Monthly Archives: January 2013

BANANARAMA (Is a Really Good Band, and Also This Cake with Brown-Butter and Coconut Mousse)

Banana and Brown-Butter Cake

I would like to think of myself as a woman of my word. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. When I say I’m not going to do something, you can bet your buns that, instead, I am on the couch trolling The Superficial archives for candid bikini shots of Mrs. Coco T because, damn, that ass. You might recall that in the previous entry, I mentioned I would not be making banana bread in the foreseeable future, and I am proud to report that the statement still stands. Here are some other things I did not do this week:

I did not finish watching season one of Friday Night Lights.
I did not get any portion of my body hot-waxed.
I did not eat a cheeseburger, despite my unyielding desire to do so.
I did not cry in the shower (on Tuesday).
I definitely did not read 50 Shades of Gray, even though I just learned that this thing is actually a trilogy? Like, there is more than one of these books, prosaically detailing the most degrading ways a lady might bruise her vagina? Color me dumb-founded.

Here’s what I did do:

I watched Girls again, and regretted it.
I made ricotta dumplings for dinner one night.
I cut my toenails with reckless, reckless abandon.
I rediscovered Basement Jaxx, and, consequently, day-glow hot pants.
I made a banana-type cake.

Did you catch that last one? That’s the important one. Listen, I really like banana bread. I especially want to eat it when it is full of chocolate and toasted nuts. But the last thing I want to do is write a blog post about it. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to read about it either. I feel bad for you guys sometimes, having to trudge through yet another, “Best Paleo Yogurt-Bacon Muffin EVER!!” recipe, which is not to say that I have any idea what Paleo means. Because I don’t, it’s made up, it isn’t real.

So, the next time you find your freezer is overflowing with a nauseous collection of overripe bananas, do this thing. Make a brown-butter and banana cake with fresh fruit and coconut mousse. I’ve been eating the scraps of this cake all day and, I have to say, it’s a little addictive. Somewhat savory brown-butter gives the bananas purpose in this cake, other than just being overtly banana-y. The cake being somewhat dense in texture, as fruit batters are wont to be, I opted for mousse over buttercream. The coconut keeps the tropical theme wafting languorously to the tune of some shitty Jack Johnson song (redundant, I know), while fresh fruit (of your choosing!) gives the cake the acid and brightness it needs.

Brown-Butter and Banana Cake with Coconut Mousse
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Brown-Butter and Banana Cake

6 oz Butter, Browned
4 Large eggs
6 oz Sugar
2 Squishy bananas
8 oz Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.

In a small sauce pan, brown your butter on med-high heat. In class, we learned to simply leave the butter on the stove and burn the crap out of it. It will smell burnt and gross. It will look black. However, all you are burning are the solids in the butter, which you would have strained out anyway. In this method, however, if you do not stir the butter as it’s browning, the solids will simply burn and stick to the bottom of the pan, and you can pour off the liquid on top with ease. If you have a gas stove, please be careful and don’t have your flame too high, because butter will catch fire and scare you a little if you aren’t accustomed to starting kitchen fires. I am a seasoned veteran of kitchen-fire-starting and have a reserve of kitty litter at my disposal for such occasions. Set butter aside to cool.

In a mixer with paddle attachment, beat together eggs and sugar on high for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg and whisk together thoroughly.

When the eggs have beaten, add your squishy bananas and beat for another 5 minutes.

Fold egg mixture into the flour mixture. When the eggs are halfway folded in, pour in butter and continue to fold gently, but thoroughly, making sure the butter isn’t just sitting at the bottom of your bowl.

Pour batter into pan and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick may be cleanly pulled out from the center of the cake. Wrap and freeze cake for easiest trimming!

Coconut Mousse

3 tsp Gelatin
4 oz Water
8 oz Milk
2 oz Sugar
3 Egg yolks
10 oz Cream of coconut
Zest of 1 lemon
7 oz Heavy cream, whipped.

In a small dish, sprinkle gelatin over your water and set aside. This is called “blooming,” which is a word that I love.

In a medium sauce pan, bring milk and half of your sugar to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. When milk has boiled, remove from heat and slowly pour into your yolks, whisking constantly. Once mixed, pour the whole mixture back into your hot and return it to the stove on low heat. Do NOT boil. Eggs don’t like that. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens a bit. Strain mixture into a bowl.

