Banana Chiffon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing

Banana Chiffon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing
I have a wonderful friend named Katrina.  She is the mother of two, wild at heart, loves all things done from scratch and enjoys nothing more than giving things away for free that she worked hard to produce and for which she should be charging good money.  I try my best to pay her for her amazing pasture-raised, organic eggs, but occasionally she’ll leave a dozen on my porch because “she had too many to use that week.”  Look at these beauties!

free range eggs

free range and all that jazz
So a few weeks ago when I was blessed with an extra dozen eggs on my porch, I decided to sacrifice them to the baking gods and make a chiffon cake.  NOTHING whips up faster than a fresh, room temp egg white.  And when you have fresh eggs (we’re talking hours from the chicken) you do NOT have to keep them in the fridge.  And for baked goods, nearly all recipes will call for a room temp egg.  I was completely shocked the first time I used Katrina’s eggs when making a chocolate mousse and the egg whites beat into stiff peaks in about a MINUTE.  I’m not exaggerating.  Amazing.  This post is really just me bragging that I have a super cool friend who raises really great chickens who lay really amazing eggs.

For the recipe today, I give you a banana chiffon cake with salted caramel icing.  A chiffon cake is kinda like an angel food cake except not so angelic.  It uses both the yolks and whipped egg whites AND has oil.  But the texture is similar to an angel food cake except this cake is super moist.  When I was little, the only cake my grandmother would ever make (to my recollection) was an angel food cake, and I can only imagine that was because it has no added fat.  She was missing out 🙂

Banana Chiffon Cake

 

Banana Chiffon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Icing*

For the cake:

10 1/2 oz sugar
5 1/3 oz plain cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 large eggs; 2 whole, 5 separated, at room temp
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)

For the icing:

1 recipe salted caramel sauce
1 – 8 oz. package cream cheese at room temp

 

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Whisk the sugar, flour, baking powder, soda and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk in the 2 whole eggs, 5 egg yolks (reserve the whites), water, oil and extract until the batter is just smooth.

Pour the reserved egg whites into the bowl of a sand mixer; beat at low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add the cream of tartar, gradually increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry (as little as 7 minutes in a stand mixer and as little as 2 minutes if you’re using eggs that are only 5 hours old) 🙂 With a large rubber spatula, fold the banana mush into the batter, then fold the whites into the batter, making sure to not over mix, but being sure you get all the way down to the bottom of the bowl to incorporate whites into all the batter.

Pour the batter into an ungreased large tube pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity).  Rap the pan against the counter a few times to rupture any large air pockets.  If using a pan with a removable bottom, grasp both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with your thumbs to keep the batter from seeping from the pan during this process. Wipe off any bbatter that may have dripped or splashed onto the inside walls of the pan with a paper towel.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 65 to 75 minutes.  Immediately turn the cake upside down to cool (I’ll admit, this is scary, but have faith).  If the pan does not have prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert the pan onto the neck of a wine bottle or funnel.  Let the cake cool COMPLETELY before inverting.

To unmold, run a thin knife around the pan between the cake and pan wall.  Use a skewer to loosen the cake from the tube.  Loosen the cake from the bottom of the pan with a knife and invert it onto a serving pan.  Hope for the best.  Half of my cake was hollow because I didn’t incorporate the egg whites sufficiently.  This is life.

Spread the icing over the top of the cake and let it drip down the sides.

To make the icing:

After making the salted caramel sauce, leave it in the pan and with a mixer or by hand with a whisk, whip the softened cream cheese until fully incorporated and no tiny lumps remain.  Let it come up to room temp and then beat again before pouring over the cake.

*cake recipe adapted from The New Best Recipe cookbook.  This book is endlessly tested and will never steer you wrong.

 

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Dark Chocolate and Ricotta Pancakes

dark chocolate ricotta pancakes

 

Chocolate or coffee?  Which ingredient controls my mind the most?  Coffee may win out just a hair with its zero-calorie-yet-complex-and-indulgent attribute, but chocolate comes in at a close second.  I received an amazing cookbook for Christmas from Matt.  The Mast Brothers Chocolate cookbook.  It’s stunning.  A voyage in pictures and recipes in the lives of Rick and Michael Mast – two brothers who make and sell chocolate in New York City.  The pictures are dark and stunning and the stories are as wholesome and exciting as the product they sell.  Everything from a sustainable source, every ingredient in their chocolate from a farmer they literally know and have probably had dinner with.  Nothing they do is the easy way out and it’s an amazing way of life to aspire to, and a joy of a book to read through like a novel.

One of the recipes that caught both Matt’s and my eye was the dark chocolate and ricotta pancakes.  I’m usually on the lookout for something special to fix us for breakfast on Saturday and that recipe just jumped off the page.  The picture showed these nearly-burned pancakes (although not burned – just super dark chocolate) and browned butter frothing around the edges.  Sold.  All the recipes in this book (if you can procure some really great chocolate) are simple and straight-forward.  Hardly any recipe takes up more than a paragraph and so it all seems so accessible.  I used Lindt 70%, our favorite dark chocolate that you can actually find in a grocery store.  The results were amazing – your classic chocolate chip pancake bumped up a notch.  Enjoy and take your Saturday morning a bit slower!

