Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Banana bread is a staple in our household. Growing up in the Philippines, it was an excellent way to use leftover bananas, since the recipe needs overripe bananas.

The great thing about this recipe is that you could tweak it to make it lactose free or whole wheat without affecting the taste. The only thing I would insist on is to use soft brown sugar or muscovado sugar, because it gives the bread a great brown color. If you like nuts, feel free to add pecans or walnuts.

Ingredients:

2-4 overripe bananas, 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine, 1 cup muscovado sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda, a pinch of salt, and 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely cut (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 175° C. Peel bananas and place in a large bowl, and cut up/mash with a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Mix in sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix the flour with the baking soda and salt in the measuring cup, and mix it into the wet ingredients. Add the nuts, if using. Pour into a 4×8 inch silicone loaf pan, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and a stick tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack, remove from the pan and slice.

Lightning Mc Queen Cake

 

Lightning Mc Queen Cake

So a birthday boy needed a birthday cake. This is the first time that I pulled off something like this! The process is chronicled on my Instagram account (click right!). Thank my lucky stars that fondant is now readily available in supermarkets in Germany. It’s not perfect, but it took me a week to put this together (It would’ve been shorter if I didn’t spend the day hacking my brains out! I was seriously ill with the flu.)

I baked my go to chocolate buttermilk cake for this one. I baked three times the amount of the recipe, and split the batter between two 9×13 inch pans and one 8×8 inch square brownie pan. I also used Magnolia bakery’s chocolate buttercream icing recipe. You would need 1 and ahalf to two portions of the icing to cover the cake.  But you can use whatever cake/frosting recipe you prefer. After baking and cooling the cakes, I stacked the second cake over the first cake, the second cake upside down so that the flat bottom was facing up, using the icing to keep them together. Then I iced 2/3rds of the top layer, and stacked the square cake on it.

I carved the cake using a bread knife for the general shape, and a small steak knife for the refining details. Then I “dirty iced” the cake to keep all the crumbs in, and left it outside, covered with a stiff shopping bag, to freeze. The real reason I prefer baking in winter is because I don’t have a box freezer, and I could just leave it outside when the recipe calls for freezing or refrigerating.

The night the cake spent outside should sufficiently stabilize the cake enough to support the heavy fondant. I needed two big bricks of red fondant, one medium sized brick of black, another medium sized brick of white, and some blue.

The biggest discovery I made so far was pens with food coloring ink to paint the sides and logos! It was really helpful. The wheels were made by pressing an espresso cup into the black fondant, smothing it out with my hands, and sticking it to the sides of the cake.

The kids ended up not liking the cake, and treated it more like a sculpture than food. but hey, it was a great learning experience.

David Lebovitz’s Dulce de Leche Tart

I would like to thank my friend in Berlin for sending me the recipe for this delicious tart. I am sorry that I didn’t do such a good job with the photos, but it tasted really good! I pinky swear it!

The fact that you can now buy cheap, ready made Dulce de Leche from Rewe was the reason I decided to make this tart for my birthday. And I wanted to test my brand new mixer 😀  Since I didn’t have a pie dish with a detachable bottom, I had to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t gonna lift perfect slices, despite oiling the pie dish very heavily.

If you don’t have pie weights, you could use dried beans, like chickpea. I used mung beans, which you could in turn make into guinataang munggo (remind me to share you the recipe one day).

The recipe was published in David’s book My Paris Kitchen. This is how I made this tart

For the Crust: 6 Tablespoons/ 85 g butter (preferably salted) at room temperature or softer, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 large egg yolk, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt, and 1 Tablespoon water (optional)

Filling: 230 g chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup (240 g) dulce de leche, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling.

Make the crust before the filling. Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the powdered sugar at low speed, until smooth. Mix in the yolk, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the flour and the cocoa powder together, and add to the butter mixture until the dough comes together. If it looks dry, add a tablespoon of water (which I did). Roll into a ball. Pull a plate- sized (about 15 inches by 15 inches) portion of saran wrap (cling film) on a flat surface, place the dough ball on it, flatten a bit with the heel of your hand and wrap the dough in the film.  Set aside for 30 minutes. You can also use a clean plastic bag, it is probably easier.