Melt your gelatin in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. It happens real quick! Add the gelatin to your mousse base and mix. Next, stir in coconut cream and zest. Occasionally stir the mixture as it is gelling, so as not to develop a skin. Give it an hour, at the least, to set up nicely.

Whip your cream so it’s nice and stiff, stiffer than if you were to serve it solo. Give your mousse base a good beating so it is smooth and lump free, then fold in your whipped cream.

To Assemble:
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Please trim your cake! Take off the less delicious, crusty sides, top, and bottom of the cake. Using a very sharp, serrated knife is the way to go. After it is trimmed, very carefully cut your cake in half. Reserve your trimmings, if you so choose, to use in decorating. In a food processor, pulse your softer trimmings until they are like nice, fluffy cake-snow. You can use these later to sprinkle on top of your cake.

Slice fruit of your choice to layer in the center layer of the cake, as well as to decorate the top. I chose to use kiwi, because I thought the color would look nice against all of the white and tan. Strawberries would also be complementary, flavor-wise.

Now you can be creative! I built my cake inside a cake ring, which is a snobby, pastry-school way to go about things, but it’s effective. You can “frost” this cake with your coconut mousse using whatever method you choose, but I do recommend chilling the mousse for about 30 minutes after adding the whipped cream before you do anything. In the center layer, make sure to spread a thin later of mousse, then arrange fruit, and then another layer of mousse. If you only have one layer of mousse, your cake may begin to slide around on top of the slippery fruit.

If you’d like to decorate as I have, after frosting place a cutter of any shape or size in the center of your cake. Arrange fruit within the center of the cutter. Around the cutter, sprinkle the aforementioned cake-snow on top of the cake, then remove the cutter. Chill the cake in the fridge for another half-hour or so before serving to ensure that the mousse has set.

People who claim to not really like cake will like this cake. I know this, because the man in my apartment just gave it a proverbial thumbs-up by eating it twice, despite much initial protest. So go on, force-feed a vegan, and let freedom ring.

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Incidentally Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies

I need to make something abundantly clear before we march boldly on with this recipe. I think gluten is positively magical. The only things that may be more magical are gelatin and Ryan Seacrest, who is a wizard. There isn’t a glutinous thing in this world that I don’t like and I will sing it from a mountain top as soon as I finish this post.

I have a bag of coconut flour in my freezer from a streusel I made many delicious tarts ago. I was too cheap at the time to buy almond flour, which was about three dollars more, so I took home the coconut flour, then soon realized I had nothing else to do with it. It taunts me every time I open said freezer and add a nice, brown banana to my chilly banana collection, which also taunts me because I really don’t want to make banana bread. Then I had this unwarranted idea that I would make gluten-free sugar cookies. But I wouldn’t make them because I’d actually want to eat them. No, I’d make them for science.
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My knowledge of gluten-free baking stems from exactly one seminar at school, but frankly, I’m just really smart. I’m just really, really smart and know certain things, like how it is important to combine at least two different gluten free flours or starches to make up for the textural shortcomings of gluten-free items. I know baking powder is going to play a pivotal role here. I know we can definitely not skimp on the sugar.

The most difficult thing here was actually rolling out the dough. After mixing, I chilled the dough as a flat disk for about thirty minutes. I could have possible waited longer. I chose to roll it out about a quarter-inch thick and used fluted cutters. If I were going to make these again, I would have rolled the dough into a log, chilled it, and sliced them off to bake. That would have been real simple-like, but again, science.

Gluten-Free Coconut Sugar Cookies

4 oz (1 stick) Unsalted butter
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Coconut flour
3 tbsp Corn starch
1 tsp Baking powder
¼ tsp Salt
2 Large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Optional

Sanding sugar
Coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350°F

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically.

Combine coconut flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together.

Once butter and sugar are creamed, slowly add in dry ingredients. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until dough comes together.

If slicing your cookies to bake, roll dough into a log and wrap with saran wrap. If you are planning to roll it out, wrap the dough as a flat disk. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Place sliced or cut out cookies on a sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and coconut, if desired. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the tray midway through baking. Cookies are done when they are fragrant with a light, golden color.
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If you happen to be a gluten-free individual, I will advocate for these cookies. They are about as close to a normal-type cookie as I’ve ever tried. In fact, they would make excellent holiday cookies with royal icing. One cookie tester said of these cookies, “They are oddly satisfying to chew on.” That, to me, sounds like we have a winner.

