Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chocoate Banana Loaf Cake

Today's post is a little about what I call the family of people. We all have our own family, but then there is other people outside of that. These are people that you interact with, either on a regular basis or randomly.

Sometimes I like to think about the random people. These are the people that are not part of your family and have no impact on your income, so there is nothing to gain. How you interact with these people can reveal a lot about yourself. Some people go through life very self centered and not focusing on the things or people around them. Others may use a chance meeting with strangers as a door to let them vent their frustrations.

Chance meetings are actually an opportunity. You get this one little opportunity to help someone, make them smile or make them laugh. If that happens it is a nice feeling. Today, for instance, in the produce section an older lady looked at the jackfruit on display and said, "My word, I have never seen such a thing!" I laughed and told her what it was and what it tasted like. Then she commented on how big each of these fruits were and that she would not be able to eat all of one. I responded by saying that once the big and tall shop closes their employees come in and buy them all. She gave me a funny look at first and then we both started laughing.

So, as you go about your day, take notice of the people around you and have a friendly interaction with them, you will be glad you did.

Now I bring you a recipe that has 2 elements that interact deliciously with one another-bananas and chocolate. This marbled loaf comes together easily and has a moist texture with a tender crumb. In each bite there is a hint of unique flavor that stems from the third element of nutmeg.

Chocolate Banana Loaf Cake
adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours

1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs rum
1/2 cup and 2 tbs butter
zest from 1/2 lemon
squirt of lemon juice
1 1/2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Prepare a 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 X 2 1/2 inch loaf pan by buttering the interior and dusting with flour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Set up a double boiler and fill top pot with 2 tbs butter and chocolate. Let the water in the bottom pot come to a simmer. The chocolate and the butter should start to melt. Stir to blend and remove from heat and separate top pot from bottom once all is melted and blended.

Fill a medium sized bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Using a fork, mash the bananas until they have the consistency of applesauce. Then stir in the rum and set aside.

In a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set this bowl aside also.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle blade, beat the remaining butter (1/2 cup) at medium speed until light and smooth. This should take about 3 minutes. During this process, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides at intervals.

Continue mixing the butter and add both types of sugars. Follow the 3 minute process outlined in the previous paragraph. Then beat in each egg, one at a time. Add the extract and mix until distributed throughout the batter.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients. Stir in the milk and once blended with the batter, fold in the rest of the dry, sifted ingredients. Pour in the mashed bananas, mixing so there are no dry ingredients on the side of the bowl. The end result will be a lumpy, somewhat curdled-looking batter.

Separate out 1/3 of the batter to another bowl. Add the chocolate to this little bit of batter and mix until completely blended.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out some of the ivory batter and empty into one corner of the pan. Then take a scoop of chocolate and empty into pan, next to the ivory batter. Continue with this process, alternating the batters, so that all has been scooped into the pan.

Place loaf pan in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. This should take about 1 hour and 20-30 minutes. However, take a moment after baking for about 30 minutes to check for over-browning of the surface of the cake. If you find that it is getting too toasty, cover lightly with foil.

Once completely baked, remove from oven and place on cooling rack. After about 15 minutes invert pan onto cooling rack to empty out the cake. Then carefully flip the cake so the right side is up and let cool completely onto rack.
                                      **LAST YEAR: Hummingbird Cookies**

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Orange Meltaways

I am sure you have heard of the saying "it's the little things that count." Little things can count as good as well as bad. We all pick up on certain indicators that tell us we do not want to be around someone, be it socially or in a closer relationship. Some of the factors that turn us off may be ridiculous and others may be understandable.

Someone with bad hygiene is understandable. However, I have been in conversations where the factor may be little, but that does not make it less of a turn off. One person told me that he worked with someone that clicked their pen constantly. He said he could not spend any time with her because that habit, as he said, worked on his last nerve. Other things I have been privy to are discussions concerning women with "big hairy man hands" - unfeminine and a definite turn off. One lady told me that she did not like a man calling her a "broad". That term is so old, I told her that he must have had a previous life back in the days of Speakeasy clubs and newsboys!

This leads me to the subject of English high tea. Back in the days when proper etiquette was the basis for judging people, just the manner in which a man held his teacup could easily mark him as an unsuitable partner.

So, if you find yourself at high tea with someone that is unsuitable or has that "little" thing that you cannot tolerate, let's hope that there is something that you can enjoy while suffering through the company at the table. Which brings me to these orange meltaway cookies, which live up to their name in texture as well as taste. They are a perfect choice when served with tea or coffee. This recipe makes 3 dozen, depending on size and thickness. To get the look of the cookies above, you will need a 1/2 diameter star tip, coupler and pastry bag or zip lock freezer bag (quart size).

Orange Meltaways
adapted from the International Cookie Book

zest of 1 small lemon
zest of 1 large orange
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon juice
2-4 tsp orange juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter plus one tablespoon (softened and cubed)

1/2 cup strained apricot preserves
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp orange zest
3-5 tbs granulated sugar

Start by getting everything organized and prepped. Prepare the zests according to quantity stated for both glaze and cookies, strain the preserves and measure out the juices. Also, cut the butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Set all the small bowls of these ingredients aside. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Also prepare a piping bag or zip lock bag with tip and coupler.

Sift the powdered sugar into a stand mixer bowl. Take out another bowl and sift together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder, set aside.

Add about 5 cubes of the butter to the powdered sugar and beat on low for about 2 minutes. Then increase the speed to medium and add butter cubes in increments (about 3 at a time) while continuing to beat the mixture. Pause this process a few times and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once all the butter has been blended and the batter is smooth, turn off the mixer.

Take out a small bowl and add the egg yolk. Use a fork to break up the yolk, then whisk in both types of zests. Stir in the lemon juice and only 2 tbs of the orange juice.  Pour into the sugar/butter batter and blend together on medium speed.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in the dry ingredients. Once blended, let the mixture rest for about 3 minutes. Then test the dough to see if it is the proper consistency to pipe. If it seems too thick, add some of the remaining orange juice to make the dough more pliable.

Fill the prepared pastry bag with some of the dough and pipe onto parchment lined baking sheets in 1 1/2 inch shell shapes and spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. After piping, let the dough rest again on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes.

As the dough is resting, prepare the glaze by whisking together the strained preserves, zest and juice.

Once the resting interval is completed, place both baking sheets in the oven and set the timer for about 6 minutes. Then rotate baking sheets and place them on the opposite oven rack. Let bake again for another 6 minutes and check. Cookies will have a light golden edge when done. Place both baking sheets on cooling racks.

Brush the surface of the cookies with the glaze and then sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place back in oven for an additional 4-5 minutes. During this time the topping will caramelize and the cookies will turn a darker color on the edges. Remove baking sheets from oven and let sit for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a rack and let cool completely.

Tips and Notes:
1. I used parchment paper and the recipe states to grease the baking sheets with cooking spray. Parchment paper will have to replaced after every baked batch, but it makes for easy clean up- especially since there is a baked-on caramelized topping.

2. You can form these cookies without the pastry supplies. In place of the piping instruction, roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls and place on baking sheets. Use the tines of a fork dipped in water and press down the dough to flatten. Press once placing the fork tines from right to left and dip in water and press a second time from top to bottom. Make sure that the dough is lower in thickness than 1/2 inch and not under 1/4 an inch- it may take more than 2 pressings.

3. Even after the glaze is set, the surface of the cookies will still have a bit of stickiness to them, so do not stack.   
                              **LAST YEAR:Neopolitan Cheesecake**