Sunday, March 13, 2011

Banana bread

When overripe bananas overflow the fruit bowl, it’s time to make banana bread.
While the texture and taste of fresh overripe bananas are preferable for banana bread, it’s perfectly fine to freeze bananas and thaw them for baking at a later time.
It’s possible to make any recipe healthier by maximizing the use of more nutritious ingredients and holding back those that are less beneficial, and this recipe holds true to that philosophy: It’s heavy on the mashed banana, and a little lighter on the butter.
I also use a few ‘secret’ ingredients, simple things that give this banana bread a unique taste:
1. A good strong dose of black coffee
2. Ground cloves
3. Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate.
The cloves add a spicy contrast that wake up the taste buds; it reminds me of the chili & chocolate combination. And frankly, everything’s better with coffee or Calllebaut chocolate. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Muffin of the day

For years, I’ve been working at mastering “the muffin”, and until recently, it’s been a fruitless endeavor. Instead of light, airy, well-rounded muffins with heaping tops, time after time, I pulled dense, flat "pucks" out of the oven.
Finally, this week, there is cause for celebration in my kitchen; I have baked muffin worth writing home about.  And even better, the recipe is versatile: using the same ingredients to make the base, it can be adapted in more ways than I would dare to imagine. Yesterday’s creation was a fig-ginger-pumpkin variety, and today I used the leftover pumpkin combined with zucchini. I was so impressed with the crystallized ginger that tomorrow I am going to try it with carrots and apple.
I have had to adjust the amount of baking powder, and I now use pastry flour exclusively instead of all-purpose. And lastly, the most important thing I have learned is that unsalted butter trumps oil in muffin recipes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tasting my way to the perfect cookie

I’ve tasted a lot of cookies and I’ve got to say, most of them have been pretty mediocre. I have great expectations of a cookie; I admit it, and so I have taken matters into my own hands in the pursuit of the perfect cookie. So far, the best of my repertoire are the double chocolate, peanut butter chocolate chunk, and most recently, white chocolate macadamia nut.
The perfect cookie, in my opinion, is a bit crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Attaining this is truly a science, and requires the right combination of ingredients, especially sugars, butter & flour. Needless to say, practice makes perfect and there have been many not-so-perfect cookies baked in my kitchen along the way. Fortunately, I am tireless when it comes to taste testing, and I also have good help.