banana chocolate chip loaf cake

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Uni finally re-starts after an almost painfully long hiatus, and ironically I am not ready. In just one month’s time we’re supposed to be seeing real, breathing, feeling human patients for the first time after poking in the mouths of plastic manikins for the past two years. There’s so much we haven’t learnt… clinic etiquette, local anaesthesia administration, taking x-rays and impressions, not to mention I desperately need to brush up on the masses of knowledge that I’ve let go of *sigh*.

Although I don’t expect schoolwork to become so intense to the point I need to give up baking, at least for a little while anyway, I also need to stick to the promise that I’m gonna devote more time and effort to my studies (and God, and friends and family). So as a rough estimate, my postings are probably going to reduce to one per week. Wish me luck! I’m really hoping for a progression in my attitude from the previous semesters, as I know third year is no easy demon to slay; and that tears, sweat and blood will be shed.

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For this humble and comforting loaf cake, I took my original brown butter banana cake and glammed it up with some chocolate chips in the batter, with almond flakes on top (also drizzled with chocolate but forgot to take a picture). I also altered the method to beating the eggs to ribbon stage first, emulsifying with the cooled browned butter then adding in the rest of the dry and wet ingredients alternately. I think it makes for a fluffier cake and more tender crumb – already looking forward to toasting a slice or two for breakfast tomorrow!

super banana-ry chiffon + yoghurt whipped cream

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It still feels surreal that the recent earthquake in Tainan, my hometown, was of such a scale that it made international news. There we were, sleeping soundly at 4 in the morning, violently awakened by the most dramatic of shakes (I had to hold onto the headboard to keep from bouncing off the bed). After a full minute, I was able to go back to sleep after a bit of online checking that my friends here were okay; but many weren’t so lucky. Apart from a massive loss of lives from the collapsed building, it so happened to take major water pipes along with it, which led to nearly 10 days without water in our district. Fortunately for us, the temporary supply stop was but across the road, and we must’ve crossed it dozens of times in the past few days. Minimal showers we could deal with, but washing dishes, flushing toilets and the like were a pain. Which leads me to my point that I haven’t really bean able to bake for a good while *sigh*.

When the news came that water was finally back, guess what I was most excited about doing apart from having a long hot bath? I’d longed to make a lighter banana cake without any compromise in the intensity of banana flavour, which tends to be lacking in banana chiffon cake recipes out there. I was compelled to find a way to maximise and concentrate the bananary-ness, and recalled America’s Test Kitchen’s way of microwaving bananas to extract the juices, along with some others. I settled on ChefSteps’ technique of pressure cooking the bananas while caramelising them – and I have to say that it’s genius. It smelled downright addictive, not unlike banana fosters. I then pureed the caramelised bananas, as well as added some of that butter it’s been cooking in for an extra punch. To take it even further, a sprinkling of chopped up whole dried bananas was applied, taking things to a ban-tastic level.

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To balance out the intense sweetness of the nuggets of dried bananas in the cake, I thought it’d be nice to complement it with a light frosting in the form of yoghurt whipped cream. SO GOOD. (I have no shame).

 

Intensified banana chiffon cake + yoghurt whipped cream
(makes 1 20cm-long, 4-layered cake)

For the banana chiffon:
5 yolks + 1 whole egg
26g sugar
25g banana oil (leftover from the pressure cooker)
145g pressure-cooked banana puree
1/2 tsp vanilla80g cake flour
1 whole dried banana, chopped small (optional)
5 whites
26g sugar + pinch of cream of tartar (latter optional)

For the yoghurt whipped cream:
150g heavy cream
1 tsp ~ 1 tbsp caster sugar
75g plain yoghurt

Start by pressuring cooking some bananas. Take 2 medium to large bananas and chop them into 3cm pieces, and place them in a pressure cooker. Add to the bananas 35g of butter cut into small pieces, 18g water, 18g sugar, a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda. Cook for 15mins, turn the bananas over and cook for another 15mins. Fish out the banana pieces once they’re cool, and puree them. Keep the melted butter in the pot for later.

Preheat the oven to 160C and prepare a tin (mine is about 20x30cm) by greasing the sides and bottom, and lining the bottom with parchment.

