A few words to express how I feel about bananas:
I would not eat them at the table
I would not eat them with an organic label
I would not toss them into oatmeal
I would not buy a 2-for-1 deal
I would not munch them with granola
I would not chase them with a glass of cola
I would not draw them with felt marker
I do not care if they are bright yellow or darker
I would not bring them on a picnic
I do not doubt they’d make me sick
I would not take them into space
I do not want them near my face
I would not like them in any universe
I do not carry one in my purse
I do not want them whole or in pieces
I would not feed them to my nieces…
What’s that? A fried fritter, you say?
Kindly make haste and bring it my way!
And Dr. Seuss continues to inspire generations of writers– Clumsy poetry aside, bananas are my Green Eggs & Ham! That mushy, stinky, pale fruit could not be more repulsive to me in its raw form. There is nothing appetizing to me about bananas, but for some reason I don’t mind them in banana bread and muffins, and I even made a tasty banana-butterscotch cupcake a few years back. Because they’re palatable to me in baked form, I was willing to try this recipe for Bananas Foster Fritters from Baked Explorations for this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment. In fact, the closer it got to frying time, the more curious and excited I got, despite a moderate fear of frying. I am so very glad that I decided to make them– what a lovely revelation!
This recipe calls for making the fritters with a rum dipping sauce, and I figured that only good things can come of that, right? The ingredients were pretty straightforward, except for the banana liqueur. Vanilla extract is suggested as a substitute, which I elected to use because a) I have no other reason to purchase banana liqueur and would likely never entertain drinking it, b) given my poetic description above, I wanted to minimize banana flavor, and c) I love me some vanilla! Both the fritters and sauce called for banana/vanilla, dark brown sugar, rum, and cinnamon– when put together, these items generally result in delicious things to eat.
Since I don’t buy or eat bananas, I wasn’t quite sure what “ripe” meant, and I seemed to recall that banana bread calls for super-soft ones. One of my fellow Baked Sunday Mornings bakers recommended “yellow with some brown”, so I went with that, and this seemed to be a reasonably soft, but not rotten, texture.
I first made the dipping sauce, which was exceedingly easy. I melted the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, then added the cream and brought the mixture just to a boil. After removing from the heat, I added the vanilla, rum, and cinnamon. Sauce = done.
For the fritters, you combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, kosher salt, allspice, and half of the cinnamon in a small bowl. Then comes the part I was dreading… dealing with the bananas. The recipe says to mash them with your hands or a spoon; I couldn’t bring myself to mash them with my hands, and neither a spoon nor a fork worked well, so I used my potato masher. This worked okay, though I still had big chunks. (I think an avocado masher, which looks like a small potato masher, would work better to fit into the rounded bottom of the bowl.) Needless to say, this mash did not look the least bit appetizing, but I continued on, adding the rum, vanilla, and melted butter. The mixture was still quite lumpy, so I smoothed it out slightly by whisking for a few seconds. I considered pulsing it a few times in the food processor, but then decided it didn’t have to be completely smooth.
The dry ingredients are then folded in with a spatula, turning the mash mixture into a dough. It took a good few minutes of folding to incorporate all the flour– at first I thought maybe I made a flour measuring error. But sure enough, eventually everything came together smoothly. The dough is a beige color with small lumps of banana visible… not one of the more attractive mixtures I’ve made! It should look pretty wet, but definitely not runny. The recipe says to add small amounts of flour if your dough is too loose, but that was not a problem.
I slipped the dough into the fridge while preparing the frying oil. I debated whether or not to dust off the deep fryer that I bought years ago to make falafel and French fries… and haven’t used since. Since I rarely fry, I wasn’t sure how things would go using the prescribed pan-and-thermometer method. My candy/oil thermometer could not be clipped to this type of pan, and my probe thermometer (which was unfortunately not cheap) didn’t work most of the time… Plus, I anticipated a big, greasy mess. But I decided to go with it, since I was equally unsure about the deep fryer! Sure enough, the probe thermometer wouldn’t even turn on, so I had no choice but to hold the candy thermometer in the pan from time to time to check the temperature. (I recommend using one with a probe that can simply be draped in the pan the whole time, such as this one made by Taylor.) By the way, it took an entire liter bottle of vegetable oil to fill the pan with enough oil to fry!
