banana quick bread

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the humble banana is my favorite of fruits. instant energizer coupled with instant gratification. and as a child, this was only corroborated in watching of both sportsmen and women snack on a banana between their games in a tennis match. bananas wouldn’t really last that long enough for them to be consumed in cooked form, but if and when they did, which was such a shame, my mum would make something of them, such as these simple breakfast pancakes from whole wheat flour, fresh grated coconut, mashed bananas, milk and sugar. or tea-time banana fritters (ripe plantains, sliced and dunked in a batter made from flour, water and sugar, pan-fried, think caramelized fried plantains, an absolute caribbean delicacy). or fried dumplings from a batter of rice flour, coconut milk, mashed bananas, jaggery or palm sugar with a hint of cardamom, for dessert. yes, i was spoilt for choice.

i do occasionally indulge in banana fritters and pancakes, but what really makes me happy is banana quick bread. “bread” ‘coz it’s baked in a loaf pan and “quick” ‘coz that’s just implied. sometimes i buy a bunch of bananas and resist eating them until they’re all freckled and brown just so they could be turned into banana bread. and well, it isn’t always a long wait. especially during the summers, when they can ripen really fast.

did you know?

eating a banana can cheer you up! bananas are the only fruit that contain amino acid tryptophan plus vitamin B6, which together help the body produce serotonin – a natural chemical that acts like a stress buster.

my basic banana bread recipe is a no-brainer, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, half a cup butter or oil, 2 large eggs, a tsp of baking soda and of course, the key ingredient, mashed bananas, 3 large ones, or more!

over the years i’ve tweaked the proportions for that extra moistness and flavour. but no matter what you do, you can’t really go wrong with this. ‘coz it’s that simple. and if you still do, then you’re just acting on purpose! there’s no creaming of butter and sugar required here, just mixing of dry and wet ingredients separately and then folding the dry into the wet. that’s about it.

this recipe makes a size smaller than the traditional loaf, but it’s one i’ve used so many times, it’d be so wrong if i did not make a mention. i also had these sold at a bake sale once and they were all gone in no time. “i don’t like banana bread”, said no one ever!

this time around i had bananas that had gone so ripe, they were almost a golden nectar when peeled. it was then that i knew, the moistest banana bread ever, was waiting to be baked! i used Dominique Ansel’s banana bread recipe and the result was a buttery banana-loaded moist cake with a crust that alone was instagrammable.


ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups or 240g flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
3 large, overripe bananas, mashed
195g, unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing

instructions
start off by preheating the oven to 180 deg celsius. grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. in a separate, larger bowl, beat the eggs together and add the mashed banana, sugar and melted butter. fold in the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake until golden brown, or until a long toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. this took about an hour and 10 minutes. once done, take the loaf pan out of the oven and leave it on a rack to cool for 5 or 10 min. unmould the cake from the pan and continue to leave on the rack to cool completely before slicing. this was baked late evening and left overnight on my kitchen counter wrapped in foil to be sliced the morning after. it works for all cakes! every time!


you could easily substitute butter for oil, here are some recipes that have been tried and tested with oil.

banana bread from foodnetwork.com
banana bread from my catholic kitchen
Julia’s best banana bread from Bon Appetit

despite oil altering the taste a tad bit while still retaining moisture, i do believe it to be a healthier option if you happen to be a rabid baker. but unlike me, where i have only so many days such as these when i put on my apron and bake, i guess, butter is my only consolation. so i would stick to butter. ‘coz if there’s no butter/fat, no dairy and no sugar, it’s no good, throw it out! no prizes for guessing who said that.

so next time when you’re in a dilemma over not knowing whether to freeze overripe bananas and blitz them the day after for a breakfast smoothie or throw them away, hold your horses and bake this banana bread. chances are, you may never look at overripe bananas, the same way, again.

