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BANANA CAKE / CUPCAKES

“A baker should never let distance stand in the way of sharing.” – Flo Braker

banana cake

My mom was doing a visit to her youngest sister in Bombay who is convalescing from a period of illness.

I have the fondest memories of this precious aunt. She was the star in the family. Growing up, I was always asked to look up to her, and with good reason…

Quite an all rounder in her time, she was equally good in academics and sports. A sprightly character with a care free attitude. she was pretty too, with her flawless skin and petite structure. And, she had deep sensitivity toward others.

We were a joint family of seven in a tiny Bandra flat, all of us huddled together, like a bunch of fresh sardines, set to be sold in the local market.

Night times were great. My grand dad and grand mom would occupy the small bed on the side of the wall, my mom and another sister on the adjascent little bed, my uncle under the table near the kitchen, and my youngest aunt and I, in the middle of the room, on a mattress with pillows. She would fervently sing to me each night, melodies of the mid seventies, in her not so melodious voice. I thought nobody could sing better…it provided an overwhelming sense of security. Soon after, my parents shifted base to Kerala, and I missed her bitterly then.

When I had my Summer hols and we did trips to Bombay, she and I would religiously go together to the Paan shop, buy 2 meeta paans each (sans the thambaakku), and stick them to the farthest corner of our mouths. We’d viciously grind those beetle juices with our teeth, extracting every sweetish pungent flavour, and aim for the next big gutter to see who would shoot best. She would laugh heartily at the lightest jokes and it would take her a while to get her bearings back. We had to wait for her to finish enjoying the gleeful moment! Life’s precious and fleeting flavors, sigh!

So, my mom was going to Bombay and I threw myself into making two of my aunt’s favourite cakes…A Carrot cake and, her absolute favorite, Banana cake.

Now when it comes to a good banana cake, ”we want it moist, we want it delicious”, quoting Peter Reinhart from “Crust and Crumb”, and that is all.

Have tried many variations in the past, and nothing matched up…it was either too bready or it was too dense.

We have fantastic baby bananas in Kerala, one of the most delicious and varied flavours that the Earth can offer. And I wanted to maximise on it.

Banana cake

This recipe is from Joanne Chang, from her book, Flour.
Here is the recipe, it has soft and warm flavours, and is not bready.
 

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread, Re-printed with permission.

Makes one 9 – inch loaf

INGREDIENTS

210 gm  All purpose Flour, 1 1/2 cups

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Salt

2 Eggs

230 gms Sugar, 1 Cup + 2 Tbs

100 gms Canola Oil, 1/2 cup

340 gms Mashed Bananas, 1 1/2 cups

2 Tbs Sour Cream

1 tsp Vanilla

75 gms  Walnuts, 3/4 cup

banana cake

PROCEDURE

Position a rack in the centre of the oven, and heat the oven to 325 degrees F ( 162.78 degrees Celsius).  Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.

In a bowl, sift together Cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment,( or a hand held mixer), beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. If you use a hand held mixer, the same step will take about 8 minutes.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Don’t pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding it should take about one minute. Add the bananas, sour cream and vanilla, and continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and the nuts just until  thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts should be evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hrs. or until golden brown on top and and  the centre springs back when you press it. If your fingers sinks when you poke the bread, it needs to bake a little longer. Let cool in the pan or wire rack for atleast 30 minutes and then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

The Banana Bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temp for upto 3 days. Or it can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for upto 2 weeks. Thaw overnight at room temp for serving.

Thanks for stopping by…

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in recipe

 

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Coconut Diamonds

”…since progress can never be achieved without sharing, if we are to achieve the highest level, we must be ready to pass on what we have discovered..” Pastry Chef Francois Legras, ECOLE LENOTRE.

The girl is not a Chocolate freak like her dad, and has been asking for cookies a while now…she likes it plain, with no much frills and flourishes…so I whipped up a batch of these..which to my delight, the dad enjoyed as well.

The nutty flavor of Coconut comes right through, this is a Coconut cookie all the way. Quite easy to put together, you need just elemental cookie knowledge to get it right. If you like Coconut and if you like it in a cookie, then this is for you. Not overtly sweet, the sugariness lingers in the background. You can sprinkle granulated sugar on top if you wish.

Ingredients (Adapted from Volume 4,Ecole Lenotre collection: Sweet Buffets)

200 gms salted butter

100 gms Caster Sugar

25 gm egg yolk

200 gm Flour

200 gm shredded Coconut (I used Coconut powder instead and it worked great)

5 gm liquid Vanilla

Directions

Mix the butter and the caster sugar together, then add the egg yolks. Blend and incorporate into the flour,coconut powder, and liquid vanilla.

Shape into 300 gm logs, 60 cm in length. Cut into 1.2-cm slices,using a knife.

Cook for 15 min.s at 177 – 180 Degree C. on parchment lined cookie sheet.

If this is your first time baking a cookie, then these pointers will help:

After you shape the cookie dough into a log, make sure you cut them thick…esp if you are increasing the quantity of sugar in the recipe. Otherwise,it tends to spread making for a very thin cookie that may end up looking like a Tuile.

