Sunday, September 9, 2007

Banana and coconut "pain perdu"

Believe me, this cake is as yummy as it looks.
It melts in your mouth and is eaten best when the cake is warm and very moist, fresh out of the oven.

While I spent most of my life growing up in Montreal, I always kept part of the French culture with me from the first 5 years I grew up in France, especially when it came to food! Aah, the smell and taste of butter. Although I was only 5 years old, I remember the most painful moments at that age, when I left my friends in France for a new life with my parents and little brother to Canada, as much as I remember the most pleasant ones; picking up muscles by the beach in Normandie and eating them endlessly with my little camarades. I also vividly remember the aromas of baking gâteau de riz or gâteau quatre-quarts drifting from my nanny's kitchen at la campagne (the countryside in Normandie). How can one forget such pleasant experiences?

When my parents were settling down in Canada and adapting to the north american culture, my mother kept some of the French influence in her cooking, like her famous banana cake, that very much resembles a "pain perdu" (also known as bread pudding in english), using mainly ripened bananas and stale bread. If you don't know what to do with stale bread and overly ripened bananas, this is the perfect recipe to have these foods not go to waste. Apples and pears can also be used, if desired. AND because this cake is really not sweet, unlike donuts and muffins, it can be eaten for breakfast as well.

Recipe "au pif":
4-5 ripened bananas, cut in 1/2-inch slices
1 bagette sliced in about 15 pieces
2 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon powder (or freshly grated cinnamon stick)
1/2 cup raw cane sugar (or regular white powdered sugar)

Preheat oven at 350F.
Mix milk, coconut milk, egg, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar in medium-sized bowl, with wisk.
In a 8 1/2 inch square pan, stack one layer of bread and one layer of bananas. Press firmly throughly to flatten.
Pour in just enough milk mixture so that it covers the bread and banana layer.
Repeat these steps until you run out of bread and bananas, or until you reached the top of your pan.
With your hands, press firmly and throughout until liquid reaches the surface of the cake and the bread and bananas are completely soaked and tightly squeezed together. Basically, the cake has to be submerged in the liquid. If you can, lay a brick or heavy pan (that can go into the oven) over a sheet of greased aluminium foil, on top of the cake, to compress the cake. Bake for about 15 minutes until the cake has set and remove the weight (brick or pan).
Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until cake is golden brown.

Drizzle a bit of rum or add a scoop of ice cream to enjoy this heavenly exotic "bread pudding" cake.

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