Whisk yolks plus one egg with the first amount of sugar until the volume has increased and the mixture appears paler. Stream in the banana butter from earlier while whisking, followed by the puree and vanilla. Take out about 1 tbsp of the flour in the recipe to coat the dried banana pieces, then whisk in the sifted flour, followed by the floury dried bananas.

Start whipping the whites on low speed, then gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar and increase the speed and continue whipping until medium-stiff peaks are reached. A third at a time, slowly but surely incorporate the whites into the yolk mixture and fold until just combined. Poor the batter into the prepared tin, tap to release big bubbles and level out the top. Bake for approx. an hour or more, check doneness by pressing the middle of the cake to see if it bounces back. Remove from the oven, unmold and place on a cooling rack.

For the yoghurt whipped cream, simply combine all the ingredients and whip to stiff peaks.

To assemble the layer cake, slice the cake into 4 equally-sized strips, and layer them with a quarter of the whipped cream per layer. For the top, lay down a thin layer of cream, then pipe rows of cream with a round tip. (If desired, increase the recipe for the cream and cover the sides as well).

peanut butter & banana cheesecake

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Now that the presidential and MP elections are over, it means we’ll not have to put up with obnoxious vans blaring out promises and loud music as part of campaigns. Which means peaceful baking times.

Even if you’ve never lived in Asia, you’ll certainly know by reputation that ‘everything’ is dirt cheap here. And that is quite true to a certain extent. I mean, I go out almost every morning to the markets with some AUD$30, and return victorious every time with a trolley full of groceries, sometimes even clothes, with change to spare. So you can imagine my lack of surprise when a jar of peanut butter with a similar price tag to an Australian brand is doubled the size, and thus my wanting to use it in some way other than spread on toast for the 6th day in a row. And that, is the story of how the PB & B cheesecake was born.

It’s a simple recipe: 1 package of cream cheese, 1 egg, 1 banana and a few others, blended together to make what I consider a perfect symphony of sweet bananas and slightly salty peanut butter. And because I persisted and managed to resist my urge to reduce the cooking time, the texture is unbelievably creamy, almost like a mousse except rich and custardy.

 

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PB & B cheesecake (makes one 5″ cake)

For the roasted almond biscuit base:
see pâte sucrée recipe, replace with roasted almond meal

For the batter:
250g cream cheese, room temp.*
40g granulated sugar
15g brown sugar
1 egg, room temp.
dash of vanilla (+ optional bourbon)
1 small banana, mashed w/ few drops of lemon juice
2 tbsp peanut butter

Roll out the biscuit dough to desired thickness of about 4mm, then cut it to the same size as the base of the tin. Place it onto the lined base of the tin and bake at 180C for about 10 minutes until fragrant and the edges slightly golden. Reduce the temperature to 160C and place a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.

Beat the softened cream cheese with the two sugars together (sift brown sugar if lumpy). Lightly whisk the egg and add it to the cheese mixture slowly while mixing. Add the vanilla and alcohol if using. Place the peanut butter into a separate mixing bowl, warm slightly if the consistency is more viscous than the main batter. Add about half of the cheese mixture to the peanut butter and mix to combine. Add the mashed bananas to the other half and mix evenly.

Alternately pour the two flavours of batter into the tin, make swirls if you’d like with a skewer or similar tool. Tap the tin to release air bubbles, and place in the middle rack of the oven to bake for approx. 30-40 minutes, or until the centre is jiggly but the edges are set when shaken gently. Cool completely in the tin on a wire rack, then transfer, still in the tin, into the refrigerator to chill overnight before cutting/serving.

brown butter banana bread

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I could present this without comment. And I really should, as nothing I write will ever live up to, and is bound to only undermine the perfect simplicity that is this banana bread.

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But you know I’m still going to harp on and proclaim my love for the humble yet majestic banana bread. It was the first baking effort I truly nailed, way back when I was first attracted to baking. 5-6 years ago (I really thought it’d be longer than that) my mum bought me a ‘Baking for Beginners’ cookbook, one of those all-encompassing, baking for dummies instruction manuals. I no longer reach for it as my appetite has expanded beyond the basics, but it’ll always have that special place on my bookshelf. The banana bread recipe was the first of many recipes I tried from that book, and as amateurish as I was then, it satisfied me that it was so simple yet always produced a consistent result – clean, simple, fragrant banana bread.

