1968 covering business news. In 1976 she began writing a food column, "In Baton Rouge Kitchens," featuring local cooks and their recipes. She retired from the Advocate in 2011.
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