Dark Chocolate Ricotta Pancakes*
makes 10-12 small pancakes

3 eggs, separated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
2/3 cup AP flour
3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with ricotta cheese, milk, sugar, and salt.  Add flour and chocolate and combine.
In a separate bowl using a handheld mixer, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the flour-ricotta mixture.

Melt one tablespoon of butter for each batch of pancakes in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Ladle batter onto pan in 4-inch circles.  When the edges brown and batter bubbbles, flip pancakes.  They are pretty messy, so just do your best.

Serve with maple syrup and a cup of black coffee and rejoice.

*adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

A Blueberry Morning

Blueberry Muffins

 

It’s super cold – winter blew in last night leaving everything gray and bone-chillingly cold.  We are having a lazy day inside and all I can think about are these warm blueberry muffins with cold butter and hot blueberry syrup soaking into every crumb.  My mom made this combination quite frequently for us, growing up.  I associate them with cold, Sunday mornings. We needed something rather fast while getting ready for church, yet warming at the same time.  Something Mom could pop in the oven and then have time to get ready, herself!  She would boil the blueberry liquid and add a little sugar to make a wonderful blueberry syrup to pour on top of the muffins.  That was always my favorite part.  Just HOW blue can I make this muffin?

So when I saw a can of wild Maine blueberries in the grocery store, my mind went instantly to these muffins and I had to make them for us.  Mom’s were better, but that’s to be expected 🙂  Stay warm, today, Lubbock!

Blueberry Muffins with Butter Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup*
makes 12-16 muffins

12 1/2 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh, frozen or I used a can of blueberries packed in water – that part is important if you use canned)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 16 muffin tins with papers and spray the papers with non stick spray.  Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, powder and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Reserve the juice that comes in the can of blueberries and put it on the stove in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer during the baking time of the muffins.

Fold the blueberries into the batter and divide among the muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Remove and remove from the pan, letting them cool upside down for about 10 minutes.  Split, add a copious amount of salted butter and drown in blueberry syrup.  Cheers.

*adapted from Alton Brown’s Blueberry muffin recipe

Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes

Apricot Pinenut Cakelettes004

 

I used to have a huge apricot tree in my front yard.  It was so wonderful throughout the seasons to see the blossoms appear in spring and the fruit appear around June and the leaves turn shockingly golden in October.  It was one of my favorite things about our house and it introduced me to jamming and gave me a passion for it.  Because of that tree, I learned to make apricot preserves and the first two years we had fruit, I canned nearly 100 jars of apricot jam variants. Vietnamese Cinnamon, Chinese 5 Spice, Bourbon Brown Sugar, Rosemary, Vanilla Bean (the best version) and even Crushed Red Pepper Apricot!  I gave them away as gifts and really just reveled in the sudden surge of domestic satisfaction I was getting from the process of gathering, cleaning, cooking and canning a resource from my own yard.  I felt like such a good steward of those little golden gifts!

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apricot018

To make a sweet story a bit sad, that tree fell victim to the terrible drought our area has been suffering the past three years.  The second year into the drought, the fruit on our tree was tiny but packed with flavor.  It was the last year it would bear fruit.  We had to chop it down last summer and I will admit, I mourned the loss of that tree for months.  We’ve tried planting replacement apricot trees twice, now, and borers got the second one (and the first – it was a borer/drought combo) and the second replacement got hit by two late frosts and never recovered (although I won’t call it officially gone till next spring).

So maybe it’s not meant to be?  Maybe the lesson learned is to make good use of what you have while you have it.  Revel in the gifts you’re getting now, because soon, they may not be available to you.  If you have a fruit tree and don’t have time to make anything from it, first, call me and I’ll come pick up every piece from your yard (I know there’s no fruit on trees in this area, yet – still, the sentiment always applies) and second, if nothing else, just eat from it!

This recipe is a wonderful, easy recipe that can be used with fresh, canned or even dried apricots (or any fruit, really).  I used dried apricots that I reconstituted in a bit of water, first, because I couldn’t find canned, as the recipe called for.  They turned out wonderful and they lasted for a week!  The cake part is a wonderful cake recipe and one that I plan on using for other purposes in the future.  It calls for buttermilk, and I happily used some raw buttermilk from our local dairy, Pereira Pastures.  They are suffering from the drought too, and could use your support if you are from this area and feel like making a donation and getting some amazing milk in the process!

Apricot Pinenut Cakelettes001

 

Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes*
makes six cakes

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
8.5 ounces apricot halves, sliced
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter six 6-oz ramekins and place them on a baking sheet with a shallow rim.

Divide the pine nuts evenly among the ramekins.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat.  Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and the water and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the apricots and stir gently until coated.  Divide the apricots and syrup evenly among the cups.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the remaining 4 tbs butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and the granulated sugar on medium speed until well blended.  Beat in the egg and the vanilla until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, mix half of the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined.  Mix in the buttermilk until combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until combined.  Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and smooth the tops.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes (mine took more like 45).  Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cook for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the ramekins to loosen the cakes.  Invert the cakes onto individual dessert plates and serve warm with fresh whipped cream, or a drizzle of amber agave nectar, like I’m currently obsessed with.  🙂

* recipe from the Bonne Femme Cookbook!

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