The first time that I smelled the enticing aroma of brown butter, I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. My first thought was, "If I could bottle and sell this stuff, I could make a fortune!" Well, Eau de Brown Butter never came about, but I do cook and bake with this fragrant ingredient every chance that I get.
I had seen the term brown butter on restaurant menus before, usually as part of a rustic pasta dish, married with fresh sage and hazelnuts (o.k., now I'm getting hungry). But it wasn't until I was watching the great Julia Child do what she did best on Cooking Live!, during the old days of Food Network, that I actually learned how to master this classic French technique.
Brown butter, also called beurre noisette, is made by cooking butter for a long enough time so that the milk particles turn brown and the water cooks out. The resulting flavor is much nuttier and more complex than regular melted butter. Originally, brown butter was served over fish, but after the delicious word got out, chefs use it for everything from drizzling over brussels sprouts to flavoring cookies. For baked goods, such as this tart, brown butter adds a taste similar to butterscotch, and it blends beautifully with the cinnamon, vanilla, and banana flavors. Here are some tips for this sweet-tooth-satisfying tart:
- If you don't have dried beans or pie weights on hand, then use rice to fill the tart for the blind baking.
- The crust dough can be refrigerated for up to three days.
- If the filling cools for too long, it may become a bit tough. Add a splash of whole milk, half and half, or cream to loosen it up a bit for pouring into the tart shell.
- Because vanilla beans are so expensive, I usually don't buy them. Instead, I buy jars of vanilla bean paste, available at Trader Joe's for a much more reasonable price. Use one teaspoon of the paste as a substitute for one vanilla bean. Two teaspoons of vanilla extract can also be substituted.
- If you don't have a cinnamon stick, add ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon to the melted butter.
- For a great dinner party dessert, make this recipe into individual mini tarts, so that each guest will have their own personal sweet treat.
Brown Butter Banana Tart
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
⅓ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups flour
6 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
12 tablespoons butter
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup flour
2 medium bananas, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
Confectioner's sugar and lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving
Prepare the crust: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, and salt to blend. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until combined. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Press the crust dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch round or square tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze 20 minutes.
Prepare the filling: Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the seeds from the vanilla bean and then add the bean. Add the cinnamon stick and the salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter browns and becomes fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pod. Gradually whisk the browned butter into the yolk mixture. Whisk in the flour and set aside to cool.
Bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line the crust with foil or parchment paper. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the foil and beans, and then return to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly.
Assemble and bake the tart: Arrange the banana slices on the crust. Spoon the filling evenly over the banana slices. Bake the tart until golden brown and the filling is set, 30-35 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes and then remove the tart from the pan.
Dust the tart with powdered sugar, cut into squares or wedges, and serve warm or at room temperature.