Baking Bonanza

Just a quick update to showcase a couple recipes I’ve been tinkering around with. First, my Alcoholic Banana Bread recipe:20140214_001149

3 or 4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 splash white rum (maybe 1/2 a shot)
1 splash amaretto (maybe 1/4 shot. I tend to go overboard here, but if you’re making it for someone sensitive to liquor, you can use vanilla and that amaretto coffee syrup stuff. Alternatively, I’ve experimented with Kahlua and Nutella swirls, that works too.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Quick, easy steps:

1: Preheat your oven, 350 degrees for fluffy, 400 for crisp. Combine wet ingredients. The key here is to start with the sugar and the bananas. Those sharp crystal edges start pulling the moisture out of the bananas, which we fancy foodies call “mastication.” Literally, the sugar is chewing up the banana, makes it easier to make a batter. Make sure your butter is room temp, or it might start cooking the egg! Then fold in your dry ingredients to make the batter.

2: Grease up a bread pan, or muffin tins. This amount of stuff usually makes 1 loaf of bread, or maybe six smallish muffins? I use the butter from step 1 to grease, so the amount going in is the same. Use a spatula to get all that banana goop into the pan. Now is also a good time to embellish: pistachios, walnuts work well, also drier fruits like apples.

3: I find, depending on the amount of banana you’ve added to the recipe, the baking time varies by as much as ten minutes. Generally, I start to check the bread at 50min, at 350 F. Not to worry, this is one of the most forgiving recipes ever. Indicators of doneness: Edges pulling away, the center cracking apart, lack of breast-like wobblyness. (dudes have breasts too, perv.) When an inserted knife comes out clean, you’re golden.
This recipe is perfect for those last few spotty bananas. There’s actually research saying brown bananas produce TNF, which helps kill off abnormal or cancerous cells. And of course, there’s all that potassium. From a culinary perspective, a browner banana tastes more like bananas, which, from a gastronomic and nutrition perspective, means more of the vitamins are available and appropriate for the human body. If you react to this taste badly, it might mean those same nutrients are bad for you, so either way its a good indicator.

And now, a double feature. Ladies and gentlemen: QUICHE!

Vox’s French Onion Soup Quiche 20140226_000054

For the crust:

1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1tsp salt

1tsp sugar

20140226_000342Water, about 1/4 cup

For the filling:

6 Eggs

1 Pint Cream (Buy the Quart, you can never tell when they short you, or you need to fill a gap)

Six Onions.

1 Tbsp oil

1/2 lb Dubliner Cheese

1/2 lb Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Salt

Act 1: Make the crust. This is a basic brisee tart dough, so you can look up tips for it to help your technique. Combine all the dry ingredients, and whisk to get the lumps out. Particularly useful in a humid environment! Dice the butter into cubes, nothing fancy, just small. You want to be able to coat the butter with the flour, and rub it between your hands to get it smaller, a very therapeutic experience. Your aim is to get all the butter into grains, without melting it. Then, add just a splash of your 1/2 cup water, and work it into a dough. You want to add just enough water to stick everything together, never mind all those crumbs.

Then, chill for 20 min. Don’t break out a beer, I mean refrigerate!

Now you can mold the dough into a crust. In a tiny apartment, I can’t roll out the dough, but I’ve developed a fine touch for detail from years of living up to the Asian stereotype. The idea is to press the dough to about 5mm thickness, which can be demanding of finger sensitivity and dexterity. A good tip is to chill your pie pan, ramekin, or whatever container you’re using, to avoid melting the butter as you’re working it. I work in clumps, pressing each one flat to the pan until I have good coverage. Chill for 1 hour, which is perfect for prepping your other ingredients.

Act 2: Filling.

Step 1: Onions. Caramelizing onions can be hard for some people, because it’s not really cooking. It’s a chemical reaction that converts the natural sugars into caramel, through oxidation. The key here is to avoid carbonization, which in plain English, is BURNING. Thankfully, the actual cooking is easy. Just cut your onions, again nothing fancy, just small and regular. Strips work well, and its classic for French Onion Soup. Start with a hot, wide pan, and heat your oil (canola is find, olive oil tends to lose its greatness from heating.) Then, plop your onions in and heat on high, until they start to brown. Add a sprinkle of salt, not much, which helps them not to burn. Then turn the heat to low, and poke it around every once in awhile until they get to the color of, say, Will Smith. That produces the best balance of caramel to sweetnees.

Step 2: While the onions are cooking, I like to make some tea or watch a show, something to pass the time in the kitchen, because the rest of it is easy. Make some salad dressing, to go with it, or Bloody Marys. Pre-heat your oven, about 400 F. When the onions are done, stick it in the freezer to chill, just so they stop steaming. Cut the cheeses, or shred them, and layer them in the prepared tart crust. Whisk together the eggs and cream, with a dash of salt. Then pull out the onions and layer it over the cheese. I like to save a little of the cheese to put over the onions. Then pour your eggs and cream over everything, aiming for just below the rim of the crust. I get an 11-inch pie pan of quiche, with enough left over for 1 or 2 small crocks.

Step 3: Bake. This shouldn’t take long at all, maybe 20-40 min. The recipe tends to talk to you, changing its appearance regularly. Because I’ve layered the ingredients, the custard (eggs+cream) portion on top rises in a lovely dome of golden-brown delicious. When you see that, its done!

My gf loves this recipe. She glommed the entire thing within two or three meals. Unlike a traditional heavy quiche, this one retains a custard-like layer over the cheesy, eggy bottom. I’ also haven’t pre-baked the crust, which, if its thin enough, should cook up into a flaky, cakey exterior. Dubliner is an excellent cheese for this procedure, lending a sweetness and a chewiness, but Gruyere is the traditional for French Onion. Enjoy!

Bonus:

20140226_000146
Apparently it met with Princess Zoe’s approval, and she graced us with her kitty face. Not to worry, we only feed her healthy cat food and the occasional dairy treat =)

20140226_000044

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