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chocolate pound cake

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after having baked several versions of a simple pound cake, i craved for something more. and what better than chocolate? i’d been on the lookout for a good chocolate pound recipe for long, but most of them came with either buttermilk or sour cream, which for me are sure recipe turnoffs. ya, i know you could make your own buttermilk but somehow that hasn’t gone down quite well with me. and then sour cream. that’s not easy to come by either. i wanted something that could be whipped up with simple ingredients from my pantry, as always.

your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain. ― Dave Barry

this recipe from cook’s country makes the perfect chocolate pound cake. with no buttermilk, and no sour cream, hallelujah anyone?! it is now my go-to recipe for a chocolate pound cake that’s moist and decadent, with a tender crumb. try it, you’ll see!

adapted from Tracey’s culinary adventures


ingredients
1 cup or 150g all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (i used Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa)
60g milk chocolate, finely chopped (i used Nestle’s smooth milk chocolate)
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cup or 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature

instructions
Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack in the lower third. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour or line with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the cocoa powder and chocolate to a heatproof bowl, then pour the boiling water over them and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is well combined and smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a stand mixer, combine the butter, cooled chocolate mixture, both sugars, and the vanilla. Beat on medium to medium-high speed until very fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until completely incorporated. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing just until combined. The batter might look curdled at this point, but that’s ok.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top into an even layer (the batter will almost completely fill the pan). Gently tap the pan on your work surface a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then turn it out of the pan and allow to cool completely.


i did not make the chocolate glaze as called for in the recipe. i thought it was great by itself. but if you must, a simple chocolate ganache would do. makes for a great trifle base too!

some shots from my Instagram account!

update april 9, 2016 :

i happened to bake this with carrefour’s 100% cacao and the result was a rich dark chocolate flavour. Hershey’s has taken a backseat for now.

      

simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication

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so goes the saying by the legendary Leonardo da Vinci. and a humble pound cake is just as much a reflection of the same. i believe there is goodness in the simplest of ingredients in transforming themselves into something exquisite. equal parts flour, sugar, butter and eggs is all you need to make a simple pound cake.

there’s something magical about the process of making a cake from scratch, a process that transforms a few simple ingredients; butter, sugar, flour and eggs – into culinary artistry –Tish Boyle

my first ever attempt at baking a pound cake was this marble cake by Rachel Allen. and at a time when i couldn’t tell unsalted from salted butter. or couldn’t be bothered with what creaming or folding the batter really meant. or that baking was as much a science as art. i remember having baked this in a bundt tin, my only bakeware at that point in time. i remember not having dusted my tin with flour and not having known that in the first place! and well, the rest is history… i then slowly but surely graduated to baking this Nutella swirl pound cake in a loaf tin. and then this in a springform tin. yes, i had begun to invest in bakeware by then.

much later when i was into my prime, i came across this plainly perfect pound cake by Tish Boyle. and one fine day when my colleague at work brought me a box of strawberries, i knew the time had come to bake this. so here goes, the perfectly plain or plainly perfect pound cake, as you like it.

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ingredients
200g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
225g unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
250g castor sugar
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
80ml heavy cream

instructions
preheat your oven to 170C.
sift flour with baking powder and salt and set aside. cream butter in a mixer at medium high speed until creamy (about 2 mins). add sugar gradually and continue beating for 4 mins until light and fluffy.
reduce the mixing speed of the mixer to low and add eggs one at a time mixing until well mixedthe vanilla extract. add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with cream (added in 2 additions). pour into a parchment lined 9″x 5″ pound cake tin and bake for 60-70 mins or until the cake turns brown and a testing skewer comes out clean.


there was another version of this pound cake that i happened to bake a year ago when i realised i had run out of cream. it was this condensed milk pound cake.


the plainly perfect pound cake is great by itself, but if you must, you could have the following accompaniments;

  • whipped cream and berries
  • berry coulis / compote
  • yoghurt / honey / custard / caramel
  • Nutella / chocolate fudge
  • also works as a great cake base for a trifle