Who's that behind those Foster Grants?

Er, I don't really know, but I definitely want to know who is behind that Bananas Foster-style shortcake!

Growing up, we lived just a few miles away from the Foster Grants glasses factory, and I've never been to New Orleans, so does that mean I should love sunglasses more than dessert? NO my good man, I think not!

Bananas and caramel have always been among my favorite flavors. Warm them up and throw them over some ice cream and you'll be shining so bright everyone else will need those sunglasses just to look at you. Put the sumptuous sauce over a banana and vanilla bean biscuit and folks will need sunglasses, sunscreen, and an umbrella just to be in the same room with you.

Bananas Foster was created at New Orleans' famous Brennan's Restaurant. In 1951, Chef Paul created this scrumptious dessert and named it for Richard Foster, who served  on the New Orleans Crime Commission. Richard Foster was a frequent customer of Brennan's, and a very good friend of Brennan's founder Owen Brennan.*

*from brennansneworleans.com.

I've had a few different versions of Bananas Foster, including one I've made at home a couple of times. Each has been good in its own way, but I really wanted to try a few different things with this version.

First of all, I wanted a nice pillowy biscuit with my Foster. Something that would help soak up all the caramel sauce, so that none would remain on the plate when the meal was finished. I started out with our online recipe for David Lee's Biscuits. They're amazing biscuits for shortcake, and I could hardly dream of improving on them.

I could, however, try a little twist. Our Perfect Pastry Blend was my first choice for flours. It combines the best of soft pastry flour with a little added structure from all-purpose flour. A sturdy crust with a pillowy soft center, just what I desire.

Enter the mashed banana and our enchanting vanilla bean paste. If you haven't tried it before vanilla bean paste is the only vanilla "extract" that I've ever been able to use and then lick the spoon afterwards. No residual alcohol, just pure vanilla flavor. Plus it's truly chock full of vanilla bean flecks. Full, full, full.

Let's get our tummies full of this New Orleans Banana Shortcake.

In a large bowl, combine:
2 cups King Arthur Perfect Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (tablespoon, not teaspoon!)
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste

Whisk well to break up any lumps, then use your hand to make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.

In a small separate bowl, mash one very ripe banana and 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste until nearly smooth. (You can use 3 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Crush if you don't have the paste).

Pour the banana mash into the well and add 3/4 cup heavy cream. Stir the cream/banana together and then begin to pull flour in from the sides of the bowl. Mix all together until you have no dry spots of flour left, adding additional drizzles of cream as needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself two or three times, until nearly smooth.

Gently roll the dough about 3/4" thick, and cut with a sharp biscuit cutter in your desired size. I like a 2" size for small biscuits. You can re-roll and re-cut scraps one time. After that, the dough gets a little tough.

Can you see the bits of banana? If you look closely, you can see the flecks of vanilla bean, too.

And check out those layers!

For a nice crunchy topping, brush the tops of the unbaked biscuits with additional cream or melted butter, and sprinkle with sparkling white sugar.

Bake the biscuits in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on the edges.

And I'll say it once again... look at those layers!

While the biscuits are cooling, let's work on the Bananas Foster sauce.

In a large saucepan set over medium heat, combine 4 tablespoons softened butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

When the outer edge of the sauce begins to bubble, stir in 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/4 cup butterscotch liqueur (e.g., Butterscotch Schnapps). Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.

Add 2 tablespoons rum and 4 ripe bananas sliced into 1/4" rounds. Continue to simmer for 5 more minutes, or until the bananas just turn soft.

If you're the brave and daring type, you can flambé the rum, as with traditional Bananas Foster. Personally, I'm a little afraid of fire, so I skip that part and just simmer a little longer.

Oooh, aaaahh, doesn't that look wonderful and decadent? I know you can't smell the allspice, but believe me, it scented the kitchen, indeed the whole floor here. Rich, not-quite-cinnamon-is-that-a-dash-of-nutmeg tickled the senses and made nearly every taste tester ask, "What IS that flavor?"

If you don't have allspice on hand and my devilish deeds have you too tempted, you can absolutely use cinnamon instead of the allspice. But IF you can wait, it's worth the trip to the spice aisle to pick up this underused, under-appreciated spice.

To serve, break apart one biscuit and top with one scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream. Ladle on a helping of the sauce, being sure to capture some chunks of banana. Slip on your sunglasses and slide away into bliss.

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MaryJane Robbins
The Author

About MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team the following year. MJ loves to create decorated cookies for the catalogue, and blog about all kinds of foods, especially sweet treats.