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. 


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.


apple yogurt cake

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september – that time of the year, when you begin to wonder whatever happened to the time gone past. a procrastinator’s nightmare, possibly. when you’re trying so hard to keep up to the umpteen promises you made to yourself. or are possibly making new. or maybe wondering if you could just start all over again, like you always do. serious contemplation apart, fall is the color of hope that all things must die to themselves before self renewal. deep! i know. but for most, fall is associated with climatic changes, harvest and melancholy. from where i come, there are no fall colors, no autumnal foliage; the leaves don’t turn a pale green to an ochre yellow to a burnt sienna and definitely no halloween. but oh yes, there is a fall autumn winter collection in stores. it’s still monsoons until september followed by light showers all through the winter months. down here you don’t really have to wait until fall for apples and pumpkins to make it to your dinner table. but i must admit, there is something about having anything in apple in the winter months. it’s the warmth it lends when paired with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or star anise. a quiet cozy spot with a book in my hands, fuzzy socks on, and a warm slice of apple cinnamon cake on a crisp fall day is all i need to be in all my glory. simple pleasures satisfy. over the years i’ve made many a version of an apple cake, with this being my last one which tells me it’s been a while. i’ve been eyeing this recipe from David Rocco (all things italian, dolce vita; you know what i’m saying) for too long now wondering how would yogurt go into making an apple cake. but the pictures on this food blog of the moistest, prettiest slice of apple cake i’d ever seen with that signature sugar crust had me abandoning all other plans and wanting to bake this so bad. and i’m so glad i did – this by far trumps all other versions of apple cake i’ve made before and has ruined all apple cake recipes for me, forever. it really is amazing what simple humble unassuming pantry ingredients and a trip to your farmer’s market can do in making something so exquisite. this recipe makes for a cake with the perfect blend of textures – moist and mushy from the apple and yogurt inside, crunchy from that classic flaky sugar crust outside (also the only one time i’ve fancied consuming sugar in its raw form). and the flaky crust makes for such a pretty sight with all of those ruffled cascaded layers! it is most comely when baked and taken off the oven, with the sugar crust still sizzling away in the hot pan and eventually pulling away from its sides revealing a pale white primrose hued crust. you just have to bake this one for the experience – it is all worth it.


adapted from kitchenhealssoul

ingredients

  • 1⅓ cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup (115 grams) granulated sugar
  • ⅞ cup (200 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra for buttering the pan
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (125 ml) yogurt
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup (75 grams) granulated sugar (for the topping)

instructions

  1. preheat the oven to 350°F. butter an 8-inch cake round.
  2. in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and cinnamon.
  3. using either a stand or hand mixer, beat the ½ cup of sugar and the melted butter until it has lightened.
  4. add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.
  5. reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour.
  6. stir in the sliced apples, and pour the batter in the prepared pan.
  7. sprinkle the ⅓ cup sugar evenly over the top of the cake.
  8. bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. allow to cool completely in the pan before serving.

i think this makes a pretty breakfast cake. that is if you’ll bake it at night and leave it to rest on your kitchen counter until cooled completely. though it would easily keep for about 3-4 days in an airtight container (mine was gone in about two), i suggest you polishing it soon after ‘coz it really is the prettiest then with all of those flaky sugar-crusted layers. also the longer it rests, its flaky layers tend to dissipate into the cake body making it a tad too sweet. or atleast that is what i thought happened. i also happened to use red gala apples (a little past their prime) instead of the tart granny smith ones which probably could’ve added to the overall sweetness. i plan on baking this with granny smith apples the next time around, i reckon the tartness should pair well with the yogurt. whatever you do, you cannot go wrong with this one. highly recommended!

P.S.

i just realized this post comes around eat-an-apple-day of the year; serendipity!

and turns out, David Rocco does have more to him than just good looks, some equally great recipes!

of memories and irani cafes

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i grew up in Bombay and lived most of my formative years there. it is my hometown. and although i’ve now come to build my home in Bangalore, Bombay will always continue to reign supreme in my heart. it is a place like no other, a place where i’ve made a chock-full of memories to last a lifetime. my earliest memory of a cafe was not the Starbucks of today’s modern times. it was one of old-world charm with a subtle colonial touch, basic and minimalistic, with high-end ceilings and large creaking fans, black-and-white-checkered laminated/tiled flooring, wooden/glass/marble-topped tables with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, wooden/cane chairs that wore the brunt of time, large wall mirrors hanging precariously doubling up the floor space, large chiming pendulum clocks, and large apothecary jars filled with shrewsbury biscuits, nankhatai (shortbread biscuits), macaroons, madeira pound cakes, mawa cakes and other such characteristic bakery treats on display. legend has it, Iranian cafes were opened by Persian immigrants to India as early as the 19th century. there were hundreds of them then of which most downed their shutters over a period of time losing to competition from fast-food chains etc. leaving only a few handful to pass on their dying legacy. since they operate on a low margin making it affordable to the common man, their sustainability and survival is only a matter of time.

there are no Irani cafes here in Bangalore. but there is one that opened up in their name with the below objective;

With sodabottleopenerwala, we give you a concept that is unique to India; the dying legacy of the wonderful chaotic, crowded, bustling, colorful, quirky, cluttered, eccentric, and so real world of an Irani cafe. Our way of reviving the love for the edu and the disappearing race behind the cafes.

        i must say they did a pretty good job at recreating the cluttered and eccentric ambiance and the food, to some extent. here are a few shots from my time at the restaurant. 

    

i have been looking to bake these Irani mawa cakes for long now. cakes that time-travel into my childhood. i find they are ridiculously easy to make with basic pantry ingredients except for the condensed milk solids (mawa / khova) that a trip to your local supermarket or milkbar / dairy center should fulfill.

adapted from here


ingredients

  • 200g mawa/khova (condensed milk solids), at room temperature
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • a tbsp of almond flour
  • almond slivers

instructions

  1. blend the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and mawa using a hand or stand mixer at low speed in a large bowl into a smooth batter. add the cardamom powder and almond flour and blend until incorporated.
  2. whisk the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. fold the dry ingredients into the wet to form a muffin-like batter.
  3. spoon the batter into a muffin tin, with each hole about 3/4th full. sprinkle almond slivers on top.
  4. bake in a preheated oven at 150 deg celsius for about 30-35 min.
  5. serve warm with a steaming cup of hot irani chai!