Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whole Grain Banana Cake

K, a Brazilian national, was making muqueca, a Brazilian fish stew that JG and I had had at a little restaurant in Cambridge, just around the corner from where K & A used to live. By happy coincidence, it was also the first day of Carnivale, the perfect day to have a Brazilian get together. I had planned on making some banana bread to take over as a hostess gift and had measured out the wet and dry ingredients separately so all I'd have to do was mix it together and bake it after I got off work.

Then I got a message from A, asking if I could bring dessert. Sure!... but what do you pair with fish stew? Avocado mousse seemed too fussy... and I already had my bread measured out to bake... but bananas aren't native to South America... but they've been grown there for a couple centuries now... and I don't know how much time I'll have after work. An extra cup of sugar turned my quick bread into a cake. I'd already put coconut milk [an essential Brazilian cooking liquid] in my wet ingredients, but what else could I add? Avocados are usually mashed with sugar and eaten more like a fruit south of the equator, but I wanted something a little more savory and I wanted a drizzle... Brazil nuts and cashews [cajus] are both native so I stopped at the store on my way home and bought both, but the cashew had a more assertive flavor that I thought would work with the bananas.
All in all, I was pretty pleased by my thrown together dessert.

Recipe: Whole-Grain Banana Cake

You can reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup for banana bread. I omitted most of the butter usually called for since I was using coconut milk, but I did brown some for flavor. I usually put ginger and cardamom in my banana bread, but cinnamon is a native Brazilian spice. I could have candied the nuts, which would have been nice, but I just toasted and salted them... you could also just buy them either way.

3-4 bananas, the older the better

1 1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar [or 1 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar]
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbs butter
1 small can coconut milk [5.5 ounces]
1 Tbs cider vinegar [you could use caju juice if you can find it]
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup Salvadoran Crema [or creme fraiche, or sour cream plus a little sugar]
1/4 cup cashews, toasted or candied, crushed

Set oven to 350F. Place bananas on a foil-lined baking sheet and let sit in the oven while it comes up to heat, then continue roasting until their skins blacken and split. [Or roast them in a toaster oven 350F for 15 minutes or so]. Meanwhile, measure out the dried ingredients into a large bowl. I even put the sugar with the flours to mix it like a quick bread. Oil and flour a 8.5x5 bread pan or 9-in. circular pan.

Once the bananas are done, pull them out and set aside to cool a bit. In a small skillet, brown the butter [don't burn!] and pour into a medium-sized bowl or large glass measuring cup. Add bananas, sans skins, and any accumulated juices. Mash or puree [I use an immersion blender, but leave one banana out to mash for chunks] then whisk in coconut milk, vanilla, and cider vinegar.

Once the oven is ready [mine is slow] whisk eggs into wet mixture. Form a well (pit) in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour/scrape in the wet mix. Gently fold ingredients together until very few streaks remain. Pour/scrape into prepared pan and bake ~75min. for bread pan or ~45 min. for cake pan or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Move to a cooling rack (or a cold stove burner) and let cool 10 minutes before unmolding and 1-2 hours before cutting. Garnish with avocado cream and chopped cashews.

Avocado cream
Puree avocado with 1/2 cup cream. Mixture will thicken to a whipped cream. I stirred in another 1/4 cup to thin it out a bit but it still didn't drizzle. You could also just puree the avocado with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and make it more like a frosting.

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