Monday, May 28, 2012
This cake began as something far more humble. With a pile of bananas turning slowly black in a bowl, it was about economy not indulgence. Banana bread, I thought, was a way to use up the soft fruit while still having something sweet (and maybe just the tiniest bit healthful) to snack on during the week.
Sure, I could of popped the bananas in the freezer and saved them for morning smoothies or another week. A week, perhaps, where I hadn't eaten restaurant meals almost every day, had far too many glasses of wine, pints of beer, and strawberry pie for breakfast. That would have been the prudent thing to do.
Instead I set out to make something that embodied my life at exactly this moment. The soft, black bananas? They are a symbol of economy, yes. But also of a ballooning list of things to do and things left undone. The wheat flour and the olive oil and the Greek yogurt are a nod to health. To balance, to clinging to the notion that no matter how stressful life gets there's no need to completely let yourself go.
The rum? The rum came in when I discovered I forgot to buy lemons, had no lemons in the house, and wasn't going out again. The chocolate chips were supposed to be dark chocolate slivers and were supposed to be left out (remember that nod to personal health?) but were tossed back in at the last minute when a half bag of semi-sweet chippies were discovered hiding in the bundt pan. Of course.
Because there was no lemon in the house there could be no lemon in the frosting to top the cake. (The frosting I was going to leave off because I'm healthy, remember?) And since thanks to the rum and chocolate chips it was indeed a cake not a bread, I decided to really go for it and put rum and a few teaspoons of half-and-half in the icing.
And there you have it. It's my my busy day cake. It's my life (it may be kind of crazy right now but perhaps I can try and have some fun) made real in a piece of banana bundt cake.
I am happy, however, to report that when I cut into this cake I was pleased to discover something. It wasn't over-the-top with boozy, sweet, richness. Instead it was a dense and moist, and not too sweet. It's far more like a bread that's been amplified with chocolate chips and sweetened just a bit by the slightly kicky frosting.
Perhaps it's a symbol of the idea that even when life runs a bit off course, it still more or less turns out ok?
Busy Day Banana Cake with Rum Icing
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, who adapted it from a Melissa Clark recipe in Cook This Now
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup / 4 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate (or substitute a generous amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed, VERY ripe bananas (~3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain, 2% Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the icing:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon rum
3+ teaspoons half and half (add half and half as needed to create the icing consistency you prefer. I wanted mine a little runny)
Preheat the oven to 350° F, and place a rack in the center. Grease a 9- by 5- inch (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan, or equivalent -- I used a bundt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate pieces and combine well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the olive oil, eggs, mashed banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined. The batter will be thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 40-50 minutes. You want to get that beautiful color on the cake, but at the same time you don't want to bake all the moisture out of it. Watch carefully towards the end. The recommended baking time was 50 minutes, mine was done about 10 minutes sooner.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan to cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. In a bowl, whisk together the sugars, the rum, and the half and half until smooth. When the cake is completely cool, drizzle the glaze on top of the cake, spreading with a spatula to cover.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
But, as Pema Chodron says, "all this messy stuff is your richness." And so it is. And so it's not too late to announce a winner.
There were so many nice comments about lovely glasses of wine that it became impossible to personally pick the best one. So I made someone else do it. And Elizabeth, of the lovely Ring Them Bells, won with her description of Pinot noir from Lemon Creek Winery in Michigan. I'll be looking for a glass of this soon.
I plan to be back shortly with a roundup of things that have been keeping us fed in recent weeks. In the meantime, here's a reminder that not everything that looks messy is messy:
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
It's out! It's out! My newest book is out!:
M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine and Other Libations
"One of the greatest 20th century food writers, M.F.K. Fisher has graced us with a legendary body of work that contains many references to wine. Her passionate declarations of the pleasures of good food and drink were culture changing, and she elevated the status of wine in the United States. But a collection of Fisher's writings about wine and other libations has never before been published in one place until now.
The pieces and excerpts in this engaging anthology -- edited by acclaimed biographer Anne Zimmerman -- span Fisher's notable writing career, from her indulgent, wine-drinking days in 1930s France to her years as a gastronomic grande dame living in California in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
'M.F.K. Fisher is the best kind of wine writer. Not only does she make you more knowledgeable about and interested in wine, she makes you want to drink it.'"
Now enough of that fancy book-jacket copy!
Here's the real scoop: You can win a copy of M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine and Other Libations by leaving a comment below telling me about your favorite wine.
It doesn't have to be a glass from an expensive or important bottle. Sometimes the best glasses are drunk on in the park, at the beach, or with someone special.
So -- Tell me about your favorite wine and enter to wine a copy of M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine and Other Libations, out May 1st from Sterling Epicure.
* The details: I'll pick a winner Wednesday, May 9th. One book will be mailed to a winner in the United States.