Category: Baked Goods + Desserts + Drinks

Black Pepper-Cardamom Banana Bread

I’ve never even been to Café Grumpy, but Noah brought a few slices of their breads and pastries to the office one day and I was blown away by this savory banana bread. I searched for the recipe and found it on Greenpoint Gazette but the measurements were in grams which is really annoying, Brooklyn! It’s easy enough to convert using a recipe calculator or use a digital scale, but the cook in me still needs to feel if everything is right after the conversion. I found myself rounding off the converted measurements, and in the end I realized I could have just used my usual banana bread recipe and added the yogurt, the black pepper and cardamom to the batter. So much for science.

I used a loaf pan for my version, but I had enough leftover batter to fill up a mini one. I lined the large pan with greased parchment paper to make it easy to separate the bread before serving. I always found that the larger loaves that I bake are more sticky. Sprinkle the top of your loaf with confectioner’s sugar if you want to be extra fancy.

Update: I baked this again using a muffin tray and the ingredients filled 18 regular-sized holes. I baked them in the same temperature for the first 30 minutes, but brought it down to 275º for the remaining 10 minutes.

2 cups flour, sifted
2 tsps salt
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsps black pepper, ground
2 tbsps cardamom, ground
4 very ripe bananas
1 4-oz plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick of butter, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs

1. Heat oven to 325º and grease a loaf pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, black pepper, and cardamom. Set aside.
3. In another medium bowl, mash ripe bananas with yogurt and vanilla until well-combined. Set aside.
4. Place butter along with both sugars into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream. Slowly add eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between pulses to ensure that all ingredients are well-incorporated.
5. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the banana and yogurt mix, add everything to the mixer using a medium setting so as not to over-mix.
6. Pour batter into the loaf pan and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Related post/s:
Greenpoint Gazette’s recipe
My very reliable banana bread recipe without the fixings

Baked Brie with Apple Compote

When I first tasted this dessert at my friend Rey’s house, I immediately had to have the recipe. I was surprised that it came from Williams-Sonoma but I guess that makes sense because they have to pair the wares they sell with the foods you can cook with them. (It’s not really a store I frequent.)

This has become my go-to dessert this holiday season. The combination of the Brie’s saltiness with the apple compote’s sweetness is great, and I think using green cardamom here is the standout. I just love that cinnamon was not the obvious choice.

You can make this ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it if you’re planning on making dinner for a party. Go through all the steps until #4 and then wrap it in Saran and freeze it until you’re ready to bake. Only then do you proceed to the last step and brush the frozen pastry with egg wash before baking.

1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp green cardamom, seeded, grounded
1 round Brie cheese, 6 to 8 oz
puff pastry dough, thawed ahead of time and rolled out to 1/4-inch thickness
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water

1. In a small pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add the sugar and cardamom. Stir to dissolve and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes more, while stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let the apple compote cool to room temperature.
3. Preheat an oven to 375º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
With a sharp knife, cut the cheese in half horizontally. On a clean work surface, place one half of the cheese, sliced side up, and evenly spread 1/2 cup of the apple compote over it. Set the other half, sliced side down, over the compote and spread 1/2 cup compote over the top.
4. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and set the cheese in the center of the dough. Fold the dough up over the sides of the cheese, pleating the upper edges to fit snugly around the cheese, like a huge dumpling. Pinch the dough together in the center to seal.
5. When ready to bake, brush the dough evenly with the egg wash and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the pastry is golden all over and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a platter along with a sharp knife.

Lemon Chiffon Cake

I’ve been making this cake for 10 years now and I’ve only had one fail, Haewon told me when she gave me a copy of this tried-and-true Martha Stewart recipe for lemon chiffon cake. Haewon’s version was so fluffy and light–it was the cake for me. Even after I stored mine in the fridge overnight, it did not harden.

You’ll need a tube pan for this, but I got away with an antique bundt pan that I bought for 50 cents at an estate sale and skipped step 6 below. If you’re using a bundt pan, make sure you invert it right away on a smaller bowl as soon as you take it out from the oven. (I thought that the air will still circulate with a bowl rather than inverting and suffocating it onto a plate.) It will only take a few seconds before it collapses and you want to avoid that as much as possible.