To compact the log, push the ends of the cylinder firmly toward the center.

You need to chill the cookie dough until very firm before slicing. You may freeze it until firm enough to cut even slices.

Coarse sugar or granulated sugar increases spread in cookies while confectioner’s sugar or fine sugar reduces spread.The finer the sugar the smoother the cookie.

Creaming a mixture until light increases spread.Blending fat and sugar just to a paste reduces spread.

Cookies spread more on heavily greased pans.

Cookies usually become dry due to overbaking as they continue baking after removal from the oven. It is better to underbake as you can always return them to the oven if need be.

Bake the cookies until starting to brown at the edges and set but still soft when pressed in the center. Leave them on the cookie sheets just until they are firm enough to remove and then transfer them to racks.

If this is not a cookie you are looking for, I’d suggest checking the link http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2007/11/cookie_recipes.html, for a cookie recipe you fancy.

Thanks for stopping by.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in recipe

 

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Grandmothers and Jallebis…

Interflora, http://blog.interflora.co.uk/grandparents-day-baking-challenge/, is hosting a Grandparents’ Day Baking Challenge for the baking blogging community.

What an awesome, novel idea.
Image

”Whether it’s a recipe that’s been handed down to you from generation to generation, something you have fond memories of baking with your grandma in the kitchen or simply a delicious sweet treat to celebrate the occasion, we want you to get baking for Grandparents’ Day.”

Got the info from Deeba Rajpal’s Passionate about baking blog, http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/ and I jumped to it…Thank-You Deeba.

Grandmothers and Jallebis…

It’s such a grand thing to be a mother of a mother – that’s why the world calls her grandmother~Author Unknown

October 7 is not so far away…its Grandparents’ Day….and I have fond memories too….

They introduced me to love…..my first teachers, especially since my mom was a full time working woman, a school teacher who taught long hours and took tuition when she got back home in the evenings, to make both ends meet.

All of us,a family of 7, an uncle and 2 aunts included,(other than my dad who lived in Kerala at the time) lived in that one room and kitchen flat in Bombay…some of the most memorable days of my life.

It gave me such a healthy childhood,set me on the path to life — still remember holding my granddad’s hand, climbling up the flight of stairs of building No.45, Bandra East — Bombay is so special to me ‘coz of him.

And my grandmom…she loved to kneel, bend over on a mat and pray..and cook…

Would listen to her rhythmic voice as she spoke to her God…how she prayed never to be a burden to anybody as she grew older, and cried while she prayed for her children and grandchildren to do well and be kept away from the evil one…

Now I see all those prayers being answered.

Me and my child enjoy her biggest gift to us every single day—my beautiful, precious mother—a woman of morals,a woman of integrity and tremendous inbuilt strength…’coz of all that was invested by my grandparents, her mom and dad, in her.

‘Mamma’ as we called her, never baked. But she cooked delicious food, and often said ‘d take over from her in the kitchen… smile.

She’d fry fish to a crispy perfection, make the most mouth watering salted mangoes and made lemon pickles that only got better with time. She had a sweet tooth, a major one – she had diabetes, but that din’t deter her from eating sweets. If she saw it lying around, she ate it.

How I wish for her to have been around, firstly so I could introduce my lil girl to another spectacular woman. Secondly, to feed her my desserts…knowing her tastes, am sure she’d love these sugar dripping Jallebis and her favorite Ginger drink that she’d bribe my youngest aunt to buy her every time she got back from college in the early 70’s.

The recipe for jallebis come from my favorite Pakistani cookbook author Khalid Aziz’s The Encyclopedia of Indian Cooking, and though is exactly not my taste, is my grandmom’s…

The ginger drink recipe, I got from my English Professor T.T. Joseph Sir’s wife, when a bunch of us M.A students trouped into his house one day during a Christmas season.

Jallebis: Be forewarned, it is a lil tricky dessert to make, esp, if it is a first time…a couple of goes and you are set.

170 gms Flour
150 mls/1/4 pint Yoghurt
1/2 tsp Saffron strands
1 tsp active dried yeast
500 gm/1 lb sugar
900 mls/1 1/2 pints water
4 cardamoms (optionals)
Veg oil for deep frying

Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Sift the flour in a bowl. Pour in the yoghurt, mix well and put to one side. Put the saffron threads into a cup and pour on enough boiling water to three quarters fill the cup.(Go slow on that one, should’nt make the batter too thin, piping it will be a problem.)

When the water has cooled to blood heat, sprinkle in the yeast with two tsps of sugar. After 15 minutes or so, pour this water into the flour and yoghurt mixture, and stir to produce a batter,about the consistency of double cream. Whip the batter with a fork,put the bowl to one side in a warm place for 3 hrs.

Prepare the syrup. Heat water in a saucepan, and add the sugar and cardamom if using. Bring to boil for 20 minutes so as to make a thick syrup. Put the syrup to one side.