After 30 minutes, roll the dough relatively flat in the bag or unwrap the dough, place another sheet of cling film over it, and roll with a rolling pin. When the dough is wide enough to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart ring with a removable bottom, remove the top sheet, place the dough in the tart ring by flipping it in using the plastic film for stability, and try to evenly cover the walls of the dish by pressing your fingers at the dough located at the bottom and sides of the dish and pushing the dough up the walls, until the rim. Sprinkle the sea salt over the dough and press it into the pastry. Cover the tart ring with the wrap you used to roll it in, and freeze for 30 minutes. Colder temperatures means that I could just open the balcony door and let it rest outside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Once the 30 minutes are up, line the dough with aluminum foil and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and the weights, and bake for 5 more minutes, until the shell feels set. Take the shell out of the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C.

During the waiting/baking period you can get cracking on the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bain-Marie, remove the bowl from heat once melted, and set a strainer on top.

Whisk the eggs into a bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm, and whisk the milk into the eggs. Not too warm, we don’t want the eggs to scramble! Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or a wire whisk, until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate, and add the vanilla, stirring until smooth.

Carefully spread the Dulce de Leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer. It helps to let the Dulce sit for 30 seconds before spreading, the warmth of the tart bottom will soften the cream enough, making it easier to spread. Set the tart sheet on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then carefully pur the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche. Smooth the top, and sprinkle with more salt.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the tart with the door closed for 25 minutes more.

You can remove it from the oven and let cool before serving. I just let the tart in the oven overnight and served it to my guests the day after.

David recommends serving it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but the tart is so filling, I don’t think you will need more sweet! The crust tastes a lot like Oreo cookies, so it was really addictive.

Lord Hell’s Plum Cake

 Plum season is almost over, but I still get to enjoy them thanks to the three sheets of plum cakes I have managed to bake this season.

My go-to cake recipe comes from the coolest handle nameI’ve ever heard, Lord Hell, the pseudonym of a Chefkoch.de member who struck gold at the death metal name generator. According to Lord Hell, this is her (?) Oma’s recipe, and is glad that she could share it so that it wouldn’t die out. Judging from the rating this cake has, it definitely won’t!

Germans are big into dry cakes, or what is also called coffee cakes. As long as you can get used to the idea that Germans like their cake to taste like bread, you are good to go.

For the base:

500 grams flour, 30 grams fresh yeast or 10 grams dry yeast, 250 ml lukewarm milk, 75 grams sugar, and 100 grams butter.

For the toppings, a kilo and a half of plums is definitely more than enough to cover a 37 cm by 42 cm baking sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to 220° C. Dump the flour into a big mixing bowl and create a depression in the middle. Place the cut-up butter, and strew about 60 grams of the sugar, and a pinch of salt along the edges of the crater, making sure that it wouldn’t fall into ist. Break up the yeast and dump it in the hollow, adding the rest of the sugar and the milk. You can either leave it as is or mix it up, if you like. Let it rest under a kitchen towel for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, knead the mixture into a dough, and proof for 30 minutes.

While waiting for the dough to rise, you could either halve or quarter the plums lengthwise, removing the stones. Place the cut-up fruit in a separate bowl.

When the 30 minutes are up, knead the dough again, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can either roll the dough out with a pin or using your fingertips, massage the mixture to fan out on the sheet until the whole thing is covered with the dough. Pierce the base with a fork in several places (I prefer making a Union Jack pattern). If the plums are an especially juicy or watery variety, you could sprinkle the base with either breadcrumbs or powdered cinnamon.

 Place the plums with the skins down on the base in a row until the whole base is covered. Leave about three centimeters of lip around the edges if you like. You could also add streusel on top by mixing 200 grams soft butter with 200 grams salt, 300 grams flour, ½ teaspoons of powdered cinnamon and a pinch of salt. After mixing the ingredients together, take a big hunk of the mixture in your hand and pinch off small pieces and strew it randomly over the plums. Place in the oven and it should be done by 20 to 30 minutes. You need to watch the streusel because it burns easily. As soon as the plums smell fragrant it should be done!

It is quite easy to make and it is a very traditional German dish. Thank you LordHell for allowing me to share your recipe!

Drowning in Plums

Sooooo….I have discovered the motherlode of plum trees in Erfurt, not far from where I work. Like a whole grove of plum and apple trees, with nobody paying attention to them! My son and I picked a bucket full of plums last weekend. They are what Germans call Zwetschge, a variety of plum that is deep purple, slim, and long-ish. We got a total of three kilos!  After the initial frenzy of ALL THOSE PLUMS wore off, I kinda scratched my head and asked myself what the hell was I gonna do with all those plums?

