Friday, July 9, 2010

In Which I Make Things Out Of Bananas And Chocolate

Okay, first of all, I need to kill one of my neighbors. Someone keeps putting trash in one of my recycling bins and the recycling people won't take it. It is driving me crazy. The recycling bins are in the house and I take them to the curb on Thursday night for the Friday morning pickup. This morning one of my bins was left because there was a chicken tray covered with maggots perched on top of my recyclables because there isn't a lid. So I had to take that off and then pick about a dozen maggots off of my recycling so that I didn't have to trash it all. Thanks, asshole.

In more delicious news, I have done quite a bit of baking due to numerous parties in June. The titles link you to the recipes and my notes are underneath.

Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is the most delicious banana cake I have ever eaten. It practically begs for some dark rum and possibly some coconut, so I think I'll play around with that next time I make it.

* I made this cake in two 9-inch pans instead of three 8-inch.

* I used four bananas instead of two to make the cake more moist and banana-y. And I let my mixer mash them because I am lazy.

* I used nonfat plain yogurt in place of buttermilk

* I found that the frosting needed more than the recommended amount of powdered sugar. I probably used closer to 2 1/2 - 3 cups, but your mileage may vary.

* To fill the cake required about two bananas. I did a layer of cake, a layer of frosting, a layer of sliced bananas, another layer of frosting, cale, and then covered the whole think thickly with frosting. I put it in the fridge before stacking on the second layer of cake in order to let the filling firm up.

*I kept it in the refrigerator overnight and it was still extremely moist the next day.


Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

This is a cake for people who love good dark chocolate. I don't think it would do well with milky stuff at all.

* I used 60% cacao chocolate for this cake. For eating chocolate, I like 85%, but I think that the subtle, complex sweetness of such a dark chocolate would be lost in this confection and therefore I went with something much sweeter.

* With only three ingredients, the flavors need to shine. Buy the best ingredients you can for this one, folks. Use good, vegetarian-fed eggs with lovely orange yolks and a dense, high-fat butter with a fresh, creamy taste. You'll be so glad you did.

* I cooked it for the recommended 20 minutes and found it ever so slightly dry. I think 17 or 18 would have been better.

* I served this confection with a tart raspberry coulis and lightly sweetened rum whipped cream. The flavors and textures came together quite nicely.

* If you've never made raspberry coulis, it is quite simple. Thaw a bag of frozen raspberries, stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste), about a 1/4 cup of water, and a teaspoon or so of fresh lemon juice (if you like), allow to sit together for about an hour, puree, then press the whole mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds. It's a lovely fresh sauce and, mixed with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, an excellent salad dressing. Fresh mint perks up the coulis nicely as well. Note: If you use frozen raspberries in syrup rather than just regular frozen berries, omit the water and reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons.

AlmondBoy approved:


White Chip Chocolate Cookies

These were pretty to look at and had a scrumptious, fudgey crumb. I made them using a cookie scoop, which made for perfectly round, thick cookies. Mine baked in the center of the oven for exactly ten minutes.

* My only note is to keep the dough cold at all times. Chill before scooping, and keep in the fridge between batches. Other than that, no changes. These are wonderful.


Chernowitzer Challah

This is my standard challah recipe and my absolute favorite. I get 16 rolls per batch. No changes because Maggie Glezer is a genius.


No-Knead Bread

I love this bread. It's easy, it's delicious, and almost foolproof. It lends itself wonderfully to add-ins like rosemary, dates, walnuts, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes...the possibilities are endless.

* Don't skip the autolyse (that 15 minute rise under plastic) step. It really develops the flavor.

* I bake mine in a cast iron Dutch oven.

* For the final rise, I put the cotton towel/dough/wheat bran bundle on my pizza peel. I also usually need closer to 3 hours than 2 for a good rise.


Banana Split Trifle

I invented this dessert for my dad for some occasion or another, and it has become a family favorite. In fact, to encourage more frequent production, my dad purchased me a cherry pitter as a gift. I do not know how I lived without it.

Let me begin by saying that this is a fussy dessert in that it has lots of prep, but it can all be done well in advance. The ganache will keep in the fridge for a week; you'll just have to rewarm it. The cake will keep in the freezer for a couple of months if properly wrapped.

The structure of the dessert is a trifle dish with a layer of banana walnut cake, a layer of ganache, a layer of cherries, a layer of bananas, a layer of whipped cream, repeat.

You will need:

1 layer banana walnut cake
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1 lb pitted cherries, halved (Trader Joe's has a good price on organic Raniers right now)
3-4 ripe bananas (depending on size), sliced

For the cake, I use this recipe with a few modifications. You will not need to make the frosting, so only pull out 1 stick of butter.

* I double the amount of banana
* I use 2 9-inch pans
* I add in about 3/4 cup or so of chopped walnuts

Ganache is extremely simple to make. It is a 1:1 ration of heavy cream and chocolate, melted together. You'll need heavy whipping cream for the whipped cream layer, so buy one quart. Measure out a half cup of it and bring to a simmer in a small saucepan. Once the cream is simmering, remove it from the heat and stir in an equal amount of chocolate, either chips or chopped. I recommend bittersweet or semi sweet for this. Stir the chocolate until it is all melted in and the ganache is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the whipped cream, I like to flavor mine with brown sugar and kirshwasser, but it's up to you. Just beat the rest of the quart of heavy whipping cream with your desired flavorings until stiff peaks form, taking care not to overbeat. (You'll get butter if you overbeat.)

Now, for the assembly:

Once your cakes are baked, turned from the pans, and completely cooled, wrap up one layer and freeze it for next time/snacking.

Divide the remaining layer in half and break each half into chunks, roughly 1 inch square. Put the cake into the trifle dish, pressing slightly to fill in the spaces. It's not an exact science, just somewhere between crumbs and chunks. Then drizzle the cake with room-temperature ganache.

Add a layer of cherry halves, then a layer of sliced bananas. Top with half of the whipped cream, then repeat the whole sequence. I like to decorate the top of mine with cake crumbs, chocolate drizzle, and a whole cherry. It keeps nicely in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.

I have considered involving fresh pineapple in this recipe because I am fond of pineapple on my banana splits, but it's so good as-is. Maybe one day…

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