The essential elements of this pudding – bananas caramelised into toffeeish decadence, and a naturally sweet, buttery oat crumble – are gorgeous despite having not a single gram of refined sugar. Served with a touch of cool Greek yoghurt, or even some very cold cream, it is a gloriously satisfying low-GI dessert.
It’s been a great pudding for friends who come round, too (and the non-dieting husband) – a few extra elements mean that everyone can customise their pudding to their own specific dietary requirements, whether that’s minimum impact on blood sugar or maxmimum indulgence. I’m low GI but pretty relaxed about fat/protein, but someone limiting their fat intake might sprinkle on less crumble and have Greek yoghurt/ half-fat creme fraiche rather than cream. To cater for the other end of the spectrum, I’ll make a quick salted caramel sauce and heat up some custard (either tinned or homemade) and the building blocks are there for everyone to tailor their own dessert – from dairy-free and sugar-free dessert to banoffee crumble with lashings of custard.
I’d hate it if people went home feeling deprived of a “proper” pudding – and this way I don’t feel like I’m missing out. It can be tricky to make substitutions work – I remember once serving frozen berries with hot white chocolate sauce poured over the top, and thinking I could sub out the sauce for fresh orange juice on my portion. Whilst it worked inasmuch as the juice was…liquid, coming straight from the fridge, it did not provide the same temperature contrast as the molten white chocolate – and crucially, the berries remained frozen, orange frost slowly freezing them together into a sad amorphous lump; when I eventually managed to chisel off a bit, it tasted like deprivation.
This crumble is similar to my full-fat/sugar version in that it’s 1:2 fat to grains, but replacing the refined flour with oats (a superfood, like almost everything else these days), excluding the sugar (the natural sweetness of the oats partly compensates) and replacing nearly half of the butter with an egg white. The egg white not only reduces the fat and calories, but adds crunch, offsetting the additional water content of the oats. To make it dairy-free, you can use coconut oil instead of butter, which we did here – you can’t taste the coconut in the finished dish. The crumble is halfway to a delicate granola, and has a lovely toasted digestive-biscuity flavour. It is baked separately from the fruit (but in the same oven) to ensure it stays crisp.
I use bananas because they really don’t need any sugar – unlike quince or rhubarb, which absolutely need sugar, or even apples and pears, which I think benefit from some sweetness. Good plums or apricots (or almost-good peaches and nectarines in the summer) would also work unsweetened.
Recipe: Healthy Banana Oat Crumble
8 ripe bananas
200g porridge oats (not instant oats! Just normal oat flakes)
60g fridge-cold butter or coconut oil, plus extra for buttering the dish
1 egg white (about 40g)
(if making this crumble with another fruit, such as apples/pears/rhubarb/quince/plums, a tablespoon of ground ginger is lovely here)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter an ovenproof dish (or give it a light spray of cooking oil from one of those single-calorie aerosols) and peel the bananas, slicing them into thick (1cm) coins and tumbling them into the dish. Cover with foil (for bananas or rhubarb – apples, plums etc. are more robust and can bake uncovered).
As soon as the oven gets to temperature, bake the bananas on the lower shelf whilst you prepare the topping.
2. Pulse the oats in a food processor with a teaspoon of salt (and the ground ginger, if using) until they break down and look like coarse sand. Add the butter/coconut oil and egg white, and pulse again until the mixture starts to adhere into rubble, (if it doesn’t come together, add a little more fat, a teaspoon at a time) and pulse well in between each addition). Again here you could add a few tablespoons of coarse demerara sugar to taste.
3. Spread the crumble mixture in a single layer on a sheet of baking parchment or baking silicon and slide in onto the (hot) baking sheet from the oven. Bake it on the top shelf of the oven with the fruit on the shelf below for 15-20 minutes, until the crumble is crisp and the bananas are soft – they should have darkened and given off a large amount of syrup. The bananas might take a bit longer than the crumble.
Whilst everything is baking, heat up a tin of custard (if using) and make the salted caramel sauce. You might want to leave the bananas, crumble and serving dishes in the turned-off oven to stay/get warm if they are ready before the sauce/custard.
Recipe: Salted Caramel Sauce
I’ve tried many recipes for salted caramel sauce (with every line I write, the mystery of my post-wedding weight gain is solving itself) and this, Smitten Kitchen’s ridiculously easy butterscotch sauce is by far the most reliable and easiest. And it’s addictively delicious (consider this a warning!) and the perfect pouring consistency. This is straight from Smitten Kitchen (originally from a book called The Perfect Cake via The Washington Post), but with metric measurements and rewritten instructions (spoiler alert – it’s basically: put ingredients in pan, heat, stir)
200g dark brown sugar
225ml double cream (whipping/single is fine too for a thinner sauce)
1/2 tsp Maldon salt
seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod, or 3 tsp vanilla
1. Melt butter in a largeish heavy saucepan (you want to have enough room to wield a balloon whisk – a frying pan is easier here than a too-narrow saucepan). Add the other ingredients (except the vanilla extract, if using. Seeds can go in at this point) and combine with the balloon whisk until the sugar is broken up. It will bubble enthusiastically.
2. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 mins or so, stirring with the balloon whisk and scraping out the corners with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. It should emulsify into a silky golden sauce and thicken.
3. When it’s reached your desired consistency (it will become much, much more viscous as it cools, and it’ll have to cool substantially before you can serve it hot – right now it would be like licking a star) turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using.
4. Let it cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, and taste (carefully! like a star, I tell you!) to adjust the amount of salt to taste.
[Troubleshooting – if you find you have over-boiled the sauce, or if the oil separates, a small splash of boiling water with some vigorous stirring over the heat will emulsify things over.]
Serve the bananas with their syrup in individual dishes. Sprinkle the crumble over the top, and then let everyone help themselves to cold cream or creme fraiche, hot salted caramel sauce and/or custard.