Archive | December, 2012

New favorites: Oatmeal banana cake with salted caramel topping

22 Dec

IMG_0122

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guys.  New favorite.  And I’m proud to say it’s pretty much the product of my own kitchen intuition, kitchintuition if you will.  Actually, the banana cake part of this recipe is part accident, part intuition.  I spent a little over a month in Italy last Summer while finishing up grad school, and found myself limited in both the supplies and the appliances that I was familiar with, however I couldn’t just not bake for five weeks.  I found a trusted banana bread recipe and took it to the market with me, however my Italian is pretty much nonexistent and I couldn’t find either brown sugar or baking soda or powder.  I also didn’t have a loaf pan.  I ended up buying white sugar only, and a few disposable tart pans (secret: anything I baked during those five weeks came out of those tart pans).  With that and the bananas, flour, and butter at home, I was able to improvise, and the result was this amazingly moist, dense (but soft) cake, that me and my two roommates demolished in less than 24 hours.  After that I kept thinking of all the ways I could dress it up once I was back in familiar grocery store territory.  What you have here is the first of what I’m sure will be many variations. Recipe to follow after the pics.

 

IMG_0118

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0119

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banana Oatmeal Cake:

3 overripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of flour

¾ cup quick-cooking oats

Mini chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and oats, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered tart pan or spring-form cake pan lined with foil (I used one with a 10-inch diameter. If using the mini chocolate chips, sprinkle a layer over the top of the cake now (I’d recommend enough so that you are mostly seeing chips on top), and press gently into the batter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Caramel Topping (+assembly):

1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream (*optional if you don’t have it)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sea salt for sprinkling

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, then add cream and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for 2-3 more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add vanilla, and then quickly pour it over cooled banana cake. It will begin to set as soon as it is poured, so quickly spread it over the top of the cake (it remains pliable, but hard to spread evenly once it cools).  Sprinkle fairly generously with flaky sea salt over the top.  Et voila! Socks will be knocked off.

**Other possible additions to try: adding a layer of chopped nuts or toasted coconut, making a chocolate or peanut butter ganache instead of caramel sauce, adding a leavener for a more traditional fluffy cake, etc, etc.

 

Advertisements

Seasonal experiments: Cranberry caramels

11 Dec
Delightful.

Delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I recently bought myself a candy thermometer and have been pinning a bunch of ideas for caramels and other candies.  The apple cider caramels from Smitten Kitchen have been getting a lot of attention and look amazing, however the urge to make something came over suddenly the other day and I couldn’t find raw unpasteurized cider in my neighborhood.  Plus, I knew if I made them they would be perfect as-is and thus not really require a separate Hungry Bear blog post.  What I did have on hand were some frozen cranberries, which I decided was worth a try in adapting to the SK recipe.  Overall I think they were hugely successful.  The texture came out perfect, and the color is pleasantly surprising (kind of a mauve) for a caramel.  They also taste great, though less cranberry-y than I would have expected given how tart the syrup is.  If I make these again I might use less sugar to compensate for the sugar in the syrup.  The final product is rich, but subtle, and I think a great alternative to regular caramel or toffee, perfect for this time of year.  Enjoy! (Recipe to follow after the pics)

Strained syrup.

Strained syrup.

All the components, getting friendly.

All the components, getting friendly.

Heating up to boil.

Heating up to boil.

C'mon firm ball stage.

C’mon firm ball stage.

Can you say "yum"?

Can you say “yum”?

Looking suspiciously like raw meat here, but much better!

Looking suspiciously like raw meat here, but much better!

Half dozen yummy treats for a friend.

Half dozen yummy treats for a friend.

Give them to your friends in little handmade paper boxes!

Give them to your friends in little handmade paper boxes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cranberry-infused caramels:

*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen apple cider caramels.

-One batch of cranberry syrup, via Smitten Kitchen. *Optional: add 1 tsp of vanilla while simmering for a subtle added flavor.
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or apple pie spice, alternatively)
1 teaspoons flaky sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Vegetable oil for knife and parchment

First whip up a batch of the cranberry syrup.  I followed the SK recipe (plus 1 tsp vanilla), strained it through a small metal strainer, and was left with just shy of a half cup of syrup (if you get more than half cup I would discard the extra or even cook it down a little further). *Bonus: the cranberry bits you strain out make about 1/3 cup of yummy cranberry relish that would be great to save and use on pancakes, in oatmeal, with turkey, etc.

Before starting the caramel, prep the ingredients and assembly.  Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment, and brush with oil.  *Warning: do NOT use aluminum foil, as I did, or you will spend an hour picking out the bits that stick to the finished product (even if you butter/oil it). Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Get your butter, sugars, and cream ready.  Now you can pour the cranberry syrup back into the pot you used to make it (just make sure there are no chunks left), and heat it on low for a few minutes to warm it up again.  Stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream.  Heat on medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 250 degrees.  *This should only take 5-10 minutes, but I strongly advise you don’t guesstimate if you are lacking a thermometer.  It’s worth the $10 to have one around.  If you do go ahead without a thermometer, you can test it by dropping a spoonful into cold water.  If it is firm, but malleable, it’s ready.  But be warned, the process goes fast, and if you leave your mixture boiling while testing, it may get to hot and become hard when it cools.

At 250 degrees, immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and stir to combine. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm.  This takes a few hours, or you can speed things up in the refrigerator (if left too long it will be hard, but softens up again in room temperature). Once cool, lift the caramel by the parchment paper onto a cutting board. Use an oiled knife, re-oiling as needed, to cut the caramel into a size/shape of your choice (I used a pizza cutter to finish up). Wrap each one in waxed paper or plastic wrap, twisting the sides to close.

Gift idea: I used some decorative paper to make little folded boxes to put these candies in as stocking stuffers/party handouts.  I used this video tutorial , adjusting size to a 25x25cm paper, for a 5x5x5 cm box.  Also, in the last steps, instead of closing both ends, I closed the bottom side, and pinched the top together, punched a hole, and tied a bow.  The fit about half dozen candies in each.  So cute!

%d bloggers like this: