Friday, March 5, 2010

Yogurt & Banana Caramel Mousse

I love mousse. I love the light airiness that seems to float off the spoon. I love that it’s such a great medium to showcase simple ingredients. So when I heard about an interesting way to make banana caramel, I immediately thought it might be a great thing to try as the base for a mousse.

Caramel syrups and sauces are some of the basic tools of pastry. Making caramel can be tricky until you’ve put in some practice to learn how it works. After working for a pastry chef who used caramel quite a bit to flavor lots of different dessert elements, I really got comfortable with it because I had to make it every day. Since caramel adds such a wonderful flavor to so many pastries and desserts and can be flavored in a number of different ways, I hope you’ll try to master its production.

Once you’re able to recognize the size of the bubbles forming on the surface to gauge when it’s ready to color, how quickly it cooks from that point forward and how dark it should go, it’s really pretty simple. It’s also important to bear in mind the darker the caramel, the less sweet and more complex the flavor. But take it too far and it will taste burnt and bitter.

Here are some simple suggestions and techniques to produce caramel:

• I use medium high heat and watch it closely.

• To prevent crystallization, have a glass of water and a pastry brush handy to wash down the sides of the pan a couple of times as the sugar is heating up.

• Once caramel starts to get near the right color, there are 2 ways to stop the cooking process: from below and from above. To stop the cooking of caramel from below, you can set the bottom of the pan in ice water to cool off the pan. However, it will stop cooking much faster if you cool from above, which means adding another ingredient, such as room temperature cream or water. For caramel syrup, you would add water. For caramel sauce you would add various ratios of cream and butter or orange juice, liquor, cider or other flavored liquid. You can expect the mixture to expand and sputter quite a bit for about a minute, so caution is in order. Wear an oven mitt or rubber glove if you’re worried about getting burned from the caramel or from the steam. The other important thing to remember about caramel is never turn your back on caramel once it begins to show the slightest hint of color. For better control, I like to let it get to a medium amber or honey color and when it starts to smoke, I take it off the heat. At this point, the temperature of the caramel is so high that it will continue to cook, darken and smoke. When it looks like it’s reached the right color after about another minute or so, I add the next ingredient to stop the cooking.

• If you’re adding an ingredient to stop the cooking, make sure the pan is big enough to contain the expansion and sputtering.

• Ingredients added to stop the cooking should be at room temperature to avoid seizing the caramel.

• If you're adding cream, you can steep with spices for additional flavor. Vanilla or liquor also add flavor and should be added last, always off the heat.

• Salting – I think salt is an important ingredient in good caramel. Add to taste when the caramel has cooled.

• Always remember that you are cooking the sugar to a very, very high temperature. Caramel burns are quite painful because the cooked sugar will stick to your skin. Always use an abundance of caution.

• Caramel syrups are handy to have on hand for flavoring ice cream, sauces, custards and lots of other dessert elements. The sugar to water ratio is 1 to 1. You cook the sugar with just enough water to moisten and then add the rest when you want to stop the cooking.

• Storing - Refrigerate and keep caramel sauce for about 3 weeks. Caramel syrup will keep for quite a long time.

To make Banana Caramel for this recipe, some very ripe bananas are pureed and used to stop the cooking of the caramel. The mixture bubbles up and sputters vigorously but smoothes out nicely. If you’re a fan of bananas, you’ll enjoy this combination. Since the Banana Caramel Mousse is quite rich, I pair it with a plain Yogurt Mousse. They complement and balance each other quite well.

Bench notes:

- To prevent clumping when blooming gelatin, always sprinkle it slowly into cold water rather then pouring cold water on the powder. I prefer sheet gelatin, which comes in 2 strengths (silver and bronze), but I recognize that most home cooks use powdered.
- Be sure your bananas are quite ripe. The skins should have plenty of brown spots and the bananas should be quite soft with a strong scent of ripeness.
- The chocolate shavings really add to the flavor, so don’t skip this garnish.
- If you enjoy mousse, be sure to try Herme’s Chocolate Mousse, a supremely amazing dessert.

Yogurt & Banana Caramel Mousse
Makes 6 servings

Yogurt Mousse

2 C (16 oz) plain Greek yogurt
1/2 C sugar
1 t lemon juice, to taste
1 1/2 t gelatin
1 C heavy cream

Banana Caramel Mousse

2 very ripe bananas
1 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 T butter
1/2 t vanilla
pinch of salt
3/4 t gelatin
3/4 C heavy cream

bittersweet chocolate shavings for garnish

For the yogurt mousse, whisk together the yogurt and sugar. Add the lemon juice.
Bloom the gelatin in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of cold water.
Whip the heavy cream just to a very soft peak.
Liquefy the gelatin by placing the bottom of the bowl in a pan of simmering water.
Add the gelatin to the yogurt mixture and blend thoroughly.
Fold in the whipped cream.
Pour the Yogurt Mousse into a serving dish or 6 individual parfait glasses.
Chill for about 1 1/2 hours or until set.

