It’s been a minute since I posted a dessert. I don’t tend to bake all that much in January. Too burnt out from the holiday baking season, I suppose. But now that it’s February, my least favorite month of the year, I am in need of something sweet. It’s cold, it still gets dark before 5:30pm, and regardless of what the groundhogs had to say on the subject we still have a heck of a lot of winter left to go. So yeah, I feel like we could all use a sweet little lift. And today’s Banana Crème Caramel is just the dessert to do it. So let’s get started.
I like to think of this dessert as the love child of two classic desserts. The first is obviously crème caramel. And the second is banana cream pie. Crème caramel is a classic French dessert that consists of gently cooked custard with a rich caramel lid. Banana cream pie is an iconic dessert filled with banana-flavored custard or layers of vanilla custard and sliced bananas topped with whipped cream. I’ve had it with both a graham cracker crust and a butter pastry crust. It’s a favorite from my childhood.
In both cases, these classic desserts cannot be improved upon. They both are wildly delicious and perfect in their relative simplicity. But does that even stop me from playing? Nope. So let’s talk about how to marry the two. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the brief ingredient list and straightforward method. I often think French desserts get a bad rap for being complicated and yes, some deserve that title. But crème caramel is not one of them.
The first thing we’re going to tackle is the caramel. And before you make caramel of any kind for any reason, make sure you have everything you need within grabbing distance before you turn that burner on. Caramel can go from the perfect shade of amber to burnt in mere moments, so there’s no time to go digging for your ramekins while you melt the sugar on the stove.
Place sugar and a small amount of water in a skillet. Give everything a quick stir before turning on the heat. The mixture should resemble damp sand. Once the sugar mixture is simmering, do not stir it. Stirring molten sugar encourages crystallization, which isn’t what we want. We want our caramel to run like liquid gold. Once the caramel has reached the optimal color, take it off of the heat immediately and moving quickly, pour into 5 to 6 waiting ramekins. Give them a swirl to ensure even coverage of the bottom of each dish. Be quick with your actions, the caramel will start to set up almost immediately.
Once the caramel is where it should be, it’s time to move on to the custard. Now, if this custard feels familiar to you, that’s because it is. Crème Caramel custard is essentially the same as the custard you make for crème brûlée. But before we get to what we know, let’s talk about what’s new. Specifically the banana. Try to select a banana that is well past its prime. The one I used was still a little too youthful, in my opinion. But sometimes you got to work with what you have. The older your banana is, the more concentrated the flavor. So go for a banana that is close to mush. It will save you some mashing time anyway. And speaking of mashing, I want you to really let the banana have it. We want it mashed to near-perfect smoothness.
Once the banana is reduced to mush, add your sugar, egg yolks, eggs, vanilla extract, and banana extract. The banana extract is there to further enhance the banana flavor. But if you can’t find it, you can omit it. You will still get that hit of banana but it will be more subtle. Whisk the eggs, sugar, banana, and flavoring agents together and set the mixture aside.
Be aware that the mixture will not be completely smooth. The finished custard will also not be completely smooth. If you would prefer a completely smooth custard, you can mash an extra banana and steep both in hot cream for four hours before straining it and discarding the banana pulp. This is obviously more labor-intensive but it is an option. If you chose to make the recipe as written, your Banana Crème Caramel will be largely smooth with the occasional small chunk of banana. I kind of liked it like this but others may not so be aware.
Now, let’s talk dairy. Pour milk and cream into a saucepan. You can add some turmeric to achieve the golden hue you see pictured but it’s not entirely necessary. I just wanted to visually differentiate the Banana Crème Caramel from the original. Plus, I kind of like its slightly kitschy appearance. Turmeric has little to no flavor to it, so don’t worry about it impacting the finished dessert in any negative way. But if you are truly concerned but would still like to achieve a sunny shade, feel free to use color gel instead.
Heat the dairy mixture until it is on the verge of boiling. Do this gently as you don’t want to scald the milk. Once the mixture is hot, ladle it into the egg mixture while whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Pour the finished custard into a pitcher and pour it into the prepared ramekins. Make sure you arrange your ramekins inside a large roasting pan prior to pouring in the custard. The less you move full ramekins the better. Once the ramekins are ready, pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to immerse the ramekins halfway. Pop the lot in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. The custard should be set but have a strong wiggle to it.
From here, let your batch of Banana Crème Caramel cool to room temperature before transferring it to the fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours before inverting the custards onto a plate and serving. And that’s everything you need to know. This is such an effortlessly classy dessert. It’s simple but decadent and it can be made ahead and served to guests with much fanfare. A host/hostess’s dream.
Banana Crème Caramel
- 6 1/2 cup ramekins
- 1 skillet
- 1 small saucepan
- 1 9×13" roasting pan
- 1 large pitcher
- 1½ cups granulated sugar divided
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 overripe banana
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp banana extract
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the ramekins in the roasting pan and set aside.
- Pour the sugar into a large skillet and add the water. Place over medium heat and cook without stirring until the sugar becomes liquid and turns a medium shade of amber.1½ cups granulated sugar, 1 tbsp water
- Take the caramel off of the heat immediately and, working quickly, pour a little of the caramel into each ramekin. Swirl the ramekins to ensure the caramel evenly coats the bottom before solidifying. Set the ramekins aside.
- Peel and place the banana in a large bowl. Using a fork or potato masher, mash the banana until quite smooth. Add the remaining sugar, yolks, eggs, salt, vanilla, and banana extract. Whisk to combine and set aside.1 overripe banana, 3 large egg yolks, 2 large eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp banana extract, 1/2 tsp salt
- Pour the milk and cream into a small saucepan. Add the turmeric and whisk to combine. Place over medium heat until on the verge of boiling.** Take the cream off of the heat and slowly ladle the mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. This will temper the eggs.2 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp ground turmeric
- Pour the finished custard into a pitcher and divide it among the ramekins. Make sure you leave a little space at the top of each.
- Pour recently boiling water into the roasting pan until the bottom half of the ramekins are immersed. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until the custard is set but still is quite wobbly.
- Take the roasting pan out of the oven and take the ramekins out of the water. Arrange them on a cooling rack and let them cool to room temperature before transferring them to the fridge and chilling them for at least 2 hours.
- When ready to serve, carefully run a small palette or butter knife along the edges of the crème caramel and place a plate on top. Invert the ramekin on the plate and the caramel should release. Serve immediately.