Sunday, June 13, 2010

A two-fer

Another cruddy day outside means you get two blog posts in one weekend!  Well, that and the fact that I had bananas that were on their way out.

I searched a few cookbooks for a good banana recipe.  I found what I was looking for in my Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, edited by Jennifer Dorland Darling.  I think my good friends Scott & Sarah Patton gave me this many years ago.

Banana Cake
2 eggs
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla

1. Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, grease and flour two 8" or 9" round cake pans, or one 13x9 oblong pan. Set aside

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add bananas, buttermilk, shortening, and vanilla.  Beat on low speed until combined.  Add eggs; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared pan(s).

3. Bake in a 350 oven for 25 - 30 minutes for round pans, about 30 minutes for oblong pan, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers out clean.  Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes.  Remove cake layers from pans; cool thoroughly on racks.  Or, place 13x9 pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly.  Frost with desired frosting.

There's a note at the top of the recipe that says, "For the purist, only Cream Cheese Frosting will do on this cake."  Far be it from me to go against the purists.  So, I frosted with this recipe, out of the same book:

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
5-3/4 to 6-1/4 sifted powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well.  Gradually beat in additional powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency.  Cover and store frosted cake in the refrigerator.

A couple of things.  First off, I did not have any buttermilk, so I had to make 'sour milk'.  I felt a bit like a mad scientist.  I think I may have even cackled like one, for the benefit of my 14 year old baby brother who's staying with me this weekend.  The cookbook says to measure out 1 TBSP of lemon juice or vinegar per 1 cup of sour milk needed.  Put the vinegar in the measuring cup, then measure out the milk to equal 1 cup of liquid.  Since I needed only 3/4 c., I had to do some math...(carry the 1...).  I needed 2 1/4 tsp.  The result looked like normal milk, but 'gritty'.  It was weird.

The kids also had great fun poking at the gross bananas (they're sooo squishy!!).  If I have bananas that no one wants to eat, and I don't feel like baking, I throw them in the freezer.  I take them out the night before I am going to bake.  The result is a banana that is completely black on the outside, slimy on the inside.  You can't imagine that we live in a world where you could cook with these things and have the result be something tasty.  But it works!  The batter for this cake was the consistency you expect from a cake batter, quite runny.

I think the cook time is off on the recipe.  At 30 minutes, the top was not brown, and the middle of the cake still jiggled.  I cooked for about 42 minutes.  The result is to your left.

To your right, you'll observe the frosting.  This recipe is superb, and I think it will be my go to for future cream cheese frosting needs.  I used toward the low end of the measurement indicated for the confectioners sugar.  I also added a couple of splashes of milk to make it a little easier to spread.

Below is the frosted cake (I'm starting to feel like a tour guide).  I used the 13x9 pan because I'm lazy.  What can I say?  Our favorite neighborhood watering hole was very generous with their pours last night.

If you love banana bread, you will love this cake.  It is delicious.  It is moist and flavorful.  The only tweak I might make is to add some cinnamon.  I think it would be a great addition to the flavor profile (la-dee-dah).  The cream cheese icing is the perfect compliment.  Here's what a piece looks like:

On to the next baking adventure........

xo, Shell

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Loaf cake on a loafy kind of day

It's a cold & rainy day here in Colorado.  What better way to spend it than baking??

So, I went through my "Little Black Book of Chocolate" again and found a recipe for Chocolate Loaf Cake.  It calls for ingredients that I always have on hand, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Loaf Cake

1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. dairy sour cream
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
3/4 c. ground walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir into sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.  Stir in chocloate & walnuts.

Pour into greased 9 in x 5 in loaf pan.  Bake in preheated oven 65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Place pan on rack 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on rack.

A couple of notes:

1. I did not adjust the leavening agent, per my friend's recommendation, even though I live at altitude.

2. I used 'light' sour cream, because that's what I have on hand.

3. I didn't have squares of unsweetened chocolate.  If you find yourself in this predicament, you can use 3 TBSP of cocoa powder PLUS 1 TBSP of shortening per ounce of chocolate that you need.  I melted the shortening in a pyrex measuring cup, then mixed in the cocoa powder.

4. I always consider nuts 'optional' in any given baked good.  If I added nuts, my children wouldn't eat said dessert, and I'd be forced to consume the entire loaf cake myself. That would be unfortunate.  I have not eaten an entire cake since college, and I had my reasons then.  Don't judge.

I had a little helper in my process today. My 9 year old son makes an excellent apprentice. Here he is, measuring out the sour cream.

Notice the excellent technique.  If only I could get him to clean his room with such intense focus!

The batter was very thick, almost like a banana bread batter.  I had to force it into submission with my spatula.

The finished product looked superb!  It rose in exactly the way I would expect it to!

Here's what it looks like sliced:

How did it taste?  Excellent.  It is not too dry (I attribute this to baking only 60 minutes, and leaving in the pan for 15).  I intend to serve it for dessert tonight with some fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream.  YUM!

As an aside, it was also most excellent with a nice red wine.  I really like this Pinot Noir.  It's a nice, smooth red at a decent price.  Take note of the glass.  It was one of my mom's, and was the one that I always seemed to choose on our infamous "wine & Scrabble" Friday nights.  Yes, people, my life is *that* exciting.

Thanks for reading.  On to the next baking adventure...........

xo, Shell

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cupcakes can taste good when they're flat

I'm just sayin'...

So, we threw a party on Memorial Day Sunday.  I thought I would try a recipe from my "Little Black Book of Chocolate" by Barbara Bloch Benjamin.

I had all of the ingredients to try to make the Festive Chocolate Roll, BUT, no parchment paper.  And, when I went to find a 'jelly roll pan', there was nothing to be found.  I suppose I have to try a specialty store to find what I need.

SO, I went for the chocolate cupcakes.  Here's the recipe:

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. cake flour
1-1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/3 c. milk, divided
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
Frosting of choice

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease 24 muffin cups and set aside. 

Cream butter in large bowl.  Combine dry ingredients and stir into butter.  Add 1 cup milk slowly and beat until smooth. 

Stir in remaining 1/3 c. milk, eggs, vanilla, and chocolate.  Pour into prepared muffin cups and bake in preheated oven 20 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes, remove from pans, and cool on racks.  Frost as desired.

So, first step, no problem.  I went to my favorite source of cooking spray for baked goods:

Since I live at 6000+ feet, I adjust the amount of leavening agent down (baking soda/powder).  Other than that minor adjustment, I made the recipe as written.  The batter looked amazing.

Unfortunately, the finished product didn't look quite as lovely as the batter.........

Notice the burnt edges, the flat cupcakes.  Pulling them out of the pan was even worse.  Most of the time, the muffin tops fell off the bottoms (if only I could get rid of my own muffin top so easily).

BUT, they tasted fantastic.  They were moist and lovely with a glass of milk.

I didn't serve them at my party because they weren't pretty enough.  My friend, Lisa, told me that she stopped adjusting for the altitude because her cookies and cakes always turned out flatter when she did.  Go figure..

On to the next baking adventure......................

xo, Shell