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Last-minute dessert

Vera DawsonVail, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Kristin Anderson
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Need dessert in a hurry? If so, let me introduce you to baked brown sugar bananas. They may be the ultimate last-minute dessert. They come together in no time, call for ingredients that are routinely found in most kitchens, and require no special equipment or culinary skills. And, while that may pique your interest, I have an even better reason to share the recipe with you: This dish is downright delicious and very versatile. The warm bananas provide a comfort food appeal that connects with both kids and adults. The sauce, particularly if you choose to prepare it with the optional liquor and chopped pecans, takes the warm fruit to a higher level, making it elegant enough to be an impressive ending for a dinner party. Can you ask for more?While this dessert is very good without adornment, I like to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It slowly melts into the warm sauce and bananas, making a wonderful contrast between hot and cold, smooth and textured. Even though preparing this dish is a no-brainer, I have one bit of advice: Try to use bananas that are ripe but firm; If they are too soft, they become mushy when baked. This doesn’t kill the dessert, but it’s at its best when prepared with firm bananas.You can prepare this treat in four individual serving dishes or in one large, shallow baking dish from which individual portions will be served. If you have planned ahead, the sauce can be made several days in advance and refrigerated until time to use it.

Baked brown sugar bananasServes 4Make in four individual ramekins or in a ceramic or glass baker or 9 inch pie pan that will hold the bananas in a single layerIngredients4 tablespoons of butter plus more for buttering baking dish(es)1/2 cup of dark or light brown sugar

2 tablespoons of bourbon, brandy, or dark rum, optional2 tablespoons of water1/2 teaspoon of vanilla4 medium to large bananasApproximately 1/3 (one third) cup of coarsely chopped pecans, optionalStep One: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter the baking pan or individual ramekins.

Step Two: Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, melt the four tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted, add the brown sugar and whisk constantly until it is smooth and fully combined, with all the sugar melted (test by removing a little with a spoon and rubbing it between your fingers; you shouldn’t feel any grains of sugar-it should be completely smooth). This usually takes a minute or two.Step Three: Remove the pan from the heat and add the bourbon, brandy or dark rum if you are using it, and the water. Return to the heat and simmer the mixture for about three minutes, whisking it frequently. You may need to reduce the heat to low to assure that the mixture stays at a simmer and doesn’t boil furiously. It will darken and thicken to a syrupy texture. Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. At this point you can cool the sauce and refrigerate it for several days. If you do so, whisk and reheat it to hot before proceeding with the recipe.Step Four: Peel the bananas and cut them into slices about one-half inch thick. I think they look most appealing when cut diagonally. Place them in the buttered baking dish or ramekins in a single layer. Add the brown sugar sauce and toss lightly to coat all of the bananas. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the top if you choose.Step Five: Bake very briefly, just until the bananas are warmed through and the sauce is bubbling. This usually takes from three to five minutes.Final Step: Remove from the oven, top with ice cream if you like, and serve immediately.This recipe was inspired by one I found in Sweet Stuff by Karen BarkerVera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at veradawson@aol.com


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