The oil initially took about 30 minutes to reach its temperature of 375°F. Fortunately I have a gas stove, so it’s a little easier to adjust the temperature, but as a frying novice, I found it difficult to regulate the heat. When the oil was finally hot enough, I took the dough out of the fridge and began scooping fritters using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop with a diameter of about 1 inch. (This also results in round, attractive fritters… if you ever think of fritters as “pretty”, that is.) Upon contact with the hot oil, the dough portion puffed to twice its original size, so using a larger ice cream scoop would yield massive fritters that would be difficult to cook evenly.
The recipe says it will yield 6-10 fritters, but it was immediately evident that I would end up with about double that number. These should be fried only a handful at a time– this is VERY important. If you fill the pan with too many fritters at once, it will drop the oil temperature too much too quickly, and your dough will not cook up properly. I fried about 4-6 at a time, and even then it was hard to control the temperature. (For some reason they like to line up in a row like little ducks.)
Another important note is that the oil must be heated up slowly (not on medium-high, as the recipe directs). I heated mine on medium, and my first batch was still too hot. As soon as I dropped them in their oily bath, they started turning a deep brown, so I had to pull them out after just a couple of minutes to avoid burning; sure enough, the centers were still doughy after I took them out. For every batch thereafter, I monitored the temperature very carefully and constantly, and the rest of my fritters fried up perfectly golden and cooked through!
Because I could only cook a few fritters at a time and I had to wait for the oil to come back up to 375°F between each batch, this frying process took the better part of an hour. With the right thermometer, it would likely not be as tedious. No matter, they appeared to come out really well, and I was eager to sample the goods!
While waiting for the oil to heat up, I had whisked together the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon for the topping; I’m not sure I’ve ever made cinnamon-sugar with powdered sugar, only granulated. I dusted the finished fritters using a small sieve and plunged a warm fritter into the eagerly waiting rum dipping sauce…
Oh, my. The exterior of the fritters had a light, crisp crunch, and the insides were soft and pillowy! The rum sauce was the perfect accompaniment, providing a sweet, boozy accent to the fried dough. I had to restrain myself from eating the lot of ‘em… and I don’t even like bananas! I found the banana flavor to be certainly present, but not overwhelming at all. This is an acceptable delivery method for potassium, no??
And since I can’t resist variations, I began pondering different dipping sauces, the most interesting of which would be a spekuloos sauce! Spekuloos biscuits are Belgian/Dutch cookies similar to spiced graham crackers, which can be made into a spread or sauce and can be served on waffles, ice cream, or any number of things for extra deliciousness! I think a vanilla bean sauce would be lovely as well– perhaps I’ll make a dipping sauce trio next time.
I was very, very pleased with this little fried surprise and would definitely make them again (even though my apartment smelled like oil for several hours afterwards). They should be made right before serving whenever possible for the best texture. On the second day, they were definitely still acceptable for leftover snacking (after microwaving for a few seconds), but they were soggy by that point, so I wouldn’t serve them to others in that state. Incidentally, these would be a fun twist on traditional Chanukah sufganiyot (holiday donuts which are sometimes filled with jelly).
Deep frying is tricky, and I feel fortunate that these came out well on my first attempt! Next time I will likely try using the deep fryer. Here are a few tips for successful fritters:
- Using a thermometer is essential… and make sure it works properly
- Heat the oil *slowly* to the proper temperature, and return the oil to said temperature between each batch
- Do not crowd the pan– only fry about 4-6 fritters at a time
- Your oil should be bubbling “happily” when the dough is frying, not sputtering all over the place
The recipe for Bananas Foster Fritters can be found at Baked Sunday Mornings. Check out how the other bakers did with this week’s recipe too!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.