So I made Pflaumenmus, what should be translated as plum jam, but it is more of a plum puree. Three kilos fortunately fit into my six quart dutch oven, which proved itself once again as an excellent investment! I filled four large jars with the stuff. I don’t even like Pflaumenmus, so I’m gonna learn how to like it These next couple of months. Or maybe use them to fill jelly donuts?

So far I have baked three batches of plum coffee cakes, with streusel so they would keep better in the freezer. I’ve been giving them away like mad and I don’t think I’ll be picking any more plums this season!

 

Cherry Cupcakes!

Another recipe from North & South are these fabulous cherry cupcakes that you really just have to try!

240 g unsalted butter                                   210 g self-raising flour

200 g caster sugar                                      90 g plain flour

3 large eggs                                                 36 or more fresh cherries, stoned, halved and                                                                        de-stemmed

Zest of half an orange                                  12 fresh cherries, stoned, with stems intact

 

Line a muffin tray with cupcake inserts. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until white and fluffy. Add eggs and orange zest, mix well. Fold in the flours gently, then add the cherries. DO NOT OVERSTIR! It’s ok if there are still patches of flour here and there, overmixing will make your cupcakes dry!

Divide the mixture  among the hollows in the cupcake tray, placing a cherry on top of each cupcake just before baking. Bake at 200°C or 180°C on fan bake for about 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. Allow to cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

While the recipe says it is enough for 12 cupcakes, I was able to bake 16 cupcakes total. The cupcakes do not keep well, so consume within 48 hours. I haven’t tried refrigerating them but the article warned against it. 

Darth Vader Cake

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I was asked to make a Darth Vader cake two weekends ago, and the mere thought of it make me laugh so hard that I thought, “why not?” The recepient is a four-year old boy, who is probably not super-critical of the cake’s imperfections. And hooo boy, they were many!

This is a cake of firsts. Not only is this my first Darth Vader cake, this was my first-ever cake iced entirely with fondant, and the first ever cake I have ever molded freestyle, without a template to follow.

And I so thank the Lord that Xenos has ready-made fondant! No more making my own and worrying about how to get the color! I bought two bricks, for 3 euros each. With fondant this cheap, it was perfect for experimentation. This cake was very instructional for me on how to work with fondant. As you see, things didn’t patch up quite nicely. Lesson number 1: Do not break up fondant to flatten, as the seams will show. Maybe it is better to roll, then flatten?

Under that fondant is my standard Chocolate Buttermilk cake, although any kind of cake will do. I baked two cakes, one in a lined, buttered and greased  round springform and another in a square pan. Make the cake the night before and freeze to dry out. In my case I just left it outside, since temperatures were hovering just above zero (40°F).

The next day, I liberated the cakes from the forms, cut the round one across in half and placed the dome-shaped top at the bottom of the glass plate. Spread some icing (I used Magnolia’s choco buttercream) to even the surface, then placed the other half over it, bottom-side up. I did the same thing to the square pan, but instead I cut the cake again in half, then in triangles. The proportions were just estimated to suit the size of the round cake, so I couldn’t give any exact measurement. All I can say is that I cut a right triangle, slathered it with cream, then put another triangle on top of it. Then slather the whole thing with frosting, locking in all the crumbs.

After that, I rolled the fondant on a marble surface dusted with starch, and draped it over the cake. I cut the excess in some places and it tucked in the cake, but there were places that came up short and I had to add a few more fondant strips to the sides.

The details were made using white and gray fondants, based on this Darth Vader cake. Despite the imperfections, the birthday kid was happy, the parents were happy, and the children happily ate Darth Vader. So I guess I’m happy, too!

 

Tow Mater Cake

cakeSo my boy’s birthday just rolled by. Wow, I gave birth to him how many years ago? Time flies so fast…

This time of the year, I turn into a baking dervish (is that a term?) cooking and baking for my kid’s birthday party. This year was a little different. Since I have a full-time job, I was a little pressed for time to make a 3-D Mater Cake–my kid’s special request this year. So I made a compromise and adapted a cake from this recipe.

