Tuesday, October 6, 2015

White chocolate bananas for the sick and infirm

In the past two weeks our family has had the occasion to send and receive a couple of fancy fruit baskets that come in the mail from loving family and friends. You know the ones I mean…the fruits are skewered, dipped in chocolate, and shaped and arranged like flower bouquets. (And their name is trademarked, so I probably shouldn’t write it in this blog post).

I love them, but my love hit a wall last week when I called to order one for my husband, who was in the hospital with a collapsed lung and was craving white-chocolate dipped bananas. As one does when one collapses a lung. 

Brian enjoying some hospital food. 

But when I was told that a box of such bananas would cost $30, NOT INCLUDING tax and delivery charge, I responded with a swift “hell NO” and headed to the grocery store.

I bought some very unripe bananas (still green at both ends), wooden coffee stirrers, and a bag of Lindt white chocolate morsels. Then I headed home, smug with the knowledge that this treat would cost a mere $7 and would be made with LOOOOOVE.

At home, I sliced the bananas into chunks large enough for a big, messy, and a bit rude single bite. I stuck a wooden stirrer into the end of each chunk. Finally, I heated the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each burst.

I dunked each banana chunk into the melted chocolate, shook them gently to allow excess chocolate to run off, and set them down onto a foil-lined pan. It took 15 minutes. When they were all done, I let them set in the fridge for about an hour. Then I delivered them to my grateful husband.


These commercially sold fruit baskets—which cost roughly $50 and frequently more!—also seem wicked easy to make: A few pieces of kale are wrapped over a chunk of floral foam that’s stuck in a vase. The fruit chunks (some of which are cut into shapes) are skewered, and some are dipped in chocolate. The skewers are stuck in the foam. Done.

Of course the question arises about whether you actually want to spend the time making such a thing. Part of the allure of sending a fruit basket is that someone else does the work for you. I get it, of course! I’ve sent many of these things and LOVE receiving them.

But I come by the DIY-desire to save a buck honestly: When I was a kid, my mother once spent months saving the nubs of bar soap and tried to melt them down into a single bar of Franken-soap in a saucepan on the stove. The end result? A kitchen that reeked of burned soap for days and a ruined saucepan that met its end in a strange, non-culinary task.

Brian requested another round of bananas a few days after my initial DIY triumph, and in making the second batch, I learned two things: High quality chocolate and the ripeness of the bananas matters a lot. I used bananas that were too ripe, and low-budget, store-brand chocolate morsels. The first batch of melted chocolate burned (and the bowl burned me); and the second batch seized up into an unworkable brick because the bananas were too wet. (Adding water to melted chocolate makes it chunky and grainy, dontcha know?) My Auntie Jodi offers another great tip: Add a cap full of veggie oil to store-brand chocolate for even better melting! 


SO. Buy these fruit baskets? Make them yourself? It’s up to you. I think I’ve made the case for either choice. But if you don’t want to drop $80, it’s nice to know that you can DIY relatively easily for a fraction of the cost.

As an aside, my husband is basically a hot mess during the month of October; we’ve got three years running. Reminisce with me here and here