Category Archives: cake

Euclidian Geometry = Chocolate + Strawberries + Bananas

Flavors easing into one another, gently releasing their separation…

In mathematics, the first of Euclid’s five general axioms is: “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” IMAG1827Chocolate and strawberries and chocolate and bananas and, heaven knows, strawberries and bananas have affinity relationships with one another. So, in a somewhat Euclidian way I hoped that there was a flavor triad among the three.

The strategy also centered around quickly ripening bananas and my personal commitment to minimize waste to every extent possible when I cook for myself and as pastry chef at Nicoletta’s Table. Restaurants have a great responsibility to reduce waste.  For inspiration, I began with a banana bread recipe from Massimo Bottura‘s book, Bread is Gold.

The second goal was to create the greatest intensity of flavor. I’m a huge proponent of roasting, smoking and dehydrating fruit to maximize flavor. Using techniques that enhance the singularity of individual flavors is a core practice. Throughout last season’s fruit harvest, I slow-roasted local fruit for Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Jam, Rustic Apricot Jam, Dark Sweet Cherry Compote and Elberta Peach Jam.

Euclid’s 5th general axiom is, “The whole is greater than the part.” Reading and researching flavor affinities is an important tool in professional cooking. Confident creativity arises from research and experimentation. And, it’s fun.

Roasting bananas removes some of the moisture present in the fruit, intensifying flavor and allowing an increase in the quantity of bananas from 3 to 5. Using brown, clarified butter and brown sugar also benefit the overall flavor profile.

BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD

1 3/4 C (8 3/4 oz) all-purpose (AP) flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

5 very ripe bananas, peeled

8 T ( 4 oz) brown clarified butter

2 large eggs

3/4 C packed (5 1/4 oz) light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract (VE)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice peeled bananas; place on parchment-paper lined sheet pan. Roast for 15 min or until soft and liquid separates from the bananas; strain the liquid. Cool to room temperature. Spray a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with vegetable oil spray.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. In mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light. Add VE; add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth. Add banana puree. Add dry ingredients all at once. Reduce speed to low; mix just until dry ingredients disappear. Scrape into prepared pan.

Bake on parchment-lined sheet pan until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.

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A simple strawberry-banana compote is a great accompaniment; garnish with chocolate gelato and banana chips.

Strawberry-Banana Compote

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ slices

1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced

3 T unsalted butter

2 T light brown sugar

1 T lemon juice

1/4 C bourbon

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; add bananas,  strawberries and brown sugar. Cook until sugar has fully dissolved. Add bourbon; continue to simmer until the alcohol has cooked off, 7-10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

 

 

 

 

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A Bite of Gingerbread and a Cup of Tea, Please

In cake,  I am aloft of make-believe wings…

A surprising interest in writing poetry six-plus decades into life is pulling the thread of the fabric I could previously identify with. I find a book of poetry in my hand in most spare moments of the day, so I guess new fabric is being woven.

At the library yesterday and at the recommendation of my writing instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute (OCI), I requested a book of poetry that was a Pulitzer Prize winner in the early 1990s. Also at the reco of an OCI chef-instructor, I thought I might pick up a copy of MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating, published long ago but never having made its way to my reading table.

I’m  now waiting for a copy of The Wild Iris which is on hold.  In the stacks I noticed a 634-page volume of the author’s, Louise Gluck, works that I thought I might read in the meantime.  Being a good steward of time, I looked for Fisher’s book, as well.

I could only laugh: 749 pages. This, with a term of Advanced Restaurant Marketing, creating a full operating plan for Essential Confection, three upcoming EC jobs, a second OCI class, two food blogs, work,  and a stack of other books of interest.

So, what of all this? Well, Mary Frances offered me her mother’s gingerbread recipe; she called it  “the best recipe for gingerbread ever devised.”

Now, any pastry or confection recipe of quality that has the potential for greatness is a recipe whose lure I accept. Let’s give it whirl.

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Edith’s Gingerbread has a very light crumb and beautifully moist texture.  It would be irresistible without any other accompaniment but lovely sips of tea.

Naturally, I used butter instead of shortening and triple sifted the dry ingredients to ensure even distribution of spices and leavening. I also used the Cuisinart for the entire preparation which expedited the process.

MFK said the gingerbread is fabulous cold, and my guess is that it will do for a great up coffee what it did for a great cup of tea. Tomorrow morning will tell.

Lovely, light, luscious.

Edith’s Gingerbread, as written in The Art of Eating

[my remarks, bracketed]

1/4 C shortening [butter]

1/4 C sugar

1/2 C molasses

1/2 tsp soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

cloves and salt [approximately four cloves, ground, or to taste]

3/4 C boiling water

1/4 tsp soda

1-1/4 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 beaten egg

Cream the shortening and sugar. Sift the spices and flour and baking powder together. Beat the 1/2 tsp soda into the molasses until it is light and fluffy, and add to the shortening and sugar. Add the 1/4 tsp soda to the boiling water, and then add it alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Fold in the beaten egg when all is well mixed, pour into a greased and floured pan, and bake about 20 min at 325 degrees F. This mixture will seem much too think to make a cake, but do not increase the quantity of flour, as many doubting cooks have tried to do.

MFK’s serving suggestions were with either a hard sauce or a wine sauce (using sherry).