I am not a big fan of box cake mixes, so I made my go-to recipe for moist chocolate buttermilk cake. Like with all other cakes I’ve made the past birthdays, challenges cropped up when I least expected them. First of all, I am so grateful to have found ready-to-roll out fondant at the local Xenos shop, and not the liquid goop they sell at the supermarkets here. This means I did not have to make my own fondant this year.

Basically the hardest part was finding substitues for the American products suggested my the recipe. No way in hell I was gonna order a whole pack of Jolly Ranchers online when I only needed two of them for a cake. My goodness, I had no idea that finding chocolate chocolate donuts were gonna be a challenge. I finally found them at the local McCafe for a euro fifty a pop–quite steep but I hoarded all three left at the stand. This place seriously needs an Dunkin’ Donuts.

So basically the side mirrors and wheels were made from two donuts, the bars holding the mirrors in place were yellow fondant, the eyes and teeth were made of white fondant, and irises were a mix of white/green/yellow, and the busted headlight black fondant cut out using a cough medicine bottlecap. The other headlight is a Haribo Jogi-Bussi. The pupils are brown mini-Smarties

Now the recipe had a template for the eyelids and the mouth, but it was more difficult to get the fondant in that dark color. It was easier to mix more brown coloring into the chocolate buttercream icing, and just free-style scratched out the areas where they were supposed to be and carefully spread out the darker icing in that area.

cake1I guess my frustration at not getting to make the 3-D cake that I wanted drove me to make three mini-Mater cupcakes made of honey loops, M&Ms, and white fondant (God forbid I use Eclipse gum on a cake!). The one pictured came from my 4 inch springform pan and a normal cupcake, while the two others were made with normal.sized cupcakes and mini-cupcakes. I left out the frosting except at the places where the wheels and the headlights had to stick.

All in all, I was quite happy with the results and the best part was that the party was a success. I am looking forward to Disneyland next year when I don’t have to do any baking at all!

The Great Weekend Bake-off

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It seems that nowadays I cram the most cooking that I can on Weekends. This weekend was no different. A friend wanted to try making Sour Dough Bread from scratch after hearing of my adventures, so we each decided to bake bread and compare our results. She made her starter from scratch, I re-animated Fifi, who was quite hungry, as you can imagine. I had to feed her twice a day at the rate she was going through the flour.

As you can see above, it was amazing how different our breads turned out to be just because we kneaded more flour into it during the strengthening process. The one that came out most porous was the one where we stuck as faithfully as possible to the Pollan recipe and tried not to add too much flour. The more flour we added, the more compact the bread’s “crumb” became. Mine is at the very top, the one that has the smallest crumb of all, and of course, with the most flour kneaded in.

The results were fantastic. Now normally, those big holes at the middle bread are not considered good by bakers, but I swear that bread tasted the best. My second loaf, not shown, looks and tastes exactly the same.

The revelation of this experiment is a) I should not be afraid of kneading flour into my bread and b) I should invest in a Römer Topf. And maybe a proofing basket.

I don’t have one, but my friend had both, so we proofed it in the basket and baked our bread into the Römer Topf. And boy, were the results fantastic! Can’t wait to bake again next month!

Chocolate Upright Pear Cake

The air is starting to be crisper, leaves turning into wonderful shades of red and brown. Truly, Fall is slowly creeping into my kitchen as well. I got a windfall of pears, and I have been itching to try out a recipe ever since I saw a picture of it in New Urban Farmer from Celia Brooks Brown.

Apart from its appearance, the cake is also unsusual in that chocolate cakes are normally made moist by the amount of oil in them. This is made moist by the pear juice. It looks really stunning in person and I can only recommend this cake.

Ingredients:

100 g all purpose flour, 1 packet baking powder, 50 g cocoa powder, 50 g ground almonds, 175 g softened salted butter, 175 g brown sugar, 3 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, 5 small pears or 4 big pears.

You need a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease the sides. Pre-heat the pan to 180°C.

Mix the dry ingredients together well. First the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then the ground almonds.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix in an egg, and add a tablespoon of the dry ingredients. Add the two other eggs, then the flour mixture with the milk. Pour this into the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Slice off the bottom of the pears and place them in the batter. Make sure that the pears are at least an inch apart and an inch away from the border. Place in the oven for 45-60 minutes. (I followed the recipe but I ended up with a burned cake. I’d say 30-45 minutes. trust your instincts on this one!) Let cool and separate from the form. Could be served with whipped cream.