banana upside down cake

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life is a paradox, they say. how true, it resonates. we live in times where we have all possible means to connect and communicate and yet we’re disconnected in thoughts and words and deeds. religion is used more for destruction than salvation. and that makes us wonder, is God man-made or is man the handiwork of God? we talk more but say little of substance. or we never say what we really mean, but really mean what we never say. and then sometimes by not saying we risk more than otherwise saying. we do more but live less. nothing lasts forever and yet some things are eternal. we’re told it’s now or never and yet there are comebacks and fairly tale endings. and that change is inevitable and yet it is constant. we have to lose what we have to know what we had and yet we never did think we’d lose what we had when we had it. our cure for pain is sometimes revenge, the root of it. we’re happy and then we’re sad for we fear we cannot be happy for long. we fear what we long for. the pursuit of happiness is what makes us sad. and if life is truly outside, why has man spent time trying to perfect the indoors? so what is life then, if not a paradox? 

so not particularly feeling  quite myself, i resorted to baking. with a few bananas lying on my kitchen countertop about to reach their prime, i decided to go with an upside down cake. thankfully, it turned out to be perfect, unlike my state of mind. i chose a David Lebovitz’ recipe, whose book “the sweet life in Paris” i’ve read with undivided attention and complete rapture. it was my first ever chef book read and one that was followed by many chef-culinary memoirs. here’s an interview with David Lebovitz, who i think is witty and writes with unfazed candidness.

ingredients

for the banana topping

55g butter, unsalted
110g packed dark brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon rum
3-4 medium bananas

for the cake

175g all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
115g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
150g granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (125ml) whole or lowfat milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


instructions

1. to make the topping, heat the 55g of butter, brown sugar, and seeds from the vanilla bean, in a 10-inch (25cm) cast iron skillet on the stovetop. stir until the butter and sugar are liquified and start to bubble. remove from heat and stir in the rum. add the split vanilla bean to the skillet.
2. peel the bananas and slice them in half lengthwise, into thirds, and arrange them over the brown sugar topping in the skillet. preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
3. to make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, in a small bowl and set aside.
4. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a medium bowl using a sturdy spatula, beat the butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer between the additions and scraping down the sides.
5. on slow speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients, then the milk and vanilla, then the rest of the dry ingredients, mixing only until they’re just incorporated. do not overmix. scrape the batter over the bananas in the skillet and bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake feels done when you press it in the center. a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
6. remove the cake from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. run a knife around the outside of the cake to help it release from the pan, and turn it out onto a serving platter or cooling rack, wearing oven mitts and taking care to avoid drips from hot caramel. any caramel bits that may have stuck in the pan can be spooned back over the warm cake.

i used a 9 inch bake pan instead of a skillet. i placed the banana slices in the pan and poured the caramel all over before topping it with the batter. and i made the batter entirely by hand using precisely one bowl and one whisk and i must say, it still made a beautifully moist cake. you don’t always need fancy equipment, it’s all about putting what you have to use in the best possible way.


i must say the cake when released from the pan upside down was quite a treat to the eyes, pity i did not take a picture. you can check out the finished cake on David Lebovitz’ site, mine looked just as pretty as his. it tasted yum and is best served the day it’s made, preferably warm, but can also be served at room temperature, like i did. a real moist cake with a delicious tight crumb and the goodness of caramelized bananas. now that’s no paradox. thank God for the simple pleasures.

 

 update 29 Jan 2017

i made a version of an apple upside down cake using the same recipe except for substituting light brown sugar for dark for the caramel. and it goes without saying, lots of cinnamon. 


2016 holiday baking

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how did it get so late so soon?
it’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
my goodness how the time has flewn.
how did it get so late so soon?

– Dr. Seuss

is it any wonder i ask myself every december how it has come to be december already from all the times the earth had revolved around the sun and it had started to get dark and yet i wasn’t one gibbous moon closer to a yearly goal or that i hadn’t set myself any. this december wasn’t any different. except i made time to do some holiday baking, the beneficiaries of which happened to be my colleagues at work. this is what i managed to put together.

chocolate brownies from the famed ‘baked’ bakery brownie recipe

ingredients

  • 155 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 310 grams dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230 grams) butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or 1.5 teaspoons instant coffee granules)
  • 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 180C. line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk the flour and cocoa powder together.
  3. put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. the mixture should come to room temperature.
  4. add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk just until combined. add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. don’t overmix at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
  5. add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and fold until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
  6. pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. cut into squares and serve.

