This pie came to be after a longtime customer showed up at our kitchen door with two stalks of fresh, local bananas that he had grown in his yard in the Malibu hills. I placed the entire stalks, flowers and all, on a top shelf in the kitchen and waited patiently for the bananas to ripen. Those bananas deserved an over-the-top preparation to honor the weeks of ripening it took for them all to be ready to use. Weighing in at a staggering four pounds, this is not your average late-night-diner banana cream pie. A rich layer of almond cream and baked bananas line the crust, followed by vanilla custard piled high and fresh bananas, and then a topping of whipped cream.
Our well-proportioned sandwiches feature relatively small, thin cookies and precise scoops of ice cream that give each bite the perfect combination of textures and flavors. We added water to the dough to prevent the cookies from turning rock-hard in the freezer, as well as plenty of browned butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla, and salt to compensate for the flavor-dulling effect of the freezer. Mini chocolate chips provided bursts of chocolate flavor and delicately crunchy texture.
If you have never made a cake before and love chocolate, this is the cake that you should bake. Because it is an easy cake for a beginning baker, I sometimes refer to it as the world’s easiest chocolate cake—but don’t think that it doesn’t deliver in the flavor department! The results are spectacular. Plus, this is the cake that I always make for a crowd, as you can cut it into as many as 48 pieces. In this variation on a Texas sheet cake, I’ve loaded both the cake and the icing with ground cinnamon, giving it a distinctive Tex-Mex flair.
Using a vanilla bean makes this creamy pudding extra special and aromatic. But if you don’t have one on hand, just stir 1 tablespoon vanilla extract into the pudding along with the egg yolks. Although rice pudding is traditionally served cold, I also like this when it’s still warm and a little runny, poured over sliced strawberries and raspberries, which add both juiciness and acidity.
Buttery, light, and not overly sweet, madeleines are dead-easy to make. The only thing that stopped me from making them for years was not owning a madeleine pan. I don’t know why I waited so long. Do yourself a favor, splurge and get two pans so you can crank out more than one batch at a time. We recently shared a special birthday dinner with good friends at Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant in New York City, and at the end of the meal, the waiter brought freshly baked mini madeleines all bundled up for dessert. They were still warm and lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar, and we gobbled them up in minutes. Madeleines can be made without beaters and are best eaten on the same day as close to the bake as possible.
Summer brings long days of sunshine and with it a great excuse to concoct frozen treats. This month’s sweet recipe does just that, with a focus on the ice cream fanatics among us. It comes from Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook by the folks from the eponymously named ice cream shop. Their flavors are amazing, and this recipe for Strawberry Honey Balsamic Ice Cream with Black Pepper blends into wonderful layers of rich sweetness with a touch of acidic tang and peppery spice.
There are those among you who swear the best damn lemon cake is The Best Damn Lemon Cake. I thought so too…until this recipe was sent to me by my daughter, Toni, who lived on East 62nd Street when she began to make it. When I sent this recipe to my friend Craig Claiborne, he printed it in the New York Times. It became amazingly popular. Devin, the young man who took care of our swimming pool, once even baked this cake on his charcoal grill (he didn’t have an oven). It came out perfectly!
Honey enhances the earthy sweetness of carrots and makes for a dense, moist cake. Serve this flavorful cake unadorned or gild it with cream cheese frosting—or simply drizzle with honey and top with chopped nuts.
These rolls make a decadent brunch, served warm from the oven, with a pot of good strong coffee on the side.