After the smashing success that was my Mother’s birthday on Saturday, we took Sunday to rest our still-full bellies down, and to give our sleepy selves a quiet day. We had a lazy morning, complete with the signature “house lattes,” and all but finished the World’s Best Coffee Cake. When we eventually pulled ourselves out of the kitchen, and got into presentable clothes, we went for a quick visit to check the building progress at the new house, and then visited Goose at the barn! I’ve never talked about Goose here, so he deserves a quick introduction — he is my wonderful horse, not to be confused with the animal he’s been named after. He was once a very silly, silly boy, so when we called him a Silly Goose, and he grew out of the silly, he just became Goose. And somehow, it stuck. At any rate, I hadn’t seen him since Christmas break, so we had a nice visit, and I got to ride around in the beautiful late-winter weather.
On the way home, we stopped by the supermarket, and AW and I decided on the fly that we’d stick around for dinner. And of course, where there’s dinner, there must always be dessert, so I immediately got to thinking. My Mom picked up the new Fine Cooking Chocolate Recipes magazine, I decided it’d be the source of our dessert. By the time I’d picked something, we were already headed home, so it had to be something with pretty typical ingredients. We always stock the essentials, and massive amounts of chocolate, but just that morning I’d stumbled across two black-as-night bananas in the freezer, so I knew I had that in my arsenal of goods too. When I found the Brown Butter Banana Cake recipe, it seemed like fate. I took a quick vote, the other contenders including a Flourless Chocolate Cake, and a Basic Fudge Cake with Ganache. My Dad voted for cookies — not one of the offerings — but ultimately I got them to “settle” on the cake. What a good choice they made!
I only had two extremely emaciated bananas, and didn’t want a ton of leftovers, so I halved the recipe (though the full recipe is below), and decided to use leftover espresso syrup from the night before to create a chocolate-espresso-rum ganache to drizzle over the top. But I’m getting ahead of myself here! So. I’m not a fan of bundt cakes, but virtually anything made mini is a-okay, so instead of making a full recipe in a regular sized bundt pan, I made 4 mini ones. Another good choice. They cooked in half the time, and came out looking like they might have cooked too much (oops), but they were surprisingly moist, and so yummy. I can’t account for how well they stay fresh, because by the time AW and I had returned to Boston that night, both of the mini cakes we brought with us and fully intended to save) were gone. I don’t regret it though. I wasn’t sure whether to expect a banana-bread like cake, or something entirely different, and I was pleasantly surprised.
They had less sweetness then my favorite banana bread recipe, and had a more sophisticated, less banana-y taste. It might have been due to the state of my bananas though, and I’d recommend for the best results not using bananas that are nearly three years past their prime. But I digress… The chocolate ganache concoction I created was the absolute perfect accompaniment, and really made these cakes special — I almost wish we’d had an occasion to share them for — I mean, look at that presentation! I think they’d wow even the harshest critic.
All in all, they were probably the easiest little cakes for the effort exerted — they took all of about seven minutes to whip up and throw in the over (the cakes were ready to bake before the oven was even preheated!), and they tasted great! I didn’t think initially that you could tell the butter was browned, however I do think it contributed to the more sophisticated taste than what you’d typically find with plain-old banana bread. And the chocolate chips add an additional textural element, as well as some dark, sugary sweetness. The ganache was a total last-minute addition, but I would HIGHLY recommend it. I made traditional ganache, and then added an espresso sauce I’d used earlier in the weekend (a post on that to come soon too!) — it was a reduction of espresso, rum extract, and sugar. Mixed with the chocolate, it was rich and intense, and so wonderfully delicious. I was imaging it mixed into my morning coffee, or drizzled over my ice cream. But then it was gone…
At any rate, I’m babbling tonight, so let’s just get to it, shall we? Here’s the recipe so you can try this too! No alterations this time:
Brown-Butter Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips
1/2 lb. (1 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pan
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup finely mashed ripe bananas (2 medium bananas)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. table salt
7-1/2 oz. (12/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
1-1/4 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10-cup decorative tube or bundt pan. Tap out any excess flour.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, cook it slowly, letting it bubble, until it smells nutty or like butterscotch and turns a deep golden hue, 5 to 10 minutes. If the butter splatters, reduce the heat to low. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the browned butter through a fine sieve into a medium bowl and discard the bits in the sieve. Let the butter cool until it’s very warm rather than boiling hot, 5 to 10 min.
Using a whisk, stir the sugar and eggs into the butter. (Since the butter is quite warm, you can use cold eggs for this.) Whisk until the mixture is smooth (the sugar may still be somewhat grainy), 30 to 60 seconds. Whisk in the mashed bananas, vanilla, and salt. Sift the flour and baking soda directly onto the batter. Pour the chocolate chips over the flour. Using a rubber spatula, stir just until the batter is uniformly combined. Don’t overmix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with the rubber spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it, 42 to 45 min. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan. Let cool until just warm and then serve immediately or wrap well in plastic and store at room temperature for up to five days.
(From Fine Cooking 68, pp. 44, Dec 1 2004)
With love, and sugar! Until next time… enjoy!