The Sweet Stuff

By Tawny Maya McCray

August 7, 2009 6 min read

Pumpkin pie may be a tradition on Thanksgiving, but why not mix it up? Change things this year and serve a dessert that your friends and family will never forget.

David Latt, a television producer and creator of the blog "Men Who Like to Cook" (menwholiketocook.blogspot.com), goes beyond the pie. Since one friend consistently brings the traditional dessert, it frees him up to dazzle with a few creations of his own. A few of Latt's specialties include bread pudding with roasted almonds and chocolate, chocolate chip banana cake with roasted walnuts and easy-to-make baked custard.

"The custard is always a big favorite, as is the cake," Latt said. "Both go well with whipped cream, ice cream (especially vanilla), and fresh fruit (especially berries). We'll serve cut-up strawberries lightly dusted with powdered sugar to have with the custard and the cake."

Latt said all three of his desserts were born out of necessity.

"I don't like wasting food, so when we have leftover bread that's too stale to use for sandwiches, I figured out an easy bread pudding recipe that makes a great dessert," he said.

Latt credits his youngest son Michael with helping to create his chocolate chip banana cake with roasted walnuts. He said when Michael was on football and baseball teams in high school, he always worked out and was careful about what he ate. Michael's diet included bananas and egg whites, and whatever got left behind became Latt's inspiration.

"It seems as if we always had a bowl filled with bananas that had gotten a little too ripe for him," Latt said. "And practically every day we had egg yolks which I wasn't about to throw away."

Latt said for this Thanksgiving he may attempt to bake a classic flourless chocolate cake with roasted almonds or an apple pie that he's been fooling around with.

"I follow my mom's basic filling recipe -- apples, fresh lemon juice, brown sugar, raisins, and almonds -- but for the crust I've been making a simple pastry but added ground-up crystallized ginger," he said. "The result is a hint of ginger and a bit of heat submerged beneath the brown sugar and apple flavors so it all works really well."

He said if all else fails he'll whip up some strawberry sauce that he can spoon over vanilla ice cream.

Latt said his mom, who helped him start cooking at the age of nine, always felt that Thanksgiving was the best holiday because you pull together your friends and family, feed them and spend the evening catching up.

"She's gone now, but we've certainly carried on her spirit by making Thanksgiving one of our favorite holidays," he said. "We're looking forward to this year's. We all have a lot of be thankful for."

EASY-TO-MAKE BAKED CUSTARD

2 eggs

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

1 teaspoon sweet butter

Yields 4 to 6 servings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together eggs and sugar. Add cream and vanilla and stir well.

Butter a large 8-inch round baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Pour in custard.

Pour 1 inch of water to a large roasting pan. Place dish or ramekins into water bath. Bake 45 minutes in ramekins or 75 minutes in baking dish. Rotate every 15 minutes. If custard browns too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream or fresh berries.

Variations on custard (add before baking):

* Add 1/4 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped

* Add 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

* Add 1/4 cup high quality chocolate, roughly chopped

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA CAKE WITH ROASTED WALNUTS

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature

1/2 cup raw walnuts

4 ripe bananas

1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup half and half or 1 cup heavy cream

2 1/2 cups white flour

Pinch of sea salt

Pinch of cayenne

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Yields 8 to 10 servings

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan. Put pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (Frozen butter prevents batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet, bake the walnuts at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Let cool, roughly chop and set aside.

In a bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Add baking soda and vanilla. Stir well and set aside. In a mixer, cream softened butter and white and brown sugars. Add eggs, mashed bananas, half and half or cream. Whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time; don't overbeat. Use a rubber spatula to blend in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into buttered cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes, turning the pan every 20 minutes so cake cooks evenly. If top browns too quickly, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over it. Test by inserting a wooden skewer. When the skewer comes out clean, place cake on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan, putting back on rack to finish cooling.

Before serving, dust top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

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