10 January 2010

Cool Weather for Baking

I haven't managed to make much progress on the learning-to-blog front; however, it is nice and cool and I did manage to do a bit of baking!

Today I made some wonderful banana cake muffins, the same muffins I made for my son's 5th birthday not too long ago. Yum! A little history. . . I love bananas. I love cake and muffins. I've never in my life until now made banana cake muffins. Why?! It is a mystery. But I'm glad the waiting is over and I have seen the light. I'm not sure where I found the original recipe, perhaps cooks.com? No matter. I have a nasty, yet healthy habit of changing recipes fairly drastically to meet my own preferences of less sugar, less fat and more spice that I hope I can now call it my own. The muffins turned out beautifully-moist with a light and not-at-all-overpowering hint of banana that is not at all super-sweet and anything but bland (which sometimes happens when you omit ½ the sugar!). I think I will leave them un-iced, since neither of my boys like frosting. Although, I will give a few away to some friends who are working mothers that don’t have time to bake and will give them a topping of the best-ever cream cheese frosting from zoebakes.com. By the way, Zoe’s website is awe-inspiring. Her Devil’s Food Cupcake is my all-time favorite (along with a vegan version I modified) and her cream cheese icing with Lyle’s Golden Syrup is to die for! I would put a link here, but as I mentioned, I haven’t made much progress in learning about this blogger stuff and don’t know how to do it just yet. For now, you can go to zoebakes.com and search for devil’s food cupcakes (the frosting recipe follows the cupcake recipe), or you can try: http://zoebakes.com/?p=165 Perhaps I can link to it in this post at another time when I get that information sorted out.

Ok. Try clicking here.

Anyway, the Banana Cake recipe is as follows:

Cream together:
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (I use Crisco; mostly because my other option here is Ghee which I am not at all familiar with!)
1 cup white sugar
½ cup (scant) brown sugar (do not pack!)

3 eggs (add one at a time)
2-3 tsp. vanilla extract

Sift together:
1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat atta* (or white wheat flour)
½ cup wholemeal flour (in the US, traditional whole wheat flour)
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½-1 tsp. cinnamon (opt.)
Dash of: nutmeg, cardamom (opt.)

Add the flour mixture alternating with:
1 ½ cup Activia Laban** (or: milk, buttermilk or yoghurt mixed with milk)

Lastly, add:
3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp. lemon juice

Mix until moist. Pour into prepared muffin tins (I like to use papers so clean-up is easy!) but greased pans will do. Bake at 163C/325F for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For super-moist muffins, place pan in a freezer immediately to cool for 15 minutes before removing. Otherwise, cool on a wire rack (or bottoms-up if you don’t have a wire rack, like me). Enjoy!

*Atta: As far as I can tell, atta is Indian whole wheat flour. I buy Al Baker Chakki Fresh Atta which says on the ingredients list: Superior wholemeal wheat flour. Now, this stuff is light and wonderful, not coarse like some atta. I don’t recall ever seeing it in the US, but perhaps in a store that also carries a variety of Indian food? If not, I would think you could use the white whole wheat flour as a substitute. Of course, you could always just use all-purpose flour, but I like to make treats as nutritious as possible.

** Laban is a traditional drink here in the Middle East. It is a yoghurt drink made from unsweetened plain yoghurt. I like to use Activia brand as it has live bacterial cultures whereas the other brands sold in my area do not. You could make your own by mixing equal amounts of unsweetened plain yoghurt (preferably organic with live active cultures) and cold water—blend well in a blender. Otherwise, you could substitute with buttermilk (not at all the same! But a nice effect as well) or plain milk. Heck, you could do ½ cup unsweetened plain yoghurt and 1 cup milk! I love experimenting. . .

So there it is. I realize some of the ingredients I use will be unfamiliar. They were to me when I first moved here! But not being able to find ingredients I was accustomed to made me reach out and try new things. And some, like laban drink, are oh so good! So use what you have and don’t worry about it. It’s all good.

I also made my first-ever batch of home made cereal bars! But it is late and I must go to bed, so I will have to save that for another day. . .

p.s. If Boy (Marc, my husband) will teach me how to download pictures from my camera to the computer, I will post pictures of the muffins!

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