hawaiian banana cake with panocha frosting

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It’s Easter. We should eat healthy, right? And so we did. To celebrate the end of Lent, we did eat healthy. Depends on how you define healthy; as a fitting end to the sacrifices we made during Lent, like giving up desserts, well, yes, it was healthy. We had ham with 5 spice cherry sauce; garlicky pak boong (morning glory) stir-fried with Chinese sausage; sugar snap peas with red onions and shiitake mushrooms; citrus-roasted asparagus; and broccoli-grape salad. Except for the pak boong, I made this for Easter dinner last year in New York. But all good things must end with something sweet. And that’s this banana cake.

I found the recipe on Food 52. It originally comes from Hawaii; it is a family recipe of Lindsay-Jean Hard. Apparently, in Hawaii a penuche (pronounced pen-OO-chay) frosting is pronounced “panocha.”  A penuche/panocha frosting basically consists of  three cups of sugar. It’s terribly sweet. However, I liked the recipe because that idea of a recipe handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter is just so awww-inspiring. I wish I had that. What’s more intriguing–other than the fact that I’ve made two consecutive banana recipe posts–is that this banana cake uses the same techniques as a chiffon cake–folding in whipped egg whites. The result is a crumb that is moist and tender. I’ve made some adjustments to Lindsay’s recipe because another thing about family recipes is that they are so familiar to us that we tend to leave out key instructions in the method.

Hawaiian Banana Cake with Penuche/Panocha Frosting

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes
Cooling time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Makes one cake that can be split into two halves and frosted

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (338g) superfine sugar
2 large eggs, separated when cold
1/2 cup sour milk (1/2 tablespoon white vinegar in a measuring cup topped to 1/2 cup level with milk)
1 2/3 cup pastry flour (160g)–according to Lindsay, you can substitute all purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven 350˚F or 185˚C. Butter and flour one 8-inch spring form pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease and flour it. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. One at a time, add the egg yolks, bananas, and sour milk, mixing after each addition.

In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture all at once to the butter mixture. Stir until some white streaks remain.

In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped whites into the butter-banana mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 25-35 minutes or until the center springs back when pressed slightly. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove the sides and allow the cake to cool thoroughly. Remove the bottom. I did it by inserting a pancake turner between the bottom and the cake. Remove the paper. When it is cool, split the cake horizontally into 2 equal halves then frost with penuche frosting.

Penuche/Panocha Frosting

Prep time: 5-10 minutes (includes whipping)
Cooking time: 7 minutes
Cooling time: 1 hour plus

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 to 2 cups powdered confectioner’s sugar

I had a lot of problems getting this frosting to set. It’s so hot here–it’s the middle of the Thai summer and the air throbs with the heat. After the 2 cups of powdered sugar failed to make the frosting fluffy, I decided to put the bowl in the fridge to firm up for an hour. By then it had turned into the consistency of almost-set fudge. But a few minutes in the heat of the kitchen softened it enough to whip again. I recommend chilling the mixing bowl and beaters while you boil the frosting.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and cook, two minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the milk. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture boils, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool until lukewarm, about 1 hour. Though the recipe didn’t say, I guessed the next step is to whip the mixture with the powdered sugar.

Take the chilled bowl and beaters out of the fridge or freezer where you had been keeping them. Scrape the sugar mixture into the bowl and whip on high speed, gradually adding the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, until light and fluffy and smooth. Incorporating more air into the cooled frosting will use less sugar, is my theory.

Makes enough frosting for one two-layer cake.

Variation: try doubling the cake and frosting recipes to make a four-layer cake.

freezer banana cream pie

DSC03307We went to Xinn Tien Di, a Chinese restaurant that specializes in dim sum in the Gaysorn Shopping Center. Gaysorn was so wanting for customers–all those Western luxury brands, and not a single customer in sight. The street protests have started to put a deep dent in the flow of tourism.

At Xinn Tien Di, the lunchtime crowd had just filled up all the tables by the time we sat down. We ordered six dimsum dishes–little dumplings filled with shrimp, pork, and fish– and, to top up our appetites, a plate of fish in black bean sauce with noodles.  In the picture at left is sticky rice, mushrooms, and shrimp wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. The taste was delicate: the slightly earthy taste of the shiitake mushrooms, the freshness of the shrimp, and the smooth stickiness of the rice that captured the seasonings so they didn’t all steam away. The cost was surprisingly reasonable: Baht 1050 for two people.

We were still quite full after dimsum–it wasn’t heavy so much as it was satisfying, and the memory lingered all afternoon in our stomachs. We were ready for a light supper by 7 p.m. and dessert. I made this banana cream pie last night because it takes 12 hours to chill and harden. The only baking required is to make the pie shell. Just before serving I sliced up a large banana into slivers, dipped each sliver into fresh lime juice to preserve the color, and placed them on top of the pie. I ate the few leftover slivers–bananas and lime juice definitely are a match. I sprinkled demerara sugar on top of the bananas on the pie. You can brulée the top of the sugared banana slices if you have a kitchen torch, which I do not. I should get one–I’ve always wanted to set my food on fire.

 

freezer banana cream pie

freezer banana cream pie

 

Freezer Banana Cream Pie (adapted from Yahoo! Shine Food)

For the pie shell:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F or 185˚C.

Pulse all ingredients in food processor to evenly distribute the butter and salt, if using. Transfer to one 9” pie plate and press the crumbs on the bottom and sides. Bake for 12 minutes. Set aside to cool on a wire rack until cooled completely.

For the filling:

2 ripe bananas (approximately 1 cup)
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form

In a large bowl, mash 2 ripe bananas with the back of a fork. Add condensed milk, salt, and vanilla. Combine one-third of the whipped cream mixture into the banana mixture. This lightens the banana mixture so you don’t over-mix it when adding the whipped cream. Add whipped cream to the banana mixture and gently fold with a silicone spatula. To fold, cut the mixture in the middle of the bowl and push the banana-cream mixture towards the side. Flip and do a quarter turn of the bowl. Continue folding and turning the bowl until the mixtures are