In related misguided food decisions, my boyfriend and I have embarked on a three-day cleanse of sorts that, only about five hours in, I’m regretting more than my junior prom dress. We’re doing two days of this Master Cleanse/Lemonade non-sense, then a third day of raw vegetables. All I can think about is grilled cheese. Buttery, buttery grilled cheese. By Friday I’m sure I’ll have conjured all sorts of bright ideas, incorporating dairy products with other dairy products, so you can look forward to that.

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I Do What I Want: Strawberry Cake with Blood Orange Glaze

Strawberry cake.

As I was gathering my mise en place for this post (that’s fancy chef’s talk for “all your shit”), I realized I was running pretty low on eggs. I definitely didn’t want to leave the house, but sometimes, like hopefully not more than thrice a week, you have to leave the house. I threw on my track jacket and marched down to my local mini-mart. They are my favorite convenience shop by a large margin, because they carry unsalted butter, slush, and Four Loko. I’ve never had a Four Loko, but it’s just a comfort that when the time comes to finally go to a Bruins game, I know just where to brown-bag. As I went about my shopping, a very snarky stock-gentleman took inventory of my appearance and said, “Saw that look in GQ this week.” I told him, “Why don’t you shut the hell up, Jacko, and sell me a Fresca?” Hahahaha, just kidding, his name is Steve.

I look great.

I’m sorry, bro, not feeling my snowflake-patterned mukluks and spandex? I’ll have you know that these Wayfarers FOLD UP. They completely fold into themselves for even more convenience than any other Ray Bans have thus provided. What I’m trying to say here is I look dope, so get off my case young Tibetan-male-Joan-Rivers.

I’m just trying to do me over here. I’m trying to stay original while cultivating a learned mind and stout body. I go to the gym five days a week, eat a lot of arugula, and read the New York Times on my iPhone. That’s not the Post, people. I just bought a ukulele on Amazon for thirty bucks. I’ve worked hard to achieve this balance in my life, and you could too if you were unemployed. A gal’s got to do something while she waits patiently in the dead, dark silence of the phone never ringing.

That’s kind of what this cake is all about. This cake is like, “This is me, I am here. You can accept it or you can eat a cookie.” This cake is about being the true you. That’s why I just took some strawberries and threw ‘em in there. Strawberries just want to be themselves, shining brightly like a natural ruby in a big pile of lab-cultivated rubies.

This cake is made in a bundt pan and drizzled with Blood Orange glaze. It is soft and cuddly, with a tangy zip from fresh lemon juice. I would serve it at a fancy brunch, or in bed with a fork when you’re feeling really lonely.

“I Do What I Want” Strawberry Cake with Blood Orange Glaze

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1 lb Fresh strawberries
1 cup Sugar
6 tbsp Unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 cups Flour
1 ½ tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Salt
2 tbsp Fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp Milk

Preheat oven to 350°F

Cut the green tops off of strawberries, halve them, and set aside.

Butter and flour your bundt pan. Place a few of your strawberries on the bottom of the pan, like so:

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In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar and beat on high speed to cream. Scrape the bowl down after a few minutes, and continue to beat. The mixture should become light, fluffy, and very soft. Turn down the speed and add eggs and yolk one at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next. Once all are in, scrape down the bowl, then beat the mixture on high for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk together. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and milk. This will curdle, but that’s perfectly fine.

After the eggs have beaten, turn the speed down low and alternate adding flour and liquid, starting and ending with the flour. Once added, scrape down the bowl again, mix for another few seconds, then stop! Do not over mix. We don’t want to make bread.

Pour batter into bundt pan and spread out evenly. Then, just stick your strawberries into the batter throughout the cake! You can definitely add them all. I happened to reserve a few to clean the mixing bowl with, and eat. That’s a gross thing to do. Don’t be like me.

Bake cake between 25-35 minutes. Use a toothpick to test cake, making sure the toothpick comes out cleanly when piercing the cake. Allow to cool slightly, then turn upside-down onto a plate. If the cake is still a little warm, the glaze will stick to the cake much more easily.

