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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chocolate-Ginger-Banana Bread

There is a side note in the book All Cakes Considered about the crazy idea that you can put over-ripe bananas in the freezer and save them to make banana bread. Do people really not know about that? Usually, when I make banana bread, it's not because I have a hankerin' for banana bread, it's because I'm cleaning out my freezer and there are 9 old bananas in there (I have actually taken bananas out of the freezer that had absolutely no banana left inside of them- there's a science experiment for you!) Anyway, after I read A Homemade Life I wanted to try the chocolate ginger banana bread recipe because it sounded crazy enough to be good, and it was great! Then I made the mistake of taking a loaf to work and having a co-worker call it "the cat's ass" which, upon grilling him to find out if I should be honored or insulted (apparently "the cat's ass" is a compliment!) and I told him I'd make him some. So right after I made the banana bread cake, I made 3 loaves of the chocolate ginger banana bread.
Here's the problem: I had to buy all these bananas from the local co-op, and all their bananas are on the yellow-green side, not the yellow-brown side of ripeness. This meant, one- that I kept eating them, and two- when I finally had enough for the cake and the 3 loaves, they still were hardly "ripe", which means not as easy to mush. When you thaw bananas that have been in the freezer for awhile, they just squeeze right out of the peel and practically mush themselves (it's kind of gross). The yellow ones would take some work, so I decided to use the kitchen aid. In the past when I've made multiple loaves of banana bread, I made each loaf seperate. This time I decided to just triple the batch and split it between the 3 loaf pans. I didn't know if it would work, but it seemed easier. I started with the dry ingredients, and just stirred them up in the kitchen aid. Easy. Except it practically filled the thing. (I also used about half wheat flour instead of all white). I dumped that into another bowl, then started on the wet ingredients.
The cake and the triple banana bread recipe combined called for 10 eggs. I maybe got the egg shells mixed in from about all but one egg. That is why I crack the eggs in a separate bowl, spend a couple minutes digging out the shells, before adding to the kitchen aid. It's frustrating but in the end, less crunchy if you do it that way. Plus you can dig out any mucus or embryos from the egg, if they happen to be there. Then I added the bananas- 1/2 a banana at a time. There were 9 bananas to add, so that really kept me from having sore hands. That would have been a lot of mushing! Instead of the butter the recipe calls for, I added all applesauce (unsweetened) and instead of whole milk yogurt I added low fat (no other reason than it's what I had). But in the end, it makes for a healthy loaf of bread! I might have over-mixed the wet ingredients in the kitchen aid though, because when it was all mixed up, it really smelled like a smoothie.
This recipe calls for chocolate chips and chopped crystallized ginger. I never used crystallized ginger before I read A Homemade Life and now I buy the stuff more than I buy milk. It's pretty awesome, and if you eat it on it's own, it solves the problem of onion or garlic breath.

So I might like the ginger in this bread more than the average person- which results in my "1 cup" of chopped ginger looking like this!

Now that I had a big bowl of dry ingredients and a big bowl of wet ingredients- I needed a super huge bowl to mix them in. This is something you can do if you happen to be married to a ceramic artist and you own enormous ceramic bowls (that happen to be heavy as hell and are really only used for things like this, or if you are making a salad for about fifteen people). If you aren't married to a ceramic artist (I'm sorry for you) you can maybe use a stock pot or a big kettle, or a 5 gallon bucket- you can make this batch as big as you've got the bowl to hold it in. That's the rule. However, having a batch this big means it's a little harder to stir it all up, so you'll find unincorporated chunks of flour at the bottom. Try to get those all mixed in or you'll have ugly flour chunks in your finished loaves of bread.

The test was a success- all 3 seemed to be mixed well and they turned out fine. Next time, I might only make a double batch, or- if I can wait that long- as many as I have enough bananas in the freezer for.