this is my definitive brownie recipe i swear by and one that has satisfied many a happy mouths. make sure you use the finest dark chocolate around because that is what lends its taste to the final product. and use 50-60% minimum dark chocolate for best results.

nutella and walnut fudge from olive magazine

ingredients

  • 240 g salted butter
  • 250 g condensed milk
  • 300 g nutella
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300 g icing sugar
  • walnuts

instructions

add the salted butter and condensed milk to a pan and stir on low heat until the butter has melted and blended. remove pan from heat and add in the nutella and vanilla extract. pour this mix over a bowl of icing sugar and mix well. pour the mix into an 8×8 tin lined with baking parchment and sprinkle a handful of crushed walnuts over.refrigerate for upto 4-6 hours. cut into squares and place in an airtight container. these remain refrigerated for upto a week or longer. if they’re kept at room temperature they may not hold their shape depending on your climatic conditions.

ginger-nut biscuit fudge adapted from here


ingredients

  • 200 g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 100 g butter, diced
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 x 400 g tin condensed milk
  • 250 g mc vities ginger nut biscuits, each biscuit broken into thirds
  • line a loaf tin with cling film and set aside

instructions

set a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. add in the chocolate and butter and allow to melt, stirring now and then until it’s smooth. remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the espresso powder, then pour in the condensed milk, stirring well to combine. add in the biscuits and stir until they’re evenly distributed in the chocolate. pour the chocolate biscuit mixture into the lined loaf tin, pressing it down evenly and firmly with a spatula. smooth the top with the spatula, then place in the fridge for about 3 hours, or overnight, until set. cut into thin slices or small cubes (it’s very rich) to serve. wrapped tightly in clingfilm, this will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Christmas fruitcake from goodhousekeeping



ingredients

  • 500g or more mixed dried fruit such as apricots/prunes/figs/black currants/dates
  • 100ml brandy/cointreau/rum
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 175g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice powder

instructions

1. put the fruit, orange zest, and juice, cointreau and vanilla into a large non-metallic bowl. stir, then cover with cling film and leave to soak for at least 24hr or for up to 2 days.

2. put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk for 2-3min until light and creamy. gradually whisk in the beaten eggs, adding a little of the flour if the mixture starts to curdle. fold in the remaining flour, cinnamon, cloves and mixed spice.

3. tip the soaked fruit mixture into the bowl and stir well, then spoon into a greased and lined deep round cake tin and level the surface (there’s no need to make a dip in the mixture).

4. bake at 150°C mark 2 for 1hr 40min or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. leave to cool completely in the tin, then remove from tin (keep in its parchment paper) and wrap in a double thickness of foil. store in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months.

5. if you want to feed your cake in the run-up to Christmas, after it has been left wrapped for 2 weeks, prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer and sprinkle over 1tbsp brandy or cointreau. rewrap and store as before. feed every few weeks for a more intense flavour.

mixed nut pie

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there’s something deeply comforting about pie. and a warm one at that. it is the combination of textures from that crust and custard filling, and versatility in terms of type, be it fruit, meat or vegetable, and flavor, be it dessert or savoury. i don’t know of anyone who does not fancy a good apple pie though the jury may be out on pumpkin pie. my personal favorite is a warm apple pie on a cold wintry day, and a chicken pot pie, the definitive salve to my soul. to me, baking pie at home meant hard work. and i often wondered how one worked their way through a lattice pie and other indigenous innovative designs. the only one time i remember having baked pie was pairing with my baker sister-in-law and having chosen a rather ambitious fig almond pie that i now come to remember wasn’t bad considering the constraints we had to work around in terms of limited pantry ingredients and baking implements.

fig and almond tart ovenbound

A post shared by Priya Francis-Jacob (@pf2979) on

some hundred Pinterest pins later on ‘how to bake that perfect butter pie crust’, i still couldn’t garner the courage to bake one myself. but the compulsive pinning did not stop. and then came the awakening with my brother sending me a link to Nigella Lawson’s pecan pie and a chance to register for a cookalong contest with the reward being a signed copy of any one of Nigella’s books! now who wouldn’t want that?! i quickly went through the recipe making mental notes of the ingredients and taking stock of my pantry. i decided i was going to take on this challenge with or without the reward.

as always, Nigella’s recipes do not disappoint. her pecan pie crust calls for no expertise whatsoever, made from flour, oil and milk! the rest of the pie filling is as simple as it can get. i don’t get pecans where i come from and had to therefore settle for a mix of walnuts, almonds and some leftover hazelnuts from one of her other classic recipes i’d last baked. the result was simply amazing – a delicious dessert pie best served warm, with a generous scoop of some plain vanilla ice cream if you please. i think this makes a great winter dessert for a fairly large family gathering.


