I thought it was time for something a bit lighter in flavour so I selected a recipe for Baked Bananas that appeared in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. It was submitted by Mrs. E. Hollinger. I’ve already tried her Steamed Date Pudding (Day 27) and Cream of Potato Soup (Day 16) recipes and they both turned out well despite some less than precise instructions.
As mentioned in the previous posts, Mrs. Hollinger was the wife of a hotel keeper and I suspect she cooked professionally. She has over a dozen recipes in the cook book and so far they all seem to assume some prior cooking knowledge and experience — or she’s one of those cooks who leaves out a key instruction.
I bought some bananas to make this recipe almost a week ago but put it off since it requires custard. I like custard but have a poor record when it comes to making custard. I can prepare burnt custard, curdled custard and never set custard but not good custard. Therefore I was pleased to discover Birds Custard Powder and after some quick research I found out it has been around since 1837!! Ironically Mr. Bird invented it for his wife who was allergic to eggs. http://www.birdscustard.co.uk/
I was still hesitant to make this recipe as there are two confusing instructions but I decided to give it a try. I peeled two bananas and cut them in half length wise. I placed them on the bottom of a small casserole dish. I sprinkled some sugar over them and then reread the recipe trying to figure out the instruction to “sprinkle” the custard. Did Mrs. Hollinger use custard powder and therefore sprinkled the powder over the bananas? Or did she make custard and some how sprinkle that over the bananas? I decided to make the custard. I added 3 tablespoons of the powder along with 3 tablespoons of sugar to a saucepan. Now I was to add 2 1/2 cups of milk but the package said this makes custard sauce. I kept thinking about a later instruction in Mrs. Hollinger’s recipe which says to cover with water. I decided to make a thicker custard so I just added 2 cups of milk and stirred over medium heat until it thickened. The custard turned out successful. I “sprinkled” some over the bananas. I added another layer of bananas, sugar and custard. I placed four slices of lemon on top and then reread the recipe to try to understand the instruction concerning water. I have made custard style recipes which call for placing a pan of water in the oven alongside the baking custard. I’ve made recipes where the custard is baked in dishes sitting in water (a bain marie) but pouring water over this nice looking dessert seemed strange. Wouldn’t the custard get thin? I decided to add the water as instructed. I poured enough water to reach just to the top bananas. I baked the dish in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
I was disappointed when I took the baked bananas from the oven because it was bananas and hard custard sitting in a pool of water. I bravely tasted this concoction and it was bananas with hard custard. Warm bananas are deliciously sweet so that part was good but they were a little soggy from the water. The custard was okay but I preferred it fresh from the saucepan not baked. The lemon flavour was a nice addition.
I’d like to try making Mrs. Hollinger’s Baked Bananas again. My next attempt I’ll try making it bain marie style – the dish sits in water not water poured in the dish. If that is not a success, I’ll try sprinkling the bananas with custard powder. My suggestion to modern cooks is to experiment with the custard, banana, and lemon combination as the flavours went together very well.
Cut the bananas in two, lay one layer of bananas, sprinkle with custard and sugar, repeat until dish is filled; add a few slices of lemon, pour over cold water enough to cover, bake about 20 minutes.