I DON’T KNOW. IT’S NOT A DESSERT. IT’S THING.
When it comes to the awareness for Del Posto’s celebrated pastry-chef that is Brooks Headley, as well his critically acclaimed cookbook Fancy Desserts, I’ll admit, I was late to the game. To start, I’ve never been to Del Posto, even for the time while I was still living blissfully in New York, I never. I knew where it was. I knew it was good. But for the many times that I’ve passed it by, I dug into my dangling shallow pocket, and went for the Halal-truck parked around its corner instead, unregretted. Then to further my negligence, I didn’t even give it the slightest consideration when their Brooks published his first, wacky and unconventional cookbook named – reeked of intimidations – Fancy Desserts. I mean those who know me, from experiences perhaps too personal, already mourns my biological disability to even execute the dumbest-ass desserts, let alone, as if, fancy. The title only sounded slightly more appealing than watching a documentary on spaceship engineering. But, my firmly footed ignorance all began to shake when my loyal advisor, The Piglet, out of many many other the-Gisele-Bundchen of cookbooks, named it The Best of 2015. Finally, I sighed, I Amazoned, and I realized that for all this time…
I was so wrong.
Behind its unfiltered and seemingly unstudied photographs, is a smacking and dignified mockery to all the others who lack its otherwise overabundant substances. I realized that a cookbook can only dare this level of anti-pornographic statement when it’s got nothing, absolutely nothing more to prove to us shallow pigs, than to say, I’m too good for pretty. And it is. This is the most honest, egoless and humorous cookbook I’ve ever read, but LOL aside, the book mercilessly attacks my mortal imagination with one-after-the-other daring recipes that completely defies logic, but wins intrigues if not hearts (throw in a James Beard Award for good measure). I must, I murmured. I must immerse myself in his teaching…
So out of the pool, I thought I should probably start with the least fancy option, one that was even shunned by their executive chef’s distaste for bananas, the peanut butter mascarpone with bejeweled bananas. I mean, no retard on earth can fuck up this combo was what I held ever-so faithfully onto. I didn’t change any major components from the original – the ratio of peanut butter mascarpone and salt, the amount of sugar for each bananas, the element of crunch from the croutons – except that… probably against his teaching, I completely changed the way it is put together. Instead of being scattered over a plate, which to say is his go-to plating style, I decided to “re-construct” the recipe into a pie. Why? I have no fucking clue. Because I’m boring most likely. I’ll make sure I ask my OCD next time over brunch. But more importantly, did I like it?
You know, I’d say, it was the most ambivalent experience that I had to sort out since the day I ate an avocado with soy sauce. Brooks said in his book that he’s the happiest (or something like that) when a customers says “…I don’t know. It’s not a dessert. It’s a thing.“. And I guess to sum up how I felt about this, I’d say, “What he said.“. The thing is, it was undoutedly sweet, yes, but ALSO, prominently salty at the same time. It was… conflicting to say the least. And I guess I’m recommending it to you because, in a way, I trust Brooks more than I trust myself really, and in between the switches in my brain trying to make sense of it, I found myself not being able to stop eating. I mean, as of this moment when I’m typing to you, I’m still eating… almost 1/2 of it…
expanding deciding, and I guess by the most primal instinct, I have already.
I’m Team Brooks.
Makes: One 8 1/2″ x 12″ (21 x 30 cm) pie. If you want to make a 8″ (20 cm) round pie, you can half the recipe.
Note: OK, a few things I want to stress here.
- The original recipe is accompanied by slightly salty breadcrumbs, which is why I tried to use 1/2 multi-grain breadcrumbs plus 1/2 finely ground digestive cookie to make the crust. But I realized that it’s really just extra work to pulverize the multi-grain bread when, in the end, I couldn’t really taste the “bread-ness” in the crust anyways. So I changed the recipe to a simple digestive cookie crust. If you’re curious, you can replace 1/2 of the ground cookies with finely ground breadcrumbs.
- Then, the original recipe for the peanut butter and mascarpone cream has a full 1 tsp of salt in it, which makes it… borderline un-dessert-like salty. The peanut butter is already quite salty to begin with, which I think is enough. But do I have a James Beard? No. So I listed the salt in the recipe anyway, but I would recommend starting with 1/2 tsp first as you go. I also find the original texture to be too thick for this purpose, and so added a bit of milk to loosen it.
- The original recipe, instead of torching, broils the bananas with sugar on top until they “lose its shape”. I’ve tried both ways I really did, and I just like the torch-method better. It gives me more control and retains the texture of the bananas (not a big fan of mushy bananas). But if you don’t have a blow-torch, or simply love mushy banana, you can do it under the broiler then pile the bananas on top of the pie. BUT, you probably won’t be able to make pretty patterns.
Adapted from Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts
- 2 1/2 cup (250 grams) finely ground digestive cookies, or gram crackers
- 5 tbsp (63 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp (30 grams) molasses
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 9 1/2 tbsp (135 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup (225 grams) mascarpone
- 1 cup (258 grams) Skippy smooth peanut butter
- 1 tsp (4 grams) salt, or less as needed
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) whole milk
- 7~8 large ripen bananas
- 7 tbsp (83 grams) light brown sugar
- Turbinado/raw sugar to sprinkle
- TO MAKE THE CRUST: Preheat the oven on 350F/175C. Combine finely ground digestive cookie (or gram crackers), sugar, molasses, fine sea salt and melted butter in a large bowl. Mash it with a whisk until all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Transfer the mixture into a 8 1/2" x 12" (12 x 30 cm) pan, then spread and press it tightly with your fingers or a flat-bottomed cup, evenly on the bottom and the sides of the pan to make a crust. Bake in the oven for 13~15 min until lightly browned. The crust may seem slightly puffed up but do not press it down or it'll be tough. Let cool COMPLETELY before using.
- TO MAKE THE PEANUT BUTTER MASCARPONE CREAM: With a fork or spatula, gently mix mascarpone, smooth peanut butter and 1/2 tsp salt (add more later if you like) together until even (*do not use a food-processor or mix too vigorously, because the mascarpone might break*). Spread it evenly over the pie-crust. Set aside.
- TO MAKE THE BANANA TOPPING: Trim a sheet of parchment into the same dimensions as the inner-area of the pie, as a guide. Peel and slice a banana in 1/2 horizontally (Peel 1 banana at a time to prevent unnecessary browning), then place them cut-side up over the parchment, with the uneven tips extruding over the parchment's edge. Repeat with another banana until you've covered one side of the parchment. Trim off the uneven tips on both sides of the bananas to achieve straight edges, then transfer into the pie. It should line one side of the pie. Now repeat the same thing with the other side to fill the entire area. Eat the scrap-bananas.
- Evenly spread the light brown sugar on top of the bananas. Hold another pan to cover/protect the crust-part of the pie from the torch, then with the other hand, torch the sugar until deeply caramelized. Turn and adjust the pan as needed (you might want to do it under the kitchen-vent, too). You can cut through the hardened caramel if you want, or chill the pie in the fridge for 30 min until the caramel turns into a sticky sauce (what I did). Sprinkle turbinado/raw sugar on top before serving.