Barack, Brits & Bananas

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. And I find this is often true in the kitchen — especially if one is going to a dinner party and needs to make something in a hurry.

The makings of a dessert

Election night: English friend Patricia down the street was having a disco birthday election bash which we, in the whirl of activity that is our lives, had forgotten about until our iCalendar gave us a cheerful little alert that same afternoon. Revisiting the original invitation, we realized the party started at 6:30 and was a potluck. I had already prepared most of what was going to be a Japanese sushi dinner for my family, which we would likely eat around 5:30. And with the time change, the kids wouldn’t be lasting past 8 p.m. But we wanted to pay our birthday respects to Patricia and see some of our good friends in the neighborhood, so said we would stop by for a bit.

“What will we bring to the potluck?” said my wife.

“Well, we will have already eaten, so do we really need to bring anything?” replies her boorish husband, eliciting a look that communicates something to the effect of: Really?? Are you that socially dense!?

Pressed, I considered my options and sprang into action.

Dark Kitchen Secret: Often when I’m asked to bring something to a party, I’ll scour around my kitchen, in the fridge and pantry, to find something that either  a.) is going to expire or sour soon, or  b.) I don’t like and want to get rid of. And then I’ll get to work and make something good out of whatever it is. We’ve been having problems lately in our kitchen with tiny fruit flies, who seem intent on taking over the house. And with that in mind, I found something that fit both category a and b — two overripe bananas.

I was already thinking I may want to make a dessert, since as I pointed out we would have already eaten (which, by the way, did not stop me from consuming several slices of bratwurst when we got there). What else did I have that I wanted to get rid of? Some stale bread. The idea was coming together.

At the party, lots of British people were milling around commenting on the American electoral process. At the urging of our other friend Patty — Patricia’s landlord — I headed straight to the liquor cabinet to sample several bottles of dusty unopened premium tequilas her father had left her when he died. But not before handing her my Corningware container.

“What did you make!?” she asked.

“Banana walnut rum bread pudding with Nutella dulce de leche.”

Soon I was standing in a corner of the kitchen, stuck, making margaritas for all the Brits, who were intrigued by the exoticness of it all. Sure enough, 6-year-old daughter Willa was rubbing her eyes and yawning by 7:45, and a short time later we were home and in bed, warily watching the returns and trying to stay awake.

When I woke up in the morning, Barack Obama was still president, marijuana and gay marriage were newly legal in several states (all of which confirming, no doubt, the conviction in the minds of a small sliver of the electorate that America is sliding irreversibly toward Socialism) and in my in-box were a variety of emails lavishing praise on my impromptu dessert and requesting the recipe. In Patricia’s words:

“BLOODY HELL that was good!!! I found my older English friend who lives in Woodland Hills sneakily eating some – “good isn’t it” I said, and she nodded, cos she couldn’t say “Yes” because her mouth was too full …”

When a Brit says “BLOODY HELL” in all capitals, you know it’s serious. And so now, as best as I can remember, here’s what I did:

*   *   *

Banana walnut rum bread pudding with Nutella dulce de leche
serves 6-8

2 ripe bananas
2 cups crusty bread such as ciabatta, cut into small chunks
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Nutella dulce de leche:
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 heaping tbsp. Nutella
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Combine the milk, eggs and sugar in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Toss in the bread chunks. Cut the bananas into 1/2-inch slices and toss into the bread mixture along with the walnuts and the rum. Set aside.

Make the dulce de leche: Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepot over medium heat. When it begins to simmer, stir the Nutella in with a wooden spoon, incorporating as much as possible. As the milk returns to a simmer, stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up and rise. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring, and let rest on a low simmer until thickened, resembling a about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. (You may need to adjust the heat to prevent the mixture from foaming over onto the stovetop.)

Preheat your oven to 375, and boil some water in a kettle. With the assistance of a rubber spatula, pour the dulce de leche into a medium size baking dish (I used a 9-inch square Corningware) to cover the bottom. Stir the bread mixture, and pour over the top of the dulce de leche. Pour 1/2 inch of boiling water into a larger baking pan, and place the bread pudding dish inside that to make a double boiler. Place in oven and loosely cover the bread pudding with foil. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until bread is beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven.

Let cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the bread pudding from the sides of the baking dish. Place a large charger or serving plate on top of the bread pudding, and turn over, shaking the baking dish to loosen the pudding, which should fall onto the plate. Using your rubber spatula, scoop any dulce de leche remaining in the dish onto the top of the pudding. Serve with whipped cream, if you’d like.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Kat and The Falling Leaves
    Nov 09, 2012 @ 02:27:15

    It must taste heavenly.


  2. Michelle
    Nov 09, 2012 @ 12:50:56

    Bloody Hell indeed! A good week. Oh, yeah, sounds like a good dessert, too.


  3. Greggie
    Nov 09, 2012 @ 18:21:18

    And in honor of President Obama you could make it banana macadamia nut rum bread pudding. Sounds delicious either way.


    • scolgin
      Nov 13, 2012 @ 20:38:16

      I like that idea. Everything’s better with macadamia nuts! (And maybe King’s Hawaiian Bread? And coconut dulce de leche instead of Nutella…)


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