Monday, December 1, 2008
BAKED BANANA FRITTERS
Another one of my late mother-in-law's food that I have inherited.
At the orchard where my in parents in law lived fruits always grew in abundance and bananas were one of them. With combs and combs of bananas spilling over in their backyard, more than they could ever eat, my mother-in-law did what was the most natural thing to do in a hot tropical country like ours. She split the bananas lengthwise and baked them in the sun. Very much like sun dried fish, sun dried prawns and so many other kinds of dried foods in this part of the world.
The results, after a few blistering days in the searing sun, were caramelized bananas, browned and shrunken to half their original size. And golden with a rich caramelized sweetness.
Then my mother-in-law did the next most natural thing. She deep fried them in hot oil and she would serve them as a mid-afternoon snack almost everyday until the stock of bananas depleted.
So the first time that I was presented by my mother-in-law with a carton full of sun-baked bananas from their orchard I immediately made a batter that would crack and crackle at every bite to match the caramelized, candy sweetness of the fruit. It was pure heaven and I have never looked back since. My favourite banana fritters.
However, it has been years since I have had fried bananas like those again simply because I have never considered sun baking fruits as a desirable past time. There's a reason that I only exit the house in the later part of the afternoon or in the early part of the morning and use kilos of sun block each time. And there is a reason too that there are five air conditioners in our home.
So I did the next best thing that I could think of. I baked them for about an hour in the oven. The results though was not and can never be as nature would have caramelized them but they were better than not at all.
These were the bananas that I used. I wish I knew the name (I'll have to d a little asking around) but these are the bananas that are meant for frying. If I waited another day for them to ripen further they would have caramelized sweeter and richer when baked I'm sure......
Skin and then split each banana lengthwise and place the pieces on a baking tray lined with non stick baking paper. Bake them in the oven at 150 C for an hour or slightly more until the bananas have reduced in size a little and are slightly golden but not too much. I once baked them too long and they turned out as hard as bricks. So be careful not to overbake them!
After baking.....see how they have shrunk a little and how the sugar in the fruit look more concentrated. If these were sun dried they would be very very golden and you could almost feel the caramel when you squeezed it a little.
The bananas below were the ones that were still whole and unpeeled in teh picture above. I allowed them to ripen for 24 hours since I bought them and then baked them at 150 C for maybe 1 1/2 hours and look how they turned out!! Beautifully golden, sugary sweet and moist. It's looks almost as good as the sun baked ones! One lesson learnt. Use really really ripe bananas for baking. Can you see the difference from the top tray of bananas? It's a vast difference isn't it?
When done remove tray from the oven and let the bananas cool. In the meantime make the batter........
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup rice flour plus 1 Tbsp
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
a good pinch of salt
About 3/4 cup water ( I used a bit more..about 3/4 cup plus 1/8 cup)
Mix everything together until you get a smooth batter without any lumps. I must emphasize the salt here. It is really good if you can achieve a trace of saltiness in the batter. It brings out the sweetness of the fruit. It sounds strange but I suppose for the sake of logic the slight edge of saltiness in the batter contrasts and brings out the sweetness of the fruit even more (did I just repeat myself? So much for logic)... Anyway it really makes so much difference to the overall taste of the fritter.
Dip the bananas in the batter and fry them in hot oil until golden brown and crisp. Serve while still hot or warm to enjoy the crunch and crackle of the batter.
Note : The bananas will never be as sweet or as richly caramelized as sun dried ones but they do taste better, with a slight chewiness to it, than a banana fritter that has not been baked. That is my humble opinion of course.