There was a textural divide in my home when I was growing up. To put it succinctly, I loved the mush. My sister, not so much. Sweet potato, squash, taro, steamed egg, thick rice pudding, cold tapioca, red bean soup, Bird’s custard: if you could glop it around with a spoon, I probably adored it while my sister wished it to burn – in order to get some crispy edges. Bananas, however, which can be incredibly mushy, were a point of agreement, something we both regarded with (varying) degrees of disdain.
Okay, but common ground aside, to me bananas still have their place. I do love a good banana flavour combination (except peanut butter) where the banana cheerfully coexists along other non-banana flavours and the end result is definitely banana, but not overly so. Banana-moderation, we can call it. And particularly in the context of caramel, even an overripe banana is delicious.
These cream puffs fit the bill. Houjicha, the toasted companion to green tea, has a taste that lingers between tea and dark roast coffee. It’s the star of these tea puffs, making up a pastry cream filling and whipped ganache against a caramelized banana compote (and bruleed banana half-moon).
It’s a great combination of toasty warm flavours, and yes, a really good hit of banana too.
caramelized banana houjicha cream puff
Craquelin adapted from the cream puff cookie topping from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. Choux pastry adapted from Alain Ducasse via Food and Wine. Ganache a random average of a few recipes, pastry cream based on standard ratios, and compote freehanded.
Makes plenty – you might have leftovers, but you can cut them it into circles and freeze it for further baking. I happened to have 6 leftover craquelin rounds in the freezer which I used – hence why only half the puffs have craquelin in the photos.
- 28g brown sugar
- 25g whole wheat flour
- 18g butter
Mix all ingredients together until it forms a cohesive dough. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment and roll out to a thickness of 1-2mm. Slide onto a pan and freeze until firm.
whole wheat choux
Makes 10-12 small-medium puffs.
- 29g or 1/4 stick of butter or about 2 tbsp
- 60g/1/4 cup milk
- good pinch kosher salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 30g or 1/4 c whole wheat flour
- approximately 1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper – on the backside, trace 12 3.5cm circles.
Place the butter, milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour and quickly mix in with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat and continue to cook the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pastry from the heat and let cool slightly before adding the egg, a bit at a time, beaten into the pastry most easily with the aid of a wire whisk. The dough should now be shiny, but not fluid (if its something a bit new to you, look up a video or a more detailed tutorial for the right consistency!). Importantly, you don’t need to use all the egg – or you may need a bit more than one egg! Assess the consistency of the dough after each addition of egg – sometimes I stop with still a bit of egg left.
Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe mounds of pastry onto the 3.5cm circles, each approximately a tablespoon-ish in size. Take the craquelin out of the freezer and cut 3.5cm circles from the dough. Top each puff with a round of the craquelin.
Bake for 5 minutes at 400F, then decrease temperature to 375F and bake 20-25 minutes more or until well browned. You can rotate the puffs after they’ve been in the oven for 20-25 minutes or so, once there are no worries of them deflating. Cut a small slit on the bottom of each puff to let the steam release and let cool on on a wire rack.
caramelized banana compote
You’ll likely have a bit leftover.
- 1 ripe banana, cut into quarters lengthwise and cut then cut crosswise into small chunks
- 15g butter
- 13g brown sugar
Heat butter and brown sugar together in a pan until the brown sugar melts. Add the banana and cook for a couple minutes or until the banana is soft. It will become quite saucy, but it will firm up as it cools.
houjicha pastry cream
Depending on how much banana compote you fill the puffs with, you’ll likely have a bit left over.
- 250g whole milk
- 4g houjicha, looseleaf or coarsely ground leaves
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 12g cornstarch
- 2 egg yolks
For the pastry cream, warm the milk until scalded. Stir in the houjicha. Cover and let steep overnight (or at least a few hours), transferring to the fridge once cool.
The next day, press the milk through a strainer and weigh – top up with a little more to bring it back to 250g if needed.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat until steaming. Slowly pour into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper. Return to the saucepan and continue to cook over medium to medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture just starts to bubble (you will have to pause your whisking to see it bubble). Let it cook, now whisking very vigorously, for a minute at a bubble, the immediately remove from the heat and pass through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover, let cool, and chill.
whipped houjicha white chocolate ganache
Delicious, but as with anything using white chocolate, also so very sweet! If you are more averse to sweetness you can always use plain whipped cream. There will likely be a little bit extra left over.
- 60g chopped white chocolate
- 100g heavy cream
- 1 tsp houjicha powder
Place the white chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl.
Heat the cream until it bubbles. Whisk a spoonful or two of the cream into the houjicha powder until smooth, then combine with the remainder of the hot cream.
Pour the hot cream over the white chocolate. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. The white chocolate should completely melt, but if not you can always heat it a bit in the microwave, being careful not to overheat.
Chill completely. Just before you’re ready to use it, whip the ganache with a wire whisk until fluffy and stiff, like whipped cream. It’s best to do this right before so the ganache will be smoother when you pipe it.
- banana slices, optionally bruleed by sprinkling with sugar and using either a torch or broiler
Trim the top off of each cream puff. Spoon a bit of banana compote into the bottom.
Transfer the pastry cream to a piping bag and fill the remainder of each puff with the pastry cream (I like using a long filling tip ie a bismark tip mostly just so I can get into all the corners of the cream puff and ensure it is filled).
Transfer the whipped white chocolate ganache to a piping bag, fitted with a large petal tip (if you have a St. Honore tip, I think that would work even better!). Pipe the ganache on top of each puff in a squiggly pattern.
Top each puff with a halved slice of banana, optionally bruleed. Best eaten soon.