ingredients

  • 225 grams plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 125 grams vegetable oil
  • 60 mLfull fat milk
  • 150 grams golden syrup
  • 100 grams soft butter
  • 200 grams soft light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 350 grams mixed nuts
  • 3 large eggs

instructions

  1. preheat your oven to 180°C. in a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, oil and milk to form a rough dough.
  2. tip out into a 25cm / 10 inches diameter flan dish, and press the dough patiently over the base and the sides of the dish, slightly coming up over the top if possible. put in the freezer.
  3. melt the syrup, butter and brown sugar over a lowish heat in a saucepan.
  4. add the vanilla, stir, then take off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.
  5. take the pastry-lined flan dish out of the freezer, and arrange the nuts on it.
  6. whisk the eggs into the slightly cooled sugary syrup until it looks like a caramel mixture, then pour it over the nuts.
  7. bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the filling has set and the pastry is golden.

my entry to the cookalong contest is registered. fingers crossed! if nothing i’ll still be glad i got myself to finally bake one!

one bowl chocolate fudge cake

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you know that line that’s been around for a while now – you eat cake because it’s somebody’s birthday somewhere. now that could become a perfectly legitimate excuse for baking and eating cake when that someone is your mother and when you’re home away from home. so, homesick, as i’ve been all these years with not having been in town to celebrate my mum’s birthday with her, the closest i could feel to being home with her was to bake her a cake. i wanted a cake that screamed celebratory yet contrary to the effort. something i could whip up after long work hours with precisely one whisk and one bowl. and not having to mention, melted butter considering i always refrigerate. should you carry unrealistic expectations and specifications such as mine, you’d be happy to know they could be fulfilled; with this recipe from Alice Medrich that makes the perfect chocolate fudge cake from basic pantry ingredients all with one bowl and one whisk.

i cannot express how simple this is to put together! and with the results obtained, you would think you worked real hard to get it to taste the way it does. intensely rich from the cocoa and a moist tender crumb from the butter and light muscovado sugar, this cake reigns supreme in all departments. it is now my go-to recipe for when i’m low on time and energy. it is my just-because cake.

this recipe comes from ‘sinfully easy delicious desserts’ by Alice Medrich and though i have had the book for the longest time now, i happened to first spot it here. i must say this has reinforced my belief in Alice Medrich after having tasted many success with her signature cocoa brownies. i look forward to trying more of her recipes.


ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutchprocessed, i used Hershey’s)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • ganache
    • 8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 cup heavy cream; more as needed
    • granulated sugar (optional)

instructions

position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 180 degC. grease the bottom of an 8×2- or 9×2-inch round cake pan or line it with parchment.

in a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. in a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. add the eggs and vanilla; stir until well blended. add the flour mixture all at once and stir just until all combined. pour the hot water over the batter; stir just until it’s incorporated and the batter is smooth. scrape the batter into the prepared pan. bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for a 9-inch pan; 35 to 40 min. for an 8-inch pan. let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 min. run a thin knife around the edge and invert the cake (peel off the parchment if necessary). invert it again onto the rack and let cool completely.

put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. in a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  (if using a 70% bittersweet chocolate, the ganache may get thick; add more cream, a tablespoon at a time, to thin it). you might also want to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar when you add the hot cream. the ganache will keep for a week in the refrigerator, covered – rewarm gently before using.

once cool, set the rack over a baking sheet or foil. pour the warm ganache over the cake and use an icing spatula to spread it over the top of the cake and down the sides. let set for about an hour before serving. i had some leftover ganache from a cake i baked a week ago and used it instead.


after baking well late into the night, i was left with no time for frosting so i let the cake cool overnight in the pan. come morning, in between breakfast, lunch and dinner meal prep i had just about enough time to warm the ganache off the refrigerator and frost the cake that had been sitting plain yet pretty on my kitchen countertop. i regret not having had the time to shoot a few pictures in between the ceremonial cutting of wedges (you get 8 generous portions or 16 measly ones) to take with me to work and some siphoned for snacking later in the day. so you just have to believe this makes a pretty cake when frosted. make sure the ganache is relatively thick so you get to swirl it around forming those soft luscious peaks. between work and home, this cake was gone in a day. try it, you’ll see. happy birthday mom. 

