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!

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!

Ugly Beautiful: Peach Cobbler

When you arrive late for a party, as I did last Sunday, and your dish was wiped out an hour after your arrival, it’s a good sign that you have a WINNER.

As I discovered after bringing peach cobbler to a potluck party. Peach cobbler is as close as I’ll get to hate-eating. It looks so ugly but it smells and tastes so good!

The source of the pears last week also gave me their bumper crop of peaches from their garden, and so like any rational person, I ate most of it, and turned what was left into peach cobbler.

The peaches were not the biggest or the sweetest (The photo in the header will attest to that), but they had complex flavors. The skin was bitter-ish, and the flesh was sweet. Perfect for cobbler.

I’ve tried several recipes from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. They turned out great, but this is one recipe that will be part of my repertoire.

Here is the recipe if you need it, I’ve tweaked it and used soft brown sugar for the topping, and sprinkled it with vanilla sugar and cinammon after baking. I would also reduce the baking time from 30-40 minutes in 180°C to 20-30 minutes. Or maybe my oven is just too hot.

Book Review: The Magnolia Cookbook


magnolia

Does America have a taste? The Magnolia Cookbook, comes from the former owners of what was probably the most in-demand pastry shop in New York during the ’90s.It has inspired many people to devote their lives making cupcakes, including I believe the people behind Cupcakeria. It basically covers America’s baked passions like cobbler and pecan pie, and none of the coffee-cake nonsense that German bakeries offer. We’re talking about major moisture and maximum fluffiness.

I spotted this at–where else? TK Maxx, and started with their blueberry muffins.Then I got cracking on their pecan pie. The muffins were really moist, but I wouldn’t call it extraordinary. The pecan pie was interesting, but it isn’t someting I would write home about. I haven’t tried anything of theirs yet that made me say, “Yes, this one is a winner!”

What I found most interesting about this cookbook is that they have devoted the beginning of the book to their set of very specific set of instructions regarding their baking and stirring techniques. That they always use room-temperature eggs, do not over-mix the  dough or batter, pie crust dough has to be sprinkled with ice water…and this for four pages. Learning about the process is what I find most fascinating, which is why I’m learning how to cook.

The techniques mentioned really do work! Ice water and vegetable oil make for a flaky pie crust, while buttermilk and ignoring lumps in the batter make for a moister cake. Just learning how I could prevent a cheesecake from cracking in the oven makes this book worth the money I spent on it.

Apfeltaler

I am generally a patient person. I couldn’t be an English teacher if I weren’t. However my friend Anne has got me beat. She is excellent in involving her kids in the process of cooking and food preparation. I tend to be perfectionist, and do get irritated when my kid doesn’t or can’t make it like Mommy does.

So last week we got together and made something wonderful out of two almost overripe apples. They are easy to make, and my son and his friends had a lot of fun making them. So what if they aren’t perfect? They taste divine just out of the oven, and that is all that matters.

The recipe comes from Backzeit, a baking cookbook sponsored by Swiss Milk Producers Association.

You’ll need: For the base, 200g flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, a pinch of salt, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 100 g cold butter, cut into small squares, and a scrambled egg.

For the toppings, 3 Apples (Cox Orange recommended, but not necessesary); cored, peeled and cut thinly lengthwise,  50 g melted butter, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and rub it with your hands into the dry ingredients. Form a well, drop the egg, and mix only until well incorporated: DO NOT KNEAD. Wrap with plastic film and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can peel and halve the apples. Remove the cores, slice the apples in quarters, then again into thin slices. Mix the melted butter with the sugar and cinnamon.

Pinch out a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll it flat. Alternatively, you can roll the entire thing flat and use a round cookie cutter 3 inches in diameter and punch out the cookie dough.  Place the apples on them accordion-style and brush them with the butter-cinnamon mixture. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and  bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding

There really is nothing like having dinner with great company and good food to lift somebody’s spirits. I was feeling really crappy last weekend, but I pulled myself together to spend time gossiping and cooking with friends. We had a wonderful fatty but low-carb dinner, without really thinking about the menu, and it was all topped off with a wonderful dessert!

My friend Caroline told me that sticky toffee pudding is pretty much as traditionally English as you can get. I only have terrible memories of my grand-uncle’s pudding made out of day-old bread, and toffee I only know as a sweet, and from my son’s favorite Thomas the Train book, Sticky Toffee Thomas. As Caroline emphasized, the horrible reputation of British cuisine is undeserved, and with cooks like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsey, I definitely agree, if the pudding is anything to go by. It was a pleasant surprise, as the dates really complemented the caramel flavor of the toffee.

Here’s the recipe, the only thing that changed was that Caroline used whipping cream since she wasn’t able to get double cream from the supermarket. The uncanny thing was that the sauce tasted exactly like Latik sauce from Suman sa Lihiya, but it had a completely different set of ingredients! Latik sauce is made from coconut milk and muscovado sugar, while toffee sauce has butter, cream, and muscovado sugar. Well, it is basically creamy fat mixed with sugar, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I have to try this recipe out one day, it is really sinfully delicious! Thanks Caroline!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everybody! I hope you all had a great time with family and friends. In the picture above, I have featured two traditional Easter baked goodies in Germany: sweet bread with raisins, and Easter lamb. Easter lamb-shaped cake tins  are available here around Lent, and in some churches, churchgoers bake them and are given to  elderly parishoners who could not go to church anymore. The sweet bread one is a one-eared bunny made by my son and his Oma. 🙂

I am usually skeptical of recipes that are printed on the box. As I child, I used to rip off Del Monte can labels and save the recipes at the back. Now I know that they are used as advertising. This time, following the box recipe saved me from doing unnecessary research. This recipe comes from the box of the cake form featured on my link.

You would need:

2 small eggs, 60 g sugar, 65 g soft butter, 1/2 sachet vanilla sugar (I used 1/2 Tablespoon), a pinch of salt, 15 g flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and some icing sugar. Lemon flavoring/extract optional

Separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites, adding 30 g of sugar bit by bit until stiff. In another bowl, beat the yolks with the rest of the sugar, melted butter, vanilla sugar and salt until foamy. Add in the lemon flavoring if so desired. Mix the flour and baking powder in a cup, and add it the yolk mixture, and mix with a spatula. Fold in the beaten egg white until well-incorporated. The result is a mass that is somewhere between batter and dough.

Grease the baking form by brushing the insides with melted butter, and close the form and secure with the clips provided. Turn the cake tin upside down, and pour the batter into it. Bake it upside down for 180°C top-and-bottom heat for about 30 minutes. Test the center with a stick.

If you need the cake in a jiffy, take out the cake tin, let it cool, wrap the tin with a wet kitchen towel for 10 minutes and gingerly release the lamb from the tin and saw off the bottom part to even it out.

I was too lazy, so i just waited until completely cool and removed it from the cake form.

Dust with powdered sugar with a small sieve, dot the eyes with chocolate or raisins. Enjoy!