I often bring home a bunch of bananas from the grocery store, thinking I’ll take them to work as a lunchtime dessert or midmorning snack. The very next day, I’ll forget about them, and before long they’ll blacken on the counter. My husband also buys a bunch of bananas and forgets to eat them, and our roommate too purchases enormous bunches of the fruit on his sporadic trips to the wholesale club. For some reason, everyone in our household thinks the fruit will be eaten, but it always ends up going to waste.
I wonder if this is unique to us or if it happens to other people, too.
Banana bread seems to be the be-all and end-all solution for using up overripe bananas, but almost every recipe I encounter calls for no more than a couple. I’m left wondering what to do with the remaining four to six in my kitchen that are starting to become a meeting place for flies. I certainly don’t want to make more than one loaf of banana bread. Banana bread frustrates me. A slice or two is fine, but it’s never been sweet or decadent enough for my flamboyant sweet tooth.
One day, faced with a bunch of very ripe bananas nearing the ends of their lives, I decided to experiment with my pantry. I spread a shortbread cookie dough into a quarter sheet pan, topped it with slices of bananas, and drizzled everything with a whole can of condensed milk. I baked this until the condensed milk got sticky and caramelized at the edges and partially seeped into the cookie.
Later addenda to this recipe included: a dusting of cocoa powder for some bitterness to offset the sweetness of the cookie base, and nuts for a little crunch to contrast the gooey condensed milk and soft banana. It tasted wonderful.
The best part? I haven’t wasted a banana since.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Makes: 1 quarter sheet pan of bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-size pieces
1/2 cup pecans (or any type of nut)
4 very ripe bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1. Lightly grease a quarter sheet pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt into a food processor. Cover and pulse a few times until the dry ingredients are well-combined.
3. Add the butter all at once and pulse until the butter and the dry ingredients form a sandy consistency. Add the nuts and pulse again until everything forms a soft ball. Turn out the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan and smooth out with your fingers, making the dough reach the sides and corners of the sheet pan.
4. Place the sheet pan in the freezer. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Once the oven comes to temperature, remove the sheet pan from the freezer and prick the dough all over with a fork. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
5. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool to room temperature. It will seem too soft to support the bananas and condensed milk, but just let it rest. It will harden as it cools. Meanwhile, raise the oven temperature to 375°F.
6. When the cookie base has cooled completely, place a layer of bananas on top of it, slightly overlapping each slice of banana. Now evenly pour the entire can of condensed milk over the bananas. You may use a flexible spatula to evenly distribute it, but don’t worry too much about it. It will even out in the oven.
7. Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the top of the bars is sticky and lightly golden brown. You will only see a film of white. If you see too much liquidy condensed milk, put it back in the oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.
8. Let cool completely before slicing and serving, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.