Thursday, April 21, 2011

a baked banana revelation

Oh yes, a baked banana.

Trust me. This will make you very happy indeed at breakfast time.

In fact, it might make you so happy that you’ll make another the next afternoon. And then plot how you can make yet another one the next day.

Somehow, baking transforms a regular old banana into something decadent. It’s almost like you’re ripening the banana until it has the most natural sugars possible – but instead of turning brown and mushy, it turns a brighter yellow and yields to your fork and sits like a banana revelation on your tongue.

This baked banana is laughably easy. It takes approximately three to four minutes to prepare. I drizzle a bit of melted butter over the banana pieces before cooking and then scatter a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar – just enough to bring out the intense banana flavour.

While it bakes in the oven for about 10 minutes, you can scramble the eggs and toast the toast.

And behold: you too can have a baked banana revelation.

last april: tom yum pak

baked banana

serves 2
please note: all quantities may be fiddled with

1 banana
1 tsp. – 1 tbsp. butter, melted or dabbed
sprinkle of cinnamon
1 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Get out a casserole dish or cookie sheet with rims.

Cut the banana in half. Then cut it lengthwise, so you have four pieces. Lay these face down on the dish. Brush melted butter over banana pieces, or dab unmelted butter on bananas. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Scatter with brown sugar.

Bake for 9 – 10 minutes, until banana yields to the pressure of a fork. Serve.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

chocolate tomato juice cake: bad idea

I tried to make you a cake.

But it has been described as “definitely odd” and “strangely savoury,” so I will not serve it to you.

It looks nice, doesn’t it?

My grandma’s old church cookbook says it makes “quite a large, moist cake.” I had great hopes for it, as I happily mixed tomato juice and cocoa and everything else that goes into a cake.

It baked up nicely and I decorated it with icing sugar sifted over a little homemade tomato shape. I proudly took it to our friend Karen’s music party.*

It was only when we cut into the chocolate tomato juice cake and started eating that I was sorry.

One friend helpfully suggested I could serve it as a savoury dish.

Another said it was (slight hesitation) good.

My husband took one bite and quietly put his plate down.

I took one bite and apologized.

It tasted kind of sandy and tomato-y. Silly me: I thought the tomato juice would disappear under the cocoa the way zucchini does in a chocolate cake. Now I know better.

I am not going to give you the recipe, because I strongly recommend you do not make this cake, and this is the only way I can stop you.

I promise to make something good soon and give you the recipe.


*Music party: Karen's brilliant innovation. Involves everyone sharing favourite pieces of music.

last april: chocolate cheesecake

bad idea

Sunday, April 3, 2011

gumdrop cookies

My grandma’s church cookbook from the 1970s is called “COOK BOOK” and it has a picture of an old-fashioned wood oven on the front.

It’s full of gems, like applesauce cake and dilly beans and pork chop casserole.

I love this cookbook.

I recently liberated it from my mother’s house and it has been giving me no end of inspiration: sour cream cake, tomato juice cake (?!), potato chip cookies . . . and gumdrop cookies by a parishioner named Barbara Groves.

I am already head over heals for gumdrop cake, so when I saw this recipe for oatmeal-gumdrop cookies, I was in.

There was a bit of drama in baking them. First of all, I had to learn the difference between gumdrops and jujubes. Turns out, what I think is a gumdrop is actually a jujube. So these are technically jujube cookies. But they’re so similar that I made the executive decision to retain their original gumdrop cookie name.

Next, I had to get over the fact that gumdrops (OK, jujubes) stick to knives.  Actually, that’s not so bad – they’re pretty easy to peel off and chop again.

The batter came together beautifully and handled like a happy dough. 

You can imagine my shocked agony when I peeked in the oven and saw them spreading like butter on a hot summer’s day.

I took a few deep breaths and tried not to panic.

I stayed calm as I later pulled the tray of flat cookies out of the oven. I’ll just let them set, I told myself. Breathe.

And that’s it! That’s the trick to these cookies: let them cool and set.

I was smitten at first bite.

Turns out that even though I don’t remember my grandma making them, they are the quintessential grandma cookie: chewy and buttery and homey-tasting. I can just imagine them in a tin in the pantry – if they last that long.

A note about weights: When I adapt traditional recipes to make them gluten-free, I adapt them by weight, assuming that one cup of wheat flour weighs 140 grams. Because various gluten-free flours have such different weights and properties, this makes my baking much more successful. From now on, I'm going to start using weight, instead of volume, to measure gluten-free flours. If you're nervous about buying a scale, try to overcome your fear. It really is a much simpler way of baking and leads to more consistent results. That's because no two people measure by volume (in cups, etc.) the same way: one person might pour and one person might scoop with a different intensity. Wheat flour is versatile enough to adapt to those small changes, but gluten-free flours can be more finicky. But when you weigh it, it is exactly the same every time.

gumdrop cookies

bakes 24 big cookies

2/3 c. gumdrops or jujubes
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
scant 1/2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 c. wheat flour
            Or, for gluten-free:
            45 g. (1/3 c.) sweet white sorghum flour
            25 g. (3 tbsp.) teff flour
            35 g. (1/4 c.) sweet rice flour + 1 tsp.
            35 g. (scant 1/3 c.) arrowroot or tapioca starch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take out a big knife and sturdy cutting board and cut up the gumdrops. They will stick to the knife. Don’t let it stress you out. (They’ll come right off again.) Put them in a small bowl and stir 1 tsp. of sweet rice flour into them until they’re coated and somewhat separated. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars. Stir in vanilla. Add egg and stir. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine flour(s), baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until well combined. Slowly add to creamed mixture. Stir in gumdrops. Stir in oatmeal.

Use two spoons to scoop out small balls. (They will spread, so use your judgment about how close you want them to sit.) If you’re using gluten-free flours, chill for 20 minutes.

Bake for 9 – 13 minutes, depending on size. Watch for their edges to turn just golden and their centres to let a bit less like cookie dough. (They will look fragile, but once they cool, they’ll hold together. Trust me.)

Remove from oven and put tray on rack. Wait until they are completely cooled to transfer to rack or container. (You may need a butter knife to separate them.)