Monday, 9 April 2012

Her results - Banana and Lemon Cake

Banana and lemon aren't a logical pairing but they work well together. In my opinion, bananas taste comforting and sweet while lemon is lively and tangy. Put banana and lemon together and the result is a robust flavor that somehow avoids being too out-there.

I baked this cake twice because the first time I baked it, it didn’t look pretty enough to get my stamp of approval. Thankfully, the second time I baked it, it not only looked better but it tasted better, too. My colleagues, our students and I scarfed down the cake in no time flat. Everyone seemed to agree that it was good.

Before baking this cake for the second time, I bought fresh baking powder and baking soda to help ensure that the cake would rise up to be light and fluffy. I also toasted my walnuts to bring out their flavor and I reduced their quantity to 60g to make the cake less uniformly nutty.

The cake itself was moist and tasted a lot like banana bread but with a finer, more cake-like crumb. The icing was a bit odd, but I can’t identify what made it less palatable than my ideal lemon buttercream. If I ever make this cake again, I’ll substitute an award-winning lemon buttercream or lemon cream cheese frosting. That said, the icing was pretty much what you’d expect and it glided onto the cake easily.

The lemon zest lent the icing little yellow flecks that looked pretty. I accentuated the yellow flecks with sparkling yellow sprinkles that looked vibrant and added a nice crunch! I also topped the cake with candied citron, which served the dual purpose of being cute and being a good slicing guide. 1/16 of this 9" cake is a nicely sized slice, and I think 1/8 of the cake would be too much for most. Perhaps there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

His results - Banana and Lemon Cake

The cake was good, the frosting was a bit much for me.

I don't know what else to say. Sometimes life's just too much. Do what you can. If you can at least put up the pictures and write a sentence I guess you're not doing too bad.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Recipe 72 - Banana and Lemon Cake

Back in 2000, I spent a summer as an Economic Botany (useful plants) intern at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, England. It was a great place to work. More than anything, it made me realize how much I value working somewhere beautiful, around others who also value that beauty.

While working at Kew, I picked up three cookbooks: Chocolate, Berries and Bananas. I have no idea why I bought those books. In the twelve years that have passed, I think I've only ever tried out one recipe: Banana Muffins. Ha! To my credit, I think I used to bake those muffins quite a lot... Generally speaking, I rarely use my cookbooks and I hope I slowly made good use of them over the course of my life.

After leafing through about ten of my cookbooks, I finally settled on Banana and Lemon Cake from, you guessed it, Bananas!

Banana and Lemon Cake
Light, moist and flavoursome, this cake keeps very well and it's everybody's favourite.

Serves 8-10

For the cake
250g (2 1/4 cups) plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g (scant 1 cup) caster sugar (aka granulated sugar)
75g (1/2 c) soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
225g (1 cup) mashed, very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla essence
60ml (4 tbsp) milk
75g (3/4 cup) chopped walnuts

For the icing
115g (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
450g (4 1/2 cups) icing sugar (aka confectioners sugar)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
45-75ml (3-4 tbsp) lemon juice

To decorate
lemon-rind curls

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease two 23cm/9in round cake tins and line the base of each with non-stick baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the lemon rind.

Mix the mashed bananas with the vanilla essence and milk in a small bowl. Stir this, in batches, into the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the sifted flour. Stir lightly until just blended. Fold in the walnuts.

Divide the mixture between the cake tins and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack. Peel off the lining paper and leave to cool.

Make the icing. Cream the butter in a bowl until smooth, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Stir in the lemon rind and enough of the lemon juice to make a spreading consistency.

Place one of the cakes on a serving plate. Spread over one-third of the icing, then top with the second cake. Spread the remaining icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with lemon-rind curls.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

His Results - Potato Chip Cookies

I really wanted to use Seabrook's crisps for these cookies but I couldn't find ready salted ones in the few shops I checked. I managed to pick up these unsalted ones though and added a couple of hearty pinches of sea salt flakes.

The mixture was really easy to put together. I rolled the balls of dough in sugar and then mushed some smashed up crisps and black sea salt flakes on the top of each.

They looked beautiful like that I thought. I love the texture of the sugar coated exterior. The first batch I cooked pretty much as instructed, checking a little earlier than suggested and they were pretty overdone. The second lot I baked for ten minutes and they were about perfect.

These are really delicious. I gave some to a few friends and they agreed. Don't skimp on the salt!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Her Results - Potato Chip Cookies

I just savored my last bite of my final potato chip cookie and it was a little bittersweet - not flavor-wise but experience-wise. They were pretty darn good and it was sad to finish the last one.

Ultimately, these cookies are simply good, interesting shortbread cookies. Sure they have 1/2 cup (42g) potato chips but it's the other ingredients including the 1/2 cup (62g) toasted pecans that you sense when you're eating them. The potato chips the secret ingredient, not the star of the show.

The finished product had a nice crunch, not quite as significant as the crunch of a potato chip but getting on for it! The crunch came from it being a shortbread cookie, from the pecans and from the layer of sugar that coated each cookie's surface surface. It's also noteworthy that the cookies weren't too sweet despite having been rolled in sugar right before baking. In other words, don't skip that step.

Also don't skip the extra salt suggested by the adapted recipe and don't skip the potato chip topping. Even with the extra salt my cookies weren't noticeably savory. The potato chip & flaked sea salt topping provided the only true glimmers of saltiness. It was just right! For comparison eat a Lays chip, which are about 400+% saltier by my unscientific estimation.

Of the 71 recipes we've tried during this experiment, this was one of my colleagues' favorites. I will keep it in my repertoire. Happy baking, everyone.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Recipe 71 - Potato Chip Cookies

I like sweet and salty foods. Both apart and together. Especially together. We've cooked plenty of them and it's time for another: potato chip cookies, recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

We'll be needing

225 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 grams granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans (not for me!)
1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips
250 grams plain flour

Potato chip salt finish (optional)
1 tablespoon crushed potato chips
1 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Her Results - Orange Tea Cake

I got exactly what I expected out of this recipe: a simple, flavorful, fluffy cake.

I accidentally forgot to buy sour cream, so I cobbled together a chain of substitutions I found on the web. First, to make buttermilk, I measured 1T of white vinegar into a 1c measuring cup and filled with 2% milk. I gave that about five minutes, and then I whisked my cup of buttermilk with 1/3c melted butter. I forgot that my cold milk would cause the butter to seize up, so I had to sit that bowl into a bath of warm water to liquefy it again. No wonder it took me a while to make this simple cake! At any rate, I used 1/2 cup of this mixture as a substitute for sour cream and it worked really well.

As you can see, the batter was thick and fluffy.

The method and ingredients are different, but the taste of this cake immediately reminded of some Fresh Orange Muffins we made back in October 2010. Another recipe we made in January of last year, Orange Cornmeal Cake, is probably my favorite of the three orange-infused desserts we've made. This week's cake was the least sweet of the three, which is just an observation and not a complaint. Since I began dating an Englishman I have become more and more open to "sweets" that aren't very sweet.

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