The unusual ingredients combined in this treat are unified by the deliciousness resulting from nixtamalization, an ancient method for preparing corn. Nixta corn flour, sometimes called masa harina or masa seca, is lightened with a bit of tapioca starch and shortened with butter before being made into pie dough. A filling of over-ripe bananas with a touch of cream and cardamom completes the picture.
Yield: six, 4-inch tarts or one, 7-inch rustic galette.
Time to make: 40 minutes divided over two days. 20 minutes total oven dwell
Tools needed: Wide, shallow prep bowl. Measuring cups and spoons and/or kitchen scale. Knife. Whisk. Flexible spatula. Sheet of plastic or plastic wrap. Plastic or wooden work surface. Rolling pin. Long offset frosting knife. 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms or half-size sheet pan. Medium bowl. Bakers peel or thin sheet of stiff cardboard.
Bob's Red Mill masa harina is a flavorful and attractive yellow but must be processed in a spice grinder to achieve a finer consistency. Other brands of nixtamalized corn flour may be finer; most are not yellow.
1) Refrigerate flour overnight. If corn flour is somewhat coarse, place in a spice grinder and process for a minute or two, occasionally shaking the grinder to distribute. Place cornflour, tapioca starch, salt and xanthan gum in a wide, shallow prep bowl. Use a whisk to blend completely.
2) Using a sharp knife, cut across the end of the butter stick, making 1/8-inch thick slices. Toss the slices into the flour and toss with your fingers to cover each butter slice with flour. Use the palms of your hands to press each butter slice into a thin slab, taking care to toss the slabs occasionally so they are covered with flour.
3) Move the flour/butter mixture up along the sides of the prep bowl and spritz or sprinkle the surface with ice water. Use a flexible spatula to gently toss the mixture, revealing its dry side. Spritz or sprinkle this with additional ice water. Repeat if necessary to barely wet all the flour. Use no more than 3 ounces (90 ml) water.
4) Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic. Fold the plastic over the dough and use your hands/fists to press/pound the dough into a rectangle about 14 inches long X 5 inches wide. Gently peel back the plastic. If dough has dry spots, spritz or sprinkle them with a small amount of water. Fold the dough onto itself to create a square, turn the square over, then re-cover with plastic and shape - this time using a rolling pin - the dough back into a rectangle. If dry spots remain, spritz/sprinkle, repeat the square-up, turn-over, rectangulation and square-up. Wrap dough securely in the plastic and refrigerate, at least 2 hours or overnight.
5) Heat oven to 425. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly, about 10 - 20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the bananas into 1/4 inch thick pieces and place into a medium bowl. Add the sugar and cardamom and stir well. Add the cream and stir until all the slices are well-covered. Set aside.
6) Dust a work surface and rolling pin with potato starch. Gently but firmly roll the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick, occasionally passing an offset frosting knife underneath to loosen dough from work surface. If dough cracks considerably, give it a light spritz or sprinkle with water, fold it, let it rest another 10 minutes, and then roll out. Your rolled dough does not have to be pretty, just thin.
7) If making a large, rustic galette, skip to step #9, below. If making small tarts, cut 5 1/2" diameter circles in the dough and transfer to the tart pans. A pancake turner is helpful for this task. Gently press the dough into the pans and along the sides. Use small scraps to repair any cracks.
8) Bake the small tart crusts for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350. Arrange banana slices in the tarts and divide the cream equally among the tarts. Bake an additional 20 - 30 minutes, or until banana-cream blend is lightly caramelized. Remove from oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool thoroughly.
9) To make a galette, place the banana slices in a 7-inch circle at the center of the dough. Fold up the dough edges over the banana slices, creating a rustic tart. Transfer - with the help of a metal peel or stiff, thin piece of cardboard - the galette to a sheet pan. Drizzle the cream over the bananas and some of the tart edges. Bake 12 minutes at 425 F, reduce heat to 350, and bake another 30 minutes or so until banana layer has slightly caramelized. If edges begin to over-darken, protect with pieces of aluminum foil. Remove galette to a cooling rack and allow to cool thoroughly before enjoying.