dark necessities

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i loved nutella before the internet made it ubercool. i remember being introduced to it as a child on a summer holiday to Dubai. i remember not quite comprehending how a jar of molten chocolate could possibly have been an acceptable accompaniment to toasted bread at the breakfast table. i remember waiting until told it was acceptable and the rest is history. the only legit way i’d known of devouring nutella was with buttered toast/flatbreads and on days when i’d have that horrendous craving, straight off the jar. it was only much later that i discovered a whole following out there leveraging nutella in more ways than one. in brownies to cakes to smoothies to cheesecake, that i had to dedicate an exclusive board to nutella on pinterest.

http://pin.it/soN8Qam

i’d been eyeing this recipe for too long now – Nigella Lawson’s nutella cake. i finally got around to baking it and boy, the result is rewarding. this recipe makes a rather decadent moist hazelnut torte – flourless with nothing but nutella, butter, eggs, ground hazelnut and dark chocolate. it’s like eating one giant ferrero rocher. except you made it at home.


adapted from Nigella Lawson 

ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • 6 large eggs (separated)
  • 125 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 400 grams nutella (1 large jar)
  • 1 tablespoon frangelico (or rum or water) – i used water
  • 100 grams ground hazelnuts
  • 100 grams dark chocolate (melted) – i used 60% dark chocolate

FOR THE ICING

  • 100 grams hazelnuts (peeled weight)
  • 125 ml cream
  • 1 tablespoon frangelico (or rum or water) – i used water
  • 125 grams dark chocolate – i used 60% dark chocolate

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 180ºC. in a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. in a separate bowl, beat the butter and nutella together, and then add the frangelico (or whatever you’re using), egg yolks and ground hazelnuts.
  2. fold in the cooled, melted chocolate, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of egg white, which you can beat in as roughly as you want, before gently folding the rest of them in a third at a time.
  3. pour into a 23cm/9 inch round greased and lined springform tin and bake for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.
  4. dry toast the hazelnuts in a frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others. transfer to a plate and let cool.
  5. in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the cream, liqueur or water and chopped chocolate, and heat gently. once the chocolate’s melted, take the pan off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency to frost the top of the cake. unmould the cooled cake carefully, leaving it on the base as it will be too difficult to get such a damp cake off in one piece.
  6. frost the top with the chocolate icing, and dot thickly with the whole, toasted hazelnuts.


dutch apple cake

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i just happened to post after a long drawn hiatus and talked about how time had flown that it’d already come to be september and now i can’t help wondering it’s october already. time flies and though most things may become irrelevant with it, some things are timeless. like this recipe i baked a long ago in time but still has its place in my memory that i keep coming back to it – my first dutch apple cake ever, by rachel allen.


ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 175 g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 85 g butter
  • 75 ml milk
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

method

1. preheat the oven to 200C. line the sides and base of a 20 x 20cm square cake tin with parchment paper.

2. using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until the mixture is thick and mousse-like and the whisk leaves a figure of eight pattern (this will take about 5 minutes).

3. melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, then pour onto the eggs, whisking all the time. sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.

4. arrange the apple slices over the batter. (they will sink to the bottom.) sprinkle over a tablespoon of sugar and bake in the oven for ten minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

5. remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes in the tin. cut into squares and serve.


this recipe makes a delightfully light and moist sponge cake with the goodness of apple and cinnamon. my cake did not have a browned crust like the one on this site but was delicious nevertheless. there are a ton of apple recipes i want to bake this season and hoping i will get to it before it’s next fall already!

one-bowl-chocolate cake

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i have a chocolate fixation. anything in chocolate, dark preferred. and when it comes to a quick fix, i always look for something that can be made out of a single bowl with simple pantry cupboard ingredients. saves on time and without having to do the many otherwise dishes. i found this recipe from Donald Skehan and decided to give it a go. it is a simple moist chocolate cake, though not as chocolate-y as i would have wanted it to be. you could tweak the proportion of cocoa and sugar if you have the same findings as mine. nevertheless, it most definitely makes an easy one bowl chocolate cake – purpose served!


ingredients

100g butter, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
70g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
3 tbsp cocoa powder (or more for a more intense chocolate flavour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar, to dust

instructions

preheat the oven to 180°C.
grease a 20cm cake tin with a removable base, grease the tin and line with parchment paper.
melt the butter in a saucepan. remove from the heat, add the sugar and eggs and mix well.
add the flour, cocoa and vanilla and mix until combined.
pour into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
the cake won’t rise dramatically but you should be left with a set top and gooey middle.
serve in slices, with a dusting of icing sugar. you can also add a little whipped cream to top it off.