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Goes Well With Lao Food - Banh Chuoi - Vietnamese Banana Cashew Cake

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Goes Well With Lao Food - Banh Chuoi - Vietnamese Banana Cashew Cake

Akatonbo | Apr 30, 2006 02:49 PM

This is a Vietnamese dessert that's more like a bread pudding, and shows the French influence in its use of milk, bread and butter. Success depends on using a firm, home-made style white bread (the kind that's 50% air won't do), and compressing the bread so that the finished loaf is solid. I have made it using Italian bread, as well.

6 T. unsalted butter
4 oz thick coconut milk
2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
30 slices home-made style white bread (2 loaves)
4 ripe bananas
2 T. sugar
1/2 cup coarsely crushed dry-roasted cashews (unsalted)

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and use some of it to heavily grease a 9" loaf pan. To the butter in the saucepan, add the coconut milk, whole milk and the 2/3 cup sugar. Heat on medium, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the bananas and cut them into 1/2" thick slices. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle them with the 2 T. of sugar, turning them to coat them all with sugar.

Trim the crusts from the bread to make rectangles about 3" by 3 1/2" (discard the heels).

Give the coconut milk mixture a stir to mix the butter through, then dip a slice of bread in it just long enough to wet it. Lay it on the bottom of the loaf pan and continue with the other pieces, overlapping slightly, and pressing to compress the pieces together. Always stir the milk mixture before dipping. When the bottom is covered in a single layer, lay down another layer, then arrange 1/3rd of the banana slices on the bread, in a rectangle in the center. Sprinkle on 1/4 of the cashews. Lay down two more layers of dipped bread topped with bananas and cashews, then another set (ie: bread-bread-banana-cashew, bread-bread-banana-cashew). You have now used all of the bananas and 3/4 of the cashews. While building the layers, stuff additional pieces of bread down all four sides, pressing with a chopstick to make sure that all the bread is compressed and there are no gaps. Add another layer of soaked bread across the top, piecing it as necessary to close all gaps, and compressing gently. Sprinkle the last 1/4 of cashews on top, then add the last layer of bread. Press gently to compact the loaf and seal the side eges and the seams of the top. There should be just a bit of coconut milk mix left. Save it to baste the loaf while baking.

Bake the Banh Chuoi in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, then baste the edges with a little of the coconut milk mix. Bake another 20 minutes, then baste again, being sure to brush the top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, until the top is a rich golden brown, and a skewer inserted at various points comes out dry (go down in the sides to avoid the bananas).

Let the pan cool enough to handle, then put a plate over the top, turn plate and pan upside down, and carefully ease the cake out. Turn it over so it's right-side up. let cool for 15 or 20 minutes. Slice and serve it while its still warm.

Banh Chuoi will keep at least a week, tightly covered.

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