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wrong choice of bowl size.

Flash forward to now, it’s still the most requested bake as we always have bananas around. Dad simply cannot survive one day without eating one – he calls it his nerve-calming food. Sometimes it almost seems boring and ‘not enough of a challenge’ when someone mentions I should make banana bread again, but as I venture out every time to find yet another new recipe (because you can never try too many) the excitement is reignited.

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As alluded to in the brown butter pear loaf post, I’m in an affair with brown butter as it adds such depth of flavour and fragrance to anything it touches. It is no exception in this recipe – it simply surpasses bread made with regular butter or oil by leaps and bounds. That said, I have no problem whatsoever with healthier versions made with oil, whole wheat flour and natural sugars (which I’m sure I’ll post about one day); but sometimes none other than the full-on, unadulterated, ultimate version will do, you know?

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What makes this my absolute favourite? It’s due to the fact that every single component just comes together in a harmonious way, some of which include:

  • the banana flavour: everyone knows that you have to use ripe bananas in baking. Honestly, you can get away with a little less ripeness with adjustments in sugar, but nothing will come close to a disgustingly-black, ripe-to-the-max banana in terms of fruity sweetness. Nowadays I like to store overripe bananas in the freezer – which turn coal-black – then roasting them in the oven or microwaving them if I’m in a pinch before use. Concentrated. Banana. Puree.
  • the fat: brown butter, duh. It’s almost like banana fosters cake with the toffee-like character it lends.
  • the sugar: as I use the absolute ripest bananas possible, this bread is just the right sweetness with less than 1/2 cup of added sugar. Experiment with different sugars, too. I used raw sugar and molasses this time but brown sugar would be wonderful as well.
  • the dairy: many recipes call for milk or buttermilk. As we don’t tend to keep the latter around, I use a combination of cream/milk and Greek yogurt. The acidity and the baking soda help with rising as well as the self-raising flour.
  • mix-ins? This obviously comes down to personal preference. I’m not one to shy away from adding dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips etc. to my batter. However this time I went for a pure batter with almond and coconut topping.
  • spices? Many a times have I sprinkled in a little cinnamon into my batter, even a chai-inspired mix of spices. It does add certain warmth in the same vein as comfort food. I find they go more hand-in-hand with oil-based recipes though, as they tend to overwhelm the buttery flavour. That said, I pretty much add earl grey to everything and anything.

With that rant out of the way, here’s my favourite (for now, the experimenting never ends) recipe for the purest and softest banana bread a.k.a. BBBB. It’s perfect for breakfast with tea, even a sneaky during-class snack.


The glorious BBBB
(makes one large 9″ loaf)

100g unsalted butter, browned and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp molasses (omit if using brown sugar)
125g sugar
30g milk/cream + 30g full-fat plain yogurt / 60g buttermilk
3 medium ripe-to-death bananas or ~300g peeled, mashed
250g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

Optional:
1/4-1/2 tsp spices e.g. nutmeg, cinnamon, loose leaf tea
up to 1/2 cup mix-ins

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare a loaf tin by buttering and flouring the sides, and lining the bottom.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, molasses and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add in dairy and the mashed bananas and mix till combined. Add browned butter and stir to homogenise.

Sift the remaining dry ingredients together and fold into wet mixture. Pour batter into prepared tin and sprinkle on topping if so desired. Don’t pre-toast your nuts if you’re putting them on top as they’ll toast further in the oven. Bake for approx. 35 mins or until the top springs back when lightly pressed.

Best served warm.


Couldn’t work out a subtle way to include this disclaimer, but the new blog logo/graphic is very much inspired by Tom Hovey’s work for the GBBO. I used it as a reference and drew it myself, then – wait for it – coloured in in Paint. Paint. That is the extent of my artistic skills. Actually moderately pleased with it if I ignore that the blue strokes are obscuring the black lines.

*First exam is done! Super knackered, more from the heat than actual energy depletion. Slightly less awful photo quality this time as I got up early to make this in time for breakfast as opposed to staying up late.