To make the banana caramel, puree the 2 ripe bananas until they are the consistency of a smooth pancake batter. Pour into a bowl and set near the stove.

Bloom the gelatin in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of cold water.

Whip the heavy cream just to a very soft peak and keep in the refrigerator.

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Continue boiling until the sugar starts to turn a medium amber color. Pull off the heat and let it continue to darken a bit more. Once it reaches a medium dark caramel, carefully pour in the pureed bananas. Stir with a long handled utensil like a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. If there are any clumps of caramel, return to low heat until the clumps are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and salt to taste.

Liquefy the gelatin by placing the bottom of the bowl in a pan of simmering water.

Add gelatin to banana caramel and let sit for a few minutes to begin to firm up just a bit, stirring occasionally.

Fold whipped cream gently into caramel-gelatin mixture until streaks disappear. Pour over Yogurt Mousse and chill for a couple of hours until set. To serve, garnish with chocolate shavings.


Unknown said...

looks so yummy. have to try this one.

PastryPrincess said...

hm, looks so yummy! great idea, almost like a bannoffee pie in a a mousse! ;)

Heather said...

Thank you for your expert advice on the mousse. I love using mousse but often have trouble with it. Great combination!

Foodiewife said...

I was captivated by your excellent tips. I'm still a little nervous about making caramel (and I love it). You've given me valuable tips. I hate wasting ripe bananas and banana bread bores me to pieces. LOVE this recipe. I have all the, to muster the courage to do this. If I do, I will let you know. thanks.

pastry studio said...

Hello and thanks for your comments!

I feared the caramel for a very long time until I had to make it every day in a professional kitchen. It is kind of like a game of chicken where you have to jump in just when you think it's going to get the best of you. But once you do it a couple of times, you really get a sense of how to gauge what's happening and it's quite simple.

One of the most important lessons I learned early on in pastry school is you cannot have any fear when it comes to producing quality pastries and desserts. My advice is to try and have fun with it. Good luck and enjoy!

Christiana said...

I just came across your blog and I am now a follower! You have a great blog and the photos are wonderful.
I have my own blog too and would love to know what you think!

Barbara said...

Your caramel notes are excellent. I enjoy working with it but must admit I never thought of adding something as substantial as bananas to it. Kind of like a Bananas Foster flavor, sans rum (although it might be tasty to add rum!). The yogurt to balance the mousse is perfect. I just tested another verrine recipe than had a thin hard caramel layer and the panna cotta was made with yogurt.

Swee San said...

looks really good ! love the lightness of the mousse

Anonymous said...

what's the funny oily smell in the banana caramel mousse? could you reckon what I did wrong? thanks in advance.

pastry studio said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure how that could have happened. Perhaps your bananas were too ripe? Sometimes they can give off a funny smell. I'm sorry to hear you had this problem.

Flour Girl said...

Looks absolutly wonderful!!!

wedding rings said...

What a wonderful mix! Banana and yogurt!

yc said...

Sounds yummy! if i wanted to just make the caramel mousse (without the banana), can i just leave it out? would the everything else still stay the same?

pastry studio said...

Hello yc and thanks for your question. I plan to post a simple caramel mousse recipe at some point because I think it's one of the most amazing desserts imaginable. I just have to take my recipe, translate the sheet gelatin to powdered, reduce the portions and test that. But here's a quick estimate I have from my notes if you want to try:

Caramel mousse

1/2 envelope gelatin

1 1/4 C + 2 T C sugar
1/4 C + 2 T C water
1 T light corn syrup

3/4 C + 2 T C cream @ room temperature
2 oz butter (half a stick) @ room temperature
1/4 t vanilla
salt to taste

3/4 C chilled cream

Bloom gelatin in a small dish (I use a little custard dish) with 1 1/2 T tablespoons water.

Boil sugar, corn syrup and water until it reaches a deep golden brown (about the color of Anchor Steam). Remove from heat, add the 3/4 C + 2 T cream (caramel will bubble up vigorously so use a large pan) and butter. Whisk thoroughly. Add salt to taste.

Melt the gelatin (I usually put the dish in a pan that has a little bit of simmering water or you can microwave for just a few seconds but it cannot boil) and add it to the caramel. Cool the caramel just to room temperature, stirring occasionally to keep the mixture smooth.

Beat chilled whipping cream in large bowl to medium-firm peaks. Fold gently into cooled caramel-gelatin mixture until streaks disappear. Pour into serving dish(es). Chill.

Let me know if you have any questions. And I will post about this at some point!

yc said...

thanks!! i will definitely give it a try soon. (i love anything caramel - i recently tried my hand at a salted caramel ice cream which turned out pretty good, but it was actually fun making the caramel base!)

HBG said...

I have just tried it: works perfectly.
I've replaced vanilla by rhum and chocolate by ground cinnamon.
Quantities are a little bit huge for 6 portions, though. At least for our French stomachs. I'd say this recipe serves 10.