Blood Orange Glaze

Zest of 1 Blood Orange
Juice of 1 Blood Orange
3 cups Confectioner’s sugar

In a mixer or by hand, whisk together zest, juice, and sugar. Use a spoon to drizzle over warm cake.

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For What Ails You: Carrot-Fennel Soup

This apartment is plagued by mid-winter disease and, in the case of me at this moment, an acute case of cabin fever, not to mention my dishwasher is making some utterly suspect noises and I believe in ghosts. I am taking a walk promptly after uploading this. Frankly, I don’t have the time nor the patience to be doing this right now. But I do it because I care. I care about you.

Back to the disease I mentioned. I was epically ill for a few days last week and, after properly germing up the joint, my boyfriend is now host to whatever it was they were trying to catch in that Contagion movie starring absolutely every damn body in Hollywood. Did you see that movie? Don’t worry, no one did. It was the worst, but wow, what a cast.

So last night I summoned the sorcerer residing deep within my bosom, keeping guard of the secrets to A LOT OF STUFF THAT SHALL REMAIN SECRET, except for this soup recipe that I’ll share because, if it doesn’t set you right on the road to recovery, you’re probably going to die. Just enjoy these last moments. House a bag of Milanos, that’s really the only way to go.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

Carrot and Fennel Soup

14-16 Large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Large fennel bulbs, sliced
1 Onion, chopped
2 Cloves garlic, smashed
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Bay leaf
2 Tsp Caraway seeds
4 Cups Chicken stock (or for veggie people, vegetable stock)
2 Tbsp lemon thyme
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup yogurt (optional, again, for extreme veggie folks)

Combine carrots, fennel, onion, and olive oil in a large soup pot and saute for 10 minutes. Add bay leaf and caraway and saute another 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, and lower to medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender (fennel will likely take longest to cook). With a slotted spoon, transfer veggies to a food processor and blend until smooth. You could do the whole thing with an immersion blender as well, unless you just really want to play with your new food processor. Return veggie puree to the stock, add lemon thyme, and bring to a simmer on low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add yogurt if you so choose.

 

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A Culinary Song of Patriotism: Chicken, Cheddar and Apple Pie.

Hey guys, and welcome to this Sunday’s installation of Cries of Despair from the Lungs of a Fallen Eagle. That Eagle? Me. Those cries? Some wordiness eventually resulting in an absurdly decadent dinner-pie recipe.

Also, did you notice how all of those words up there were capitalized like they were part of the title of some piece of literature? I just wanted to see how that felt.

It’s been a difficult few weeks for me emotionally, and I guess generally, as I’ve been pursuing the grim prospect of employment during this trying period of our country’s history. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to market myself beyond my ability to carry a tray while looking fantastic in dim lighting, covered in beer. Beyond that, I am a proverbial infant. Meaning, yes, I cry myself to sleep every single night. All night. Just heavy, snotty sobs, yearning for my mother’s bosom.

Unfortunately for me and my delicate feelings, I live with a highly motivated and professional man who continuously reminds me, through a harmonious combination of inspirational speech and daily, unconscious action, that I should quit whining and just keep doing the damn thing until it gets done and it’s like, holy shit, that’s just America for you, isn’t it? That’s just some straight up inspirational American shit. My Grandpa spent his youth tearing the heads off of live chickens and chasing their headless bodies around a chicken-shit covered barn and I’m like, man, cover letters are hard and redundant. And you know what? They are hard and redundant. They are the worst. But they aren’t anything like twisting the tiny heads off of live chickens and playing poultry tag in the dusty springtime.

What I am trying to say is America. It is vast, and it is durable, and it is comprised of a bizarre dichotomy of people who boast of upholding its founding values and those who actually define it. Somewhere in the middle of those two things, people blog. This country, let’s be honest (without actually getting into it), is a weird ass country. But I believe in it. To America, I sing songs of rich justice. I sing songs that sound a lot like America the Beautiful, but I’m not going to claim to know all the lyrics to America the Beautiful. And to America I do dedicate this magical recipe: Chicken, Cheddar, and Apple Pie.

I think savory pies are so fantastic. It means you eat goddamn pie for dinner. There is baking and also there is salt. I think that is what our forefathers were getting at when they traded small pox for corn. They wanted their children to grow up in a world where dairy meets meat meets fruit meets dessert meets butter meets GOD.

I was nervous about how this whole thing might turn out. Flavor-wise, it’s right up my ally. But pies are tricky. Sometimes ingredients of pristine integrity turn to Oliver Twist-y soup-matter in pies, and you can’t see a damn thing happening until you cut that sucker open and all is lost (e.g. childbirth). It’s a lot to trust to blind fate. However, in my case, I’d like to just think my understanding of baking is so comprehensive that failure wasn’t even a variable. Now, despite that being the least true, we sat down to dinner and my boyfriend responded with, “It’s actually pretty good.” That is the My Boyfriend equivalent of seven Michelin stars, so make this pie now. If there’s anything I regret, it’s not putting a little more effort into making it beautiful, but it was, like, 9 p.m. and we were pretty hungry. You, however, should plan ahead, redeem my sloth.

Chicken head

Chicken, Cheddar, and Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425°F

Crust

18 oz Flour
2 oz Sugar
½ oz Salt
1 tsp Baking powder
8 oz (2 sticks) Unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ cup Cold water

Optional:

1 tsp Black Pepper
2 tsp Dried dill

In the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and seasoning (if you choose to use it). Mix on low with a dough hook until combined. Add butter and mix on medium-low until butter is cut into flour and chunks are the size of very small grapes. Add egg and egg yolk. Scrape down bowl and bit, then gradually add cold water. You may not need to add all of the water. Add water until the dough begins to form a solid ball, but you do not want dough to be wet or sticky. There should be some dry flour remaining in the bottom of the bowl. After dough starts to collect, turn dough onto a floured surface and kneed a few times until a solid ball is formed. Create a thick, round disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Chicken

1 Full bone-in chicken breast
or 2 Boneless, skinless breasts
1/2 Large yellow onion
Herbs of your choosing

You can prepare the chicken in nearly any way you’d like. If I had had time, and we weren’t starving, I might have done it in the slow cooker and done a sort of pulled-chicken. You could also simply oven-roast the breasts for 20-30 minutes, covered, with a little oil and seasoning. I did the following:

Slice half an onion and place in a shallow pot with chicken. Fill pot with water (or stock) to cover chicken. Add herbs if so desired. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool, then cut into 1-cm sized chunks, or shred it, or whatever.

Apples

4 Grannysmith apples, peeled and cored

First, dice the other half of the onion. Sautee in a small amount of oil or butter until translucent, and set aside. In the same pan, also sautee apples, diced, in a small amount of oil or butter until tender and sweet, but not soft. Set aside with onions.

Cheddar Filling

18 oz Milk
1 tbsp Sugar
1 oz Corn starch
1 Egg
1 Egg yolk
7 oz Light cream
12 oz Cheddar, grated
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 tsp Nutmeg
18-20 leaves Fresh sage, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, bring milk and sugar to a boil. In a medium bowl, combine corn starch, egg, egg yolk, and light cream and whisk until combined. When milk has boiled, remove from heat and temper starch mixture by slowly pouring in milk while simultaneously whisking. Return mixture to stove, and bring back to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and add cheddar, mixing until melted. Add remaining seasonings.

To Assemble:

Rolled dough

Divide dough in half. Roll out half of crust to an 1/8 inch thickness. Line your chosen pie dish wish dough, and press into bottom and sides very gently. “Dock” the bottom of the dough by piercing with the prongs of a fork.  Return to the refrigerator or freezer for an additional 15 minutes before filling.

Combine apples, onions, and chicken with cheddar filling. Remove second half of dough from fridge and roll out for the top of the pie. Remove pie crust from fridge and fill with chicken, apples, and cheddar. Cover with remaining dough, and press down on edges to seal. Cut along edges to remove excess dough. Use fingers or fork to press down and seal the layers of dough. Brush the dough with an egg wash (either whole egg or egg mixed with water) and cut slits in the top of dough. Make them nicer than mine.

Place pie in the middle of oven. Close door, and lower oven temperature to 375°F. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until crust is a deep, golden brown, turning the pie in the oven halfway through baking. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before serving. Hint: Spinach and fennel salad is a good friend to this pie.

A delicious pie

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