Friday, January 20, 2012

Caramelized Banana Bourbon Ricotta Trifle

If you've ever been to one of those all-you-can-eat steak houses, then I'm sure you're very familiar with those giant vats of dessert they put out on the dessert bar - usually some sort of chocolate and whipped cream cake, a pan of strawberry shortcake with yellow sponge cake, whipped cream and strawberries, and of course, banana cream pudding.  I think all kids love being served a great big dollop of creamy pudding with whipped cream, bananas and those little wafer cookies.  For that matter, adults love it, too.

Caramelized bananas and apples were one of the few desserts available in restaurants in China - they came to the table piping hot and super sticky, so you had to eat them fast before the caramel hardened.  One of the other desserts we sometimes ordered was just a simple fried bread, dipped in nothing more than sweetened condensed milk.  Delicious.

When making dessert for two, there's always the challenge of trying to not overdo the portions.  If we have company, then I can have a lot of fun making a layer cake, tart or pie.  But we don't need a huge dessert sitting around for just the two of us to eat.

So I really like making little individual desserts that are eaten fresh, with no tempting leftovers.  This Caramelized Banana Bourbon Ricotta Trifle is an all-grown-up version of that familiar banana cream pudding.

Freshly made ricotta, slightly sweetened with honey and nutmeg, replaces the pudding and whipped cream.  Bananas are caramelized in brown sugar and bourbon until they're golden brown outside with soft gooey centers.  A sprinkling of crushed cookies, any kind you like, adds just the right amount of crunch.  And a touch of crystallized ginger on top adds a surprising element of sweetness with a tiny bit of heat.

I like to make my own ricotta, but the store-bought kind will work just fine, too.  This dessert comes together in about 10 minutes, and can easily be doubled or tripled for more people.  And even if you don't like bourbon on its own (I don't - the taste of it makes me think I'm being forced to take some medicine), it's completely delicious in desserts.

Caramelized Banana Bourbon Ricotta Trifle
printable recipe

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1-inch thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality Bourbon
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta (homemade or store-bought)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon light cream or fat-free half 'n' half
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup crumbled cookies (wafer cookies, graham crackers, lady fingers, etc)
  • pinch of crystallized ginger

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Place the bananas in the butter in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Cook bananas for 4 minutes on each side.  Add the bourbon to the skillet and cook for about a minute to cook off the alcohol, swirling the pan around.

Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, honey, cream and nutmeg in a bowl until smooth and creamy and set aside.

Set out two martini glasses or individual glass trifle dishes.  Spoon half of the ricotta mixture into the bottom of each glass.  Top with half of the crushed cookies.  Add half of the bananas.  Add another layer with the rest of the ricotta mixture, the crushed cookies and the bananas.  Drizzle with any remaining caramelized bourbon liquid in the skillet, or with a teaspoon of honey.  Sprinkle the crystallized ginger on top.

Serve immediately.

Yields 2 servings.