When you spend all day in the kitchen, it's important to stop every once in awhile to give kitties some attention.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cake # 5: Procrastinatin' Drunken Monkey Banana Bread (Cake)

On January 31, I made this cake, and I was really exited because it involves FIRE! I was SO excited, I made a whole batch instead of a 1/2 batch. So.. here's how it went...
First, I took 2 cups of dried tart cherries and added 3/4 cup water in a sauce pan and brought it to a boil. I let it boil until the water was almost gone, then I added 3/4 cup of rum (blackstrap rum) and after 30 seconds, I lit it on fire! The recipe said to let the flames die, about 2 minutes. After more than 3 minutes, they were still going strong, so I added a little water and they died out pretty quick after that. I was afraid the cherries would be charred if I didn't do something. It was sweet though, and the smoke detector didn't even go off. The house smelled like a rank old bar, though. After doing the dishes, and having my partner help scrub the charred pan- I decided that a fry pan would probably work better so that the flames go up to the air and not up to the sides of the pan.

Then I got out the kitchen aid and creamed 2 whole sticks of butter, some sugar, eggs, and while that was going, I mashed (by hand!) 5 big bananas. I used to eat a banana every weekday at work, my co-workers made fun of me & my "potassium sticks", but that was when I started composting at work and I discovered that
1. not only are banana peels good for the compost bin with their nutrients
2. worms seem to love them- all those banana peels and I hardly ever saw any when I stirred up the compost pile.

So, needless to say- this recipe is great for composters! If you aren't composting and you are making this recipe, please, at least take your banana peels (and egg shells) and throw them in the backyard. Some random animal will really be pleased.

Back to the cake-
According to recipe directions, I added the leftover flamed rum juice from the cherries to the mashed bananas and stirred it up well- this really doesn't look too attractive, see the photo.
Then I added it to the stuff in the kitchen aid and like she says in the book, it will have the consistency of "Chunky Monkey" ice cream.

Then I added the dry ingredients and the vanilla and mixed that up well.
Then I actually noticed in the book it said to USE A WOODEN SPOON even though it wasn't written in caps like that, it should have been since I almost missed it- or something like DO NOT USE THE MIXER EVEN THOUGH YOU MIGHT BE TEMPTED TO when you stir in the plumped cherries and crushed walnuts. I found "walnut nuggets" at the local Hy-Vee not too far from the "catfish nuggets" and I am starting to think that someone, somewhere, at Hy-Vee corporate offices or something, did a little survey and found that people are more likely to buy food items with the word "nugget" in it. I mean, would you rather buy "raw walnuts" or "walnut nuggets"? Maybe they could shorten it to "Walnutgets" Or "Walnugs". Come on, you'd pay twice the price for something that cool, wouldn't you?

Anyway, back to the cake...
It said to use a tube pan, but as my bundt pan was bigger, I used that instead, and not realizing that I had made a whole batch instead of a half batch, I poured it up to the rim (this one actually did pour!) and said "the hell with it" if it rises, I'll deal. Spouse thought it would make a mess of the oven but it didn't, in the end. The book said to bake for 50-60 minutes, I had it in for 70 minutes and the toothpick test (I've actually been using old wooden skewers instead of toothpicks, they are long so you can really dig in to the depths of these big cakes and I'm also re-using them, you environment police!) came out gooey. After 70 minutes, the test wasn't as gooey, and the top was really starting to brown to a really dark brown, so I took it out. Then, it says to cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping it out. I did that, and it totally fell apart. The top half and sides were all stuck to the pan and I tried using a knife to scrape it off, but in the end, I just got what was intact onto the plate and we stood there and ate all the pieces that were stuck to the pan.

I think it could have cooked a little longer, or maybe it should have been in 2 smaller pans. I decided the bundt pan was too much to deal with, and next time I'll make the same recipe in a couple (or 3) bread pans and make it like a banana bread with rummy cherries, after all- the end result was that it tasted a lot like banana bread with a rummy cherry kick. It was pretty good- but I was regretting the fact that I didn't try at least 1/2 of it with applesauce instead of butter. I got so excited about flaming rum that I didn't even think of diverting the recipe. Now I'm tempted to do it over, and see how it tastes.
I had so many bananas and so much time & energy, I then went on to make 3 loaves of banana bread! Read the next blog for more details...