When the batter is ready,heat some clean cooking oil in a deep frying pan. When a small amout of batter flicked in the oil immediately sizzles and rises to the surface, it is ready. Spoon the batter into a forcing bag and snip off the tip of the bag and squeeze the batter in swirls into the hot oil, making each swirl about 8cm/3 inches across.

Cook until the jallebi turns golden brown, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to the syrup.At this point, I usually take my jallebis out as soon as they are plunged into the sugar syrup, I like them to stay a lil crispy.

Repeat this until all the batter is used up.Serve warm or cold. Jallebis will keep for upto 1 week in a refrigerator.

Ginger Drink Recipe:

250 gms Ginger roots
125 gms Sugar (may add more to taste)
750 mls water
10 Dried red chillies (use the Kashmiri dried chilly variety, it has less heat compared to the normal dried red chillies)
2 tsp Lemon juice or Citric Acid

Crush the ginger. Boil the ginger, water, sugar and red chillies for 20 minutes.Let it cool. Keep aside for a couple of hours.

Strain it. Add Lemon juice/Citric acid to one cup boiling water and mix it to the strained liquid.

Caramelize 3 tsp sugar and add to the syrup and fill into bottles. Refrigerate and use as required.

Thanks for stopping by…

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in recipe

 

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Soft White Dinner Rolls

”Bread is used to eat with as much as it is eaten. A piece of bread is used as a secondary fork and then is used to wipe the plate  clean of every last morsel. Indeed, for many, culinary life begins with bread as mothers give their babies a hard crust on which to cut their teeth” Bread, Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno.

My affair with bread started when I was 14 and did a trip to the U.S to my aunt Jaquetta’s house. She’d baked some fresh dinner rolls and as we entered, the whole house welcomed us with the smell of freshly baked bread… a true treat to the senses.

She smiled as she brought those golf sized golden rolls stuck to each other straight out of the oven — and I swooned — that and some butter which instantly melted into them…something happened….

Didn’t venture into baking many years after that but it stayed in my sub conscious, unconscious, call it what you will….and when it came back, it came back in a huge way.

”Basically, it’s just you and the dough – ripening, maturing, baking, blossoming together” The Tassaraja Cookbook.

Yes, its magic that happens in the oven when you bake bread.

I’d hate to hurry the process and deprive myself the joy of sweet anticipation in waiting for my loaves to rise, then egg washing it and seeing it glisten, adding some poppy seeds, pearl sugar or whatever i fancy, and then waiting a lil’ more for that final rise until I shove it into the oven for the magic to happen…the natural sugars inside the wheat grain caramelizing from the intense oven heat, thereby turning them golden brown, the alcohol produced by the yeast evaporating totally after its done its job and the salt having done its silent action of modifying flavor, adding crust color and strengthening and preventing the gluten strands from breaking.

Yes, I believe like the masters of the art, that ”The best bread is built in stages, and thus has many levels.”

My No. I recipe I go to is Peter Reinhart’s Soft Sandwich Bread and Rolls from the Enriched Breads section in Artisan Breads Everyday, especially when I bake large scale. But now that am home at mom and dad’s, I go to the recipes that yield just enough to feed a family of four — rolls which take care of dinner and may have a left over or two for the mornings…2 of those recipes work perfectly for me and to date, I can’t decide which one I like best….One of them is a King Arthur Flour Recipe and the other is from the lovely blog, Home Cooking in Montana by Ellie, which is what I baked first…the pictures of her bread were compelling and I just had to bake them — am so thankful I did, they turned out light, soft and pillowy — just like she said they would.

Here it is from homecookinginmontana.blogspot.in:

Ingredients;

3 1/3 cup Flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

2 TBS sugar

2 TBS oil

1 cup warm water (110 deg F)

1 large egg, beaten

1 egg beaten for brushing the tops of the rolls

Method:

1. Combine flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl.

2. Add sugar, oil and beaten egg to the water. Pour over dry flour mixture.

3. Knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be tacky, not sticky. If you notice that the dough is dry add a bit more warm water 1 TBS at a time while kneading.

4. Form into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic.

5. Let rise till doubled, about an hour. Grab a small golf size piece of dough and form into a ball. If it is too sticky to form, use oiled hands to form the rolls.

6. Place rolls on a greased cookie sheet. Brush the tops with a beaten egg. You can sprinkle sesame seed/poppy seeds at this point if you want.

7. Let rise till doubled, another hour.

8. Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Bake for 12 -15 minutes. Rotate your pans. Check to see that the tops are golden.

Have added a brief jist as to the role of some of the ingredients and why they are in there:

Yeast : A living, single celled fungus, which feeds on the sugars and starches in the bread dough producing Alcohol (Ethanol) and Carbon Dioxide trapped in the dough, forcing it to rise.

Eggs : Makes the bread lighter, more airy, tender and aids in color.

Oil : Makes a richer tasting, cakier bread and helps preserve freshness.

Flour : When flour is mixed with water, Gluten is formed from 2 proteins in the flour, which contribute to the stretchiness and elasticity of the dough.

Sugar: Adds sweetness, tenderness and provides food for yeast.

Water : The main hydrating factor in dough.

Thanks for stopping by.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in recipe

 

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