[Recipe] Hedy’s Banana Brunch Panini with Maple Bacon Crunch

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We all know TGHG executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith isn’t shy when it comes to sweets, and she’s taking her panini game to a whole new level next week representing team genuine at LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade.  This west coast fundraiser is the only daytime affair on Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s (ALSF) chef-supported event circuit, meaning all sorts of fun possibilities are on the menu, including Hedy’s Banana Brunch Panini with Maple Bacon Crunch! This panini covers every base when it comes to brunch. With salty sweetness of maple bacon, the creaminess of cream cheese, crunch of granola, and soft crispness of La Brea Bakery’s Parker Rolls.

Michael, Hedy and Bradley at last year's event!

Michael, Hedy and Bradley at last year’s event!

Decadent and delicious, L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade brings superstar chefs and mixologists from across the country to Los Angeles to lend their support to ALSF and the fight against childhood cancer. Each chef and mixologist prepares a signature dish for guests to sample. Guests have the opportunity to taste incredible fare and meet and even chat with the chefs who prepared it. L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is hosted by Chef Suzanne Goin and business partner Caroline Styne (Lucques, AOC, Tavern) along with Chef David Lentz (The Hungry Cat). The event has raised nearly $2 million to fund childhood cancer research, raising more than half a million at the 2013 event alone!

If you aren’t in La La Land Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, you can still get your brunch panini fix at home with the recipe below and donate to one of the causes dearest to our hearts at the same time by clicking here.  Hedy swears by one press in particular for perfect results, the Breville Smart Grill. “It has several height settings, and it caramelizes my panini like no other machine.” When I saw her using one in pastry yesterday to crank out the above photo subjects , I could tell why. It’s like the Ferrari of presses, but pretty compact (it has to be in that station!) Super efficient, just the way we like to work, especially when HQ is in the Sunday brunch crunch!  Thank you again to Breville for always coming through with Genuine hardware and to fearless chef leader Suzanne Goin for inviting Miami to the party each and every year!  A sweet treat for an even sweeter cause.

Banana Brunch Panini with Maple Bacon Crunch

Serves 12

8 ounces cream cheese, brought to room temperature
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 dozen La Brea Bakery Parker House Rolls
4 just-ripe bananas, sliced 1-inch thick on the bias
1 cup crunchy granola, store-bought or homemade
Maldon salt or other flakey sea salt, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup Maple Bacon bits (see recipe below)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat a panini press to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed, cream the cream cheese and brown sugar until fully incorporated and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, vanilla and salt until combined, about 1 more minute. Scrape the bowl and paddle with rubber spatula and set aside.

To assemble the panini, split the rolls open and lay out on the counter, inside up. Spread the sweetened cream cheese mixture on tops and bottoms.  On each bottom half, place 2 slices of banana, topping with a sprinkle of maple bacon bits and a light dusting of Maldon salt.  Evenly distribute granola onto the top halves, pressing down so the crumbles stick to the cream cheese. Carefully flip the top onto the bottom pressing to have both halves become one. Combine the cinnamon and sugar.  Brush the melted butter on both the top and bottom of the panini and sprinkle the top with the cinnamon sugar.

Place on the preheated press, carefully close without added pressure, and toast until golden brown and caramelized, about 4-6 minutes. Carefully remove the panini, set it on a cutting board.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes.  Enjoy, or eat later reheating in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes or until crispy.

Maple Bacon Bits

Makes 1 cup

½ pound thick cut bacon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
½  teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the bacon, maple syrup, brown sugar molasses and salt. Coat the bacon, cover the bowl allow to sit 30 minutes or longer, but no longer then 24 hours. Place the strips of bacon on a rack over a baking pan to catch the fat.  Bake the bacon until it becomes dark caramel color, about 25-30 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and immediately remove the bacon from the rack. It will be sticky and hot, so be careful. Allow to cool completely, about an hour. Pulse in a food processor until consistency of gravel.

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