My Banana Has a Last Name, It's O-F-F-E-E: Banoffee Blondies

I have heard the term "banoffee" used before, but always in conjunction with banoffee pie, an English banana cream pie made with dulce de leche (or "toffee" -- which is where the latter part of the word "banoffee" is derived). But about the same time I recently had a bunch of overripe bananas in the fruit bowl, I noticed that Rachel Allen has a recipe for "Banoffee Blondies" in her cookbook Cake. In this recipe, the toffee component comes from homemade almond praline -- and as an almond-phile, I couldn't pass it up.

The instructions to make the almond praline are: place sugar in a non-stick frying pan, scatter whole almonds on top, and cook without stirring until the sugar turns a deep golden caramel. I tried making the praline this way and I ended up with a burned mess. I think this is because I had a lot of sugar in the pan (I was making a double batch of the recipe), and without stirring, I wasn't able to melt all of the sugar before the layer on the bottom had turned too dark; even trying to just swirl the sugar around the pan was difficult when the nuts were in there at the same time. I have dry burned sugar in the past and never had a problem if I stirred it. So for my second attempt at the praline, I just put the sugar in the pan without the nuts, stirred it until it melted, and then added the almonds. I poured the praline onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and let it cool.

You are supposed to chop the cooled praline into the consistency of "very coarse breadcrumbs," or pulse it in a food processor. I wanted to keep it a bit chunkier, because I love the crunchy texture of nuts in baked goods. Plus, when I made peanut brittle and ground it up for Christina Tosi's peanut butter cookies, I was disappointed that the brittle texture was completely lost in the cookies because the pieces were so small. So I put the praline in a plastic bag and bashed it with my Matfer nylon rolling pin. I don't use the nylon pin much for pastry (I prefer my wood pin), but the Matfer is heavy and hard enough to qualify as a deadly weapon, and it did a nice job crushing the brittle into pieces.

For the blondie batter, you melt butter and white chocolate, add in sugar, egg, mashed bananas and vanilla, and then stir in the almond praline. The recipe is written to be baked in an 8-inch square pan and I made a double batch in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan, so I figured that it might require a little extra baking time compared to the prescribed 30-35 minutes. The blondies took 50 minutes to bake.

Allen says you can serve the blondies warm, but I let the them cool completely before slicing them. They were very moist -- and almost damp -- but fully cooked. I would call the texture fudgy, except that it seems wrong to use that word when there is no chocolate involved. These bars are terrific. They have a very strong banana flavor, and they tasted like a dense banana cake with big pieces of almond chunks. I'm so glad I left the praline pieces coarse, because I loved the texture from the nuts.

I do have to say that I thought the bars were too sweet. There are multiples sources of sugar in the cake -- brown sugar, white chocolate, bananas, and the almond praline. I would happily bake these blondies again, but if I do, I would definitely cut down on the amount of brown sugar.

Recipe: "Banoffee Blondies" from Cake by Rachel Allen, recipe available online here.