Saturday, August 29, 2009

Banana Bread that Works!

Sometimes, making banana bread is difficult. Even after cooking it for an hour, the center can be runny and uncooked. For a while I thought it was my oven, which it may have been. However, I recently came across a wonderful recipe on Anna's site...yes, she cooks things other than cookies! I made this a couple of weekends ago when I went home to see my parents and just made another loaf here with whole wheat flour. Both of them worked well. The whole wheat version wasn't quite as light in texture but wasn't overly "wheaty." Surprisingly, this is very similar in taste and texture to those very sugary and buttery version; however, it has less than 1 cup of sugar and only 1 tablespoon of oil. Wow! I HIGHLY recommend it and will probably use it as my go to recipe (along with my grandmother's) unless I find a good looking new one.

Low Fat Banana Bread (adapted from Epicurious)

1 3/4 cups flour (7.7 ounces) - all purpose OR while wheat (I was light handed when using the whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 ripe bananas — smashed or pureed in processor
1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk but buttermilk is better!)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan with flour-added cooking spray.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy and light (about 5 minutes). Mix in smashed bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Add flour mixture to banana mixture and stir just until blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake bread until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto rack and cool.

Makes 1 loaf.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Torte Memories

Zdrastvuitye, menya zavoot Clara. Vuie hotieti maya torta? Eta ochen fcusna. Okay, so that may not be grammatically correct...I DID only learn "apartment courtyard" Russian...but I had to throw a little Russian since this month's Daring Baker's Challenge reminded me of the time my family spent in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Everyday at the market, there was always a line of women standing there holding their masterpiece, a beautiful torte! These always had many layers and were filled with a light, mousse-like filling. Generally, they had nuts on them as well. We enjoyed many a torte but never learned how to make them. This torte was a bit different as the filling was a fairly rich chocolate buttercream. I did enjoy it but think I prefer the mousse-ish filling. As to the preparation of this torte...the cake layers gave me FITS! I actually measured out the batter to 3/4 cup as instructed. Then when it came to taking the layers OFF of the parchment paper...grrrr. I had to toss TWO layers from the get go and then ended up tossing another as I assembled the torte. How did I end up getting useable layers...I sprayed the paper, which wasn't instructed, and used a little more batter. Because of the two wasted layers, I didn't have enough layers to drench one in caramel and my torte ended up being a bit "squatty." When I made the icing I was SO worried that it was going to be like a ganache because it was very shiny and thin. However, after refrigerating it for a little while (all while watching Casablanca) it firmed up nicely. I forgot to cut nuts but used some raspberries for garnish, which I think turned out nicely. We thought that the taste was very much like the tortes we enjoyed in Bishkek and enjoyed a trip down memory lane. So, spasiba, Angela and Lorraine, for the challenging and memorable month. If you want to see more tortes, check out the blogroll.

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)

Directions for the sponge layers:

(The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.)

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin or circular baking pan as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Randomness with Some Food

Question: Does anyone know how (or if) Blogger will let you respond to your comments through e-mail? I try to post responses in my comment section but know that some people who I want to respond to don't necessarily come back looking for my response.

Fun wedding reception item: I went to a wedding a few weeks ago and they had a dessert reception. They had chocolate ganache balls (I didn't really like these), cheesecake, biscotti, brownies and ice cream, brides cake (of course), fruit, cheese, and these PRECIOUS parfaits. I thought the were too cute to pass up a picture of. What a perfect summer dessert. This was made with whipped cream but you could totally make these super easy by using cool whip. :-)A few days ago, LisaMichele gave me such a sweet blog award...The Lovely Blog award. Apparently, this comes from having a positive attitude in your blogging...which I'm not so sure I always do but appreciate it nonetheless. So, here are my awards...and you guys follow with 13 other people who deserve the award!
Sarah at Ghost World
Cate at Sweetnicks
Katrina at Baking and Boys!
Emily at Sugar Plum
Jenna at Eat, Live, Run
Megan at Party of Two...praying for more
Paula at The Cookbook Junkie
Kate at Kate in the Kitchen
Abby at Confabulation in the Kitchen
Deborah at Taste and Tell
Red Dirt Mummy
Laura at The Dawkins Narrative
MaryLindsey at Hope in my Pocket

Finally, I went home last week (and do have the BEST banana bread coming for you) and we tried out a new restaurant called Pei Wei. It's kind of a bistro P.F Chang's and was very good. I had Vietnamese chicken salad wraps, which were delicious. Mama had Mongolian chicken (that had yummy mushrooms in it) and Daddy had Mandarin Kung Pau, which was pretty good and not too spicy. Try this place out if you've got one near you. They even have the famous lettuce wraps that PF Chang makes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Peachy!

