Saturday, April 13, 2013

Little Banana Pound Cakes with Spice & Chocolate

Sometimes I just want to write:

       "Put your mixer on high speed, freak out, and blend like crazy!"

...because that's how I made these lovely little cakes.

That's what I love about baking - that it makes people nervous.

It's exciting!

Once and a while things don't go as expected in the kitchen, but to our surprise the end result turns out fantastic.

Then sometimes things go so smoothly and you follow the steps with utter precision, and the result is a total flop.

There are so many variables involved with the act of baking from the type of ingredients, measuring technique, mixing equipment, mixing times, type of oven, oven setting, size of pan.... I could go on and on.

The exciting part about baking mostly happens when you try a new recipe for the first time. You can't help but pray that it turns out just like the pretty little picture next to it.

The relaxing and soooooothing part about baking is making a recipe that you've done 100 times over and have committed it to memory. You could probably make it with your eyes closed and sing some Bruno Mars ballads while doing it. You just know that it will turn out exactly how it always does.

Pound cakes are named this way because traditionally they are made with equal proportions of your typical baking ingredients: a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs and a pound of flour. They generally do not use any other liquid other than what comes from the eggs, and rely strictly on the air built into the butter during creaming for its structure. This makes them very dense but simultaneously moist and rich.

These lovely moist Little Banana Pound Cakes are easy to make and full of banana flavour. They are a modified version of the traditional pound cake in that they use a bit of chemical leavening in the form of baking powder and baking soda to make them a bit softer.

The addition of mashed ripe bananas to the batter is exactly where I "freak out and mix like crazy!". Bananas have a lot of moisture in them, so adding a whole lot of them to our nicely creamed butter and sugar runs the risk of causing the emulsion to break. The batter might go from looking like a smooth mixture of butter, sugar and eggs, to looking like a broken curdled soup after adding the bananas. Beating like crazy may help to bring the emulsion back together, but even if this doesn't save you it's OK. Once you begin adding the flour, the mixture will come together. And since these cakes are meant to be so dense and moist, maintaining lots of air in the batter isn't our main goal (that's what the baking powder is for!).

If you want to try to avoid this, add the bananas alternately with the flour in several steps. This will prevent you from overwhelming the system with moisture so that emulsion is less likely to split.

The perfect pair to a lovely little banana cake is a smooth and silky chocolate ganache and I just LOVE when those two come together!

A bit of exotic spice puts them over the clouds.

Milk tea is in order. And so is maybe a little bit of self control.


Little Banana Pound Cakes with Spice & Chocolate
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup (142 g) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (113 g) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (165 g) packed light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 very ripe banana, mashed (125 g flesh)

For the ganache:
150 (5 oz) semisweet dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp (28 g) butter
2 tbsp (30 ml) milk

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter until soft and creamy using an electric mixer on high speed. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition until doubled in volume. Gradually beat in mashed banana. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups and bake until golden and the cakes spring back when touched, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache, combine chocolate, butter and milk in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth and glossy. Let cool for 5 minutes and then spread over cupcakes.
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