Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cinnamon-crusted banana bread

You may have noticed that I really like quick breads. But the closest thing I've posted to a banana bread, a classic of the genre, is something that's trying pretty hard to be a danish instead. This isn't because I don't like banana bread, because I do—it's because I can't stand the smell of overripe bananas, and smelling that smell is hard to avoid while making banana bread.

But once in a while I suck it up and make banana bread anyway. (Today's excuse was a bunch of bruised bananas left over from camping this weekend.) Orangette had a surprisingly large number of recipes to choose from, and I went with this breakfast-ready option: not too rich, no fancy add-ins (besides chocolate of course), and with a nice crackly spicy crust on top. If you know that it doesn't have any added fat, you can tell that it's ever so slightly gummy, but you probably wouldn't notice the texture if you weren't looking for it. Since all the structure is from sugar and eggs, though, you can't cut back on either of them, so choose a different recipe if you're tempted to reduce the sugar.

3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1.5 c flour
1 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 c chocolate chips (3/4 c + 1/4 c)
2 T cinnamon sugar (almost 2 T sugar + 1/2 t cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 375F and butter a 8" square pan. Mash the bananas in a large bowl with the potato masher, then stir in the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon) in a small bowl, then stir into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in 3/4 c chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and top with the cinnamon sugar and the remaining 1/4 c chocolate chips. Bake for 35-40 min until a tester comes out clean.

Monday, April 15, 2013

S'mores-able vegetarian marshmallows

You heard me right—these are marshmallows with no gelatin that vegetarians can take camping. At least, I'm pretty sure they'll work based on preliminary toaster-oven-based investigations, which yielded toasty-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside balls of sugary goodness. Looking forward to trying them for real next weekend!

I spent a very long time choosing a recipe for this project. Not because there aren't a lot of vegetarian marshmallow recipes on the internet, but because most of them say they're not s'mores-friendly. Which is the only point of making marshmallows, right? I ended up going with this one partly because it seemed prudent to choose one with egg whites (no need to be vegan today) and partly because I found xanthan gum in cheap little packets at the end of the health supplement aisle at Berkeley Bowl. Plus, it's a nice easy recipe, especially if you're familiar with meringue buttercream frostings (although it's more like the Italian variety, which I haven't made, than the Swiss kind, which I have).

I followed the recipe at this blog. That, in turn, follows this cool collection of guidelines and recipes for many intriguing (and many more just plain odd) molecular gastronomy gelled edibles: dondurma! Iberian ham cream! whiskey gel! restructured onions! Definitely worth a look.

This makes 25 jumbo-sized (~1.5"x1.5"x1") marshmallows, big enough that you only need 1 per s'more. I used cornstarch for all the dusting, which gave the marshmallows a bit of a cornstarchy taste. I suspect that powdered sugar would work just as well and taste much better, so I'd advise trying that instead, but I can't totally vouch for it. Also, even with all that cornstarch, the marshmallows are sticking to each other a bit after one night in the fridge; I plan to re-dust them right before heading out for camping.

1 t xanthan gum
1 T + 1.25 c sugar (250 g)
4/5 c corn syrup (250 g)
1/4 c water (60 mL = 60 g)
1 t vanilla
3 egg whites
lots of cornstarch (or wherever I say cornstarch, sub powdered sugar)

Butter the bottom and sides of a 8x8" square pan and dust thoroughly with cornstarch. Grind the xanthan gum with 1 T sugar and set aside (since the xanthan gum is already a powder, I can only assume that the point of this step is to make the sugar finer). Weigh out the remaining sugar and the corn syrup in a 2-quart saucepan, then add the water and vanilla.

Heat the contents of the saucepan to 240-250F (firm ball), stirring at least after it foams up (220F). Meanwhile, or immediately before or after, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until soft. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly drizzle in the hot syrup and sprinkle on the xanthan sugar. Turn it up to medium-high and whip for a couple minutes until it's fluffy and pulls away from the sides in strings or ribbons (a bit like well-beaten ciabatta dough). Scoop the fluff into the prepared pan and attempt to spread into an evenly flat layer about an inch high. Dust the top with cornstarch, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge to set.

After a few hours, prepare a tupperware by lining it with wax paper and dusting that with cornstarch. Put more cornstarch on a bowl or plate, and dredge a metal spatula and a pizza cutter in it. Use the pizza cutter to cut the marshmallows into 25 squares, then use the spatula to reinforce the cuts and lift the marshmallows out of the pan. Dredge the marshmallows in cornstarch and transfer them to the tupperware. Add more wax paper between the layers, and re-starch everything as necessary when things start sticking to other things.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chocolate orange pie

Laura has a delicious recipe for a vegan chocolate mousse pie (where "mousse" means silken tofu). This is not it. Instead, this is my second non-vegan variation on that theme. This time, the filling is just as vegan as hers, but with some orange zest to liven up the rich chocolate.

The crust, on the other hand, is not vegan in the least—it's the pate sucree from Flour. It bakes up a bit like a crunchy shortbread or a HobNob, which I think complements the creamy filling much better than like a flaky pie crust and at least as well as a cookie crumb crust. And if you're already going non-vegan, definitely top with some whipped cream!

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 c flour
1 egg yolk

Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the salt and flour until it's grainy, like wet sand. Add the egg yolk and mix just until the dough comes together (more or less). Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll the dough out into a 10-11" circle on a floured surface and transfer into a 9" pie pan. (I couldn't do this without tearing the dough, but pressing the tears back together worked just fine.) Make it nice and even around the edge, then bake for 30-35 min until golden brown. Cool completely before adding the filling.

1 block silken tofu
1 pack chocolate chips, melted
zest of 1 orange
1 t vanilla

Blend everything together in the food processor until smooth. Pour into the baked, cooled crust, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving (ideally with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream).

Crumpet pancakes

Crumpet pancakes sound even more decadent than regular pancakes, right? Who would have thought that I came up with this recipe as a healthier, no-yolk adaptation of another pancake recipe. (Although the real motivation was to use up some egg whites left over from making mocha chip ice cream for Pat's birthday ice cream cake.) But these little guys really do have a tender, creamy texture that is very much like fresh crumpets, and they go so well with jam. Lester approves.

This makes 8 smallish pancakes, enough for 2-3 people. Since there's so little fat in the batter, I needed more butter in the pan than usual.

1 c white flour
1 T whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/3 c yogurt
~2/3 c milk
2 egg whites
1 T sugar
butter for the pan

Stir together the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl. Combine the yogurt and milk in a 1-c pyrex and stir until smooth. Gently stir the dairy into the dry ingredients until almost smooth, adding another splash of milk if the batter is too thick. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks, then whip in the sugar until dry. Fold the egg whites into the batter. Cook the pancakes in a generously buttered pan, using about 1/4 c batter per 4" pancake. Eat with blackberry jam.