I always have a hard time finding good scone recipes. Either they are too dry or the dough is SO sticky that I can't follow the directions of "roll the dough to 3/4 inch thick." The other day, I saw a recipe for peach scones linked from Anna's site. It's a King Arthur recipe, so I figured it was worth a try since I had some Farmer's Market peaches in my fridge that I didn't want to go bad. The recipe calls for either using a scone pan, which would be cool but I don't have, or using a drop method. Perfect! It also claims to be a sticky dough...let me say, this was one of the best doughs I've made. Not dry enough to roll, but definitely not overly sticky. I was a bit upset that I forgot to dust them with my turbinado sugar, but they still turned out great. Not an overly sweet dough but the cooked peaches add the perfect amount of sweetness and tartness. I shared them with my friend, Sarah, and she said that they were delicious. I would definitely make these again as they were fairly easy and "Peachy Keen!" Try them out for yourself! Peach Scones
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Mellow Pastry Blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt or sour cream (I used Greek yogurt which is yogurt that tastes a lot like sour cream!)
1 cup diced peaches, fresh or canned (for fresh it's about 1 medium peach)
2 tablespoons coarse sugar

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a divided scone pan, a 12-cup muffin pan, or a baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and baking powder. Cut in the butter, using your fingertips, a fork or a pastry blender. (Use your fingertips...it's fun and quick).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt or sour cream. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the peaches and stir just until everything is well-combined. This is a wet (not so much), sticky dough, good for drop scones.

Divide the dough among the compartments of the scone pan, or drop by the scant 1/4 cupful into the cups of a muffin pan or onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the scones with coarse sugar, and bake them until they're golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes (on a baking sheet), or 18 to 20 minutes (in a pan). Yield: 8 to 12 scones. I got a baker's dozen!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Cake and claire(fontaine)

One of my favorite things to do is make breakfast treats and take them to Sunday School. I decided to do this one week during my wards month because I was done early on Saturday and really wanted to bake! So, I pulled out my (not so) organized recipe binder and looked for a good pound cake recipe. I love the crusty parts on pound cake. The one I found, which my mom has said is really good, was Mrs. Taylor Sour Cream Pound Cake. I decided to add some strawberries to the mix. The bad thing about making this cake....I help in the college Sunday School and college is out! So, we don't have many students right now AND we have doughnuts each week. Tell me...how many college students are going to choose homemade strawberry pound cake over doughnuts? Not many! :-) Oh, well. The cake ended up being VERY moist and soft without giving quite the crusty top that I like. It was still very good...you should try sometime! Just be more careful than I when removing it from the pan...The top broke apart in one place! And speaking of organization, if you like to take notes on things and enjoy fun, high quality notebooks check out the great giveaway of Clairefontaine products (with some Orla and Rhodia thrown in) hosted by Sarah, another pediatric resident in the blog world! So, enter her contest, though I think I should win because the product has my name in it!, and make this cake! :-) Mrs. Taylor's Sour Cream Cake with Strawberries
1 cup shortening (or 2 sticks butter)
1/2 pint sour cream (I used low fat)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt
1-1 1/2 cups cut strawberries
OR
1/2 cup chopped pecans with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients then fold in sour cream. Fold in strawberries.* Grease and flour tube pan. Pour into pan.

*If using nuts and sugar mixture pour half batter into pan, sprinkle pecan mixture on top and the pour remaining batter on top.*

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Let stand in pan until cool.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I'm Melting, I'm Melting!


Though June was an extremely hot June for MS (high's in upper 90's and lower 100's) July hasn't been so bad. I've heard, though, that my friends in the northwest are suffering. I'm sorry and feel your pain...but am very thankful for my air conditioning! A few months ago, I saw an interesting idea using portabella mushrooms, though I'm not sure where I saw it. It's a different take on a tuna melt and I thought I'd share it with you. All I did was grill some mushrooms on my George Foreman, you don't even have to take the gills out. Then mix some tuna (the kind in the air tight bag...love it!) with pickles and goat cheese and some kind of "sauce" (i.e., mayo, yogurt, mustard...whatever flavor you like. Put this on top of the mushroom and top with a homegrown tomato...those are the best! Place all on top of some toasted bread. Enjoy with some fresh summer fruit. Perfect summer meal.