My cake did stick on the bottom a bit because of the old pan. The recipe does not call to butter or flour it and I didn’t want to experiment more by lining it with parchment paper. I had to make a more gentle effort to remove the cake from the pan. I could not make a prettier slice than this photo, but hey, it still tasted like a lemon chiffon cake!

3/4 cup non-self-rising cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp white sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp grated lemon zest, from about 4 lemons
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Heat oven to 325º and prepare an ungreased 7-inch tube pan. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, vegetable oil, 1/3 cup water, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add to the reserved dry ingredients and beat until smooth.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Gradually add remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
4. Fold egg-white mixture into the batter. Start by folding in 1/3, then fold in the remaining 2/3. Mix a little bit to combine. Pour batter into pan. Using a spatula, smooth the top.
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden, about 45 minutes.
6. Remove cake from oven; invert the pan over a glass soda bottle for 2 hours to cool. Turn cake right-side up. Run a table knife all the way down between cake and pan; invert again, and remove cake. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Related post/s:
Haewon bakes at Purplepops

Easy Cocoa Brownies with Salt

Wow. I’m not the biggest dessert fan, but wow. I saw the photo of this recipe with the rock salt on top and I was immediately tempted to make it. Shauna was coming over with a bottle of wine to catch up, so I thought why not make dinner for the both of us while she made dessert?

10 tbsps, or 1 1/4 stick, unsalted butter, sliced in small pieces
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cups plus 2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
rock salt

1. Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325º Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Set aside.
2. Simmer some water in a deep-enough and wide skillet. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in the skillet when the water starts to simmer. Stir from time to time with a heatproof spatula until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.
3. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the spatula.
4. Spread evenly in the lined pan. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Sprinkle with rock salt and cut into squares.

Related post/s:
Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate on Amazon

Recommended tool/s:
The Spatula by GIR (Gear that Gets it Right)

Green Tea Afternoon Cake

This is the non-baker’s version of green tea layer cake. The original recipe called for two extra steps to make frosting, but I didn’t want to buy all those extra ingredients to make this sweeter than I really wanted it to be. I wanted this cake to be more like an afternoon snack–with hot tea–rather than a dessert.

I didn’t have cake flour, so I texted Haewon from purplepops to ask what would make an okay substitute. When I got home from the store, I measured exactly 1 cup of all-purpose flour, flattened the top, removed exactly 2 tbsps from it, then replaced it with 2 tbsps of cornstarch.

I had to read about this substitute to understand how and why it would work. According to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, cake flour has been treated and “strongly bleached” with chlorine gas. This causes the starch granules to absorb water and swell more readily to disperse the fat more evenly. This invention “allowed U.S. food manufacturers to develop ‘high-ratio’ packaged cake mixes, in which the sugar can outweigh the flour by as much as 40%.” The cornstarch replacement restrains the formation of gluten and avoids the cake from being tough and chewy.

I did notice that this cake is lighter, more velvety and more em-oh-eye-es-tee, even though I initially thought it was because of the yogurt. So maybe there is a case to buying my own package of cake flour after all, or at the least, substituting it the frugal–but exact–way.

Speaking of substitutes, I used the Maeda-en brand of green tea powder I bought from my local Japanese store. I gather you can open green tea bags and use those, too, or finely ground the dried green tea leaves you already have. I know I’ll be doing just that when I try the earl grey version of this cake.

This recipe made 2 small loaf pans and 3 minis. The one you see in the photograph above is a ceramic loaf pan that’s a mere 4 inches on the longer end: really cute. The small pan took about 40 minutes to bake, while the minis I put in for 30. It goes without saying that they’re great with a cup of hot green tea on a dreary afternoon.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons powdered green tea
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease the loaf pans.
2. Sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour (or substitute), baking soda, salt, and green tea powder. Set aside.
3. Using your electric mixer, beat together sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
4. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before slicing to serve.

Recommended tool/s:
Purplepops for mad inspiration
Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking also carries the Maeda-en green tea powder I used