Some people scoff at artful plating especially if it involves humble comfort food. Why bring out the sauces and garnishes to complicate matter? If it is good enough to eat out of hand standing in grandma’s kitchen, fussy presentation is just pretentious…right? I know many people who subscribe to this school of thought. I cannot wholeheartedly agree.
I went to The Stop’s Food For Change dinner and came home with inspirations. The dessert of the night was a platter of crispy banana bread with peanut butter ice cream and coconut crème Anglaise. I’ve been baking banana bread for years but it never occurred to me to elevate this humble quick bread into anything elegant. I only saw it as a convenient way to use overripe bananas. That evening, tasting the composition of the dessert flicked on a light switch in my head. Like any plated dessert, it used multiple components that complemented each other by taste and texture. I wanted to try my hand at dressing up banana bread too.
I came up with a dessert that can be made ahead with easy-to-make components. If I have to assign a difficulty level, I would say it is something most beginner home cook can succeed. This is perfectly suited as part of a dinner party menu because it looks elegant yet only last minute plating is required. My version is banana bread with peanut butter cream cheese mousse, caramelized banana slices, warm caramel sauce, and candied peanuts.
Let me walk you through the key steps. It all started with two loaves of banana bread. I adapted from Melissa Clark’s recipe using only unbleached all purpose flour, melted butter, and omitted the chocolate. This is my go-to recipe for banana bread. It is important to slice the loaves only when they are completely cooled because thin slice (about 1cm) is a much better proportion in an elegant plated dessert. The caramel sauce can be cooked days ahead. I followed Dan Lepard’s trusty recipe and stored the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. The candied peanuts recipe is another old favourite from David Lebovitz. I whipped up some peanut butter cream cheese mousse the night before serving. This recipe is available at the bottom of the post.
When you’re ready to plate the dessert, start by painting a stroke of warm caramel sauce down the length of the plate. Using a wide silicone brush is handy in this case. Slice some bananas at an angle and dip one side of the fruit in granulated sugar. Line them sugar side up on a heat proof pan and caramelize the banana using a kitchen blow torch. You want an even mahogany colour. Place a slice of banana bread on top of the caramel sauce at an angle and top with a quenelle of peanut butter cream cheese mousse. Artfully arrange slices of caramelized bananas on top of the cake and balance the presentation with a single slice on the opposite side of the plate. Drizzle more caramel sauce. Lastly, dot the dessert with clusters of candied peanuts. It’s easy!
I love how the addition of all these “bells and whistles” enhances the banana bread. They are not sitting on the plate looking pretty. The billowy peanut butter mousse is slightly tangy from the cream cheese and this combination recalls the beloved PB & B sandwich. Caramel presented itself in three different guises in this dessert with the addictive crunch of candied peanuts being my favourite. Mixing and matching everything on the plate made this banana bread dessert anything but boring.
Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Mousse
makes 2 1/2 cups
- 150g heavy cream
- 125g cream cheese, soften to room temperature
- 150g creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind, I used Jif)
- 30g maple syrup
- Whip the heavy cream in a stand mixer on high using the whisk attachment until soft peak. Tip into a large mixing bowl, set aside.
- No need to wash the stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and maple syrup until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Using a large silicone spatula, scoop two big dollops of whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Fold until the mixture is lightened and blended. Empty the peanut butter mixture into the mixing bowl with remaining whipped cream and fold until evenly mixed. Use immediately or store in airtight container overnight. Chilling overnight will give you a stiffer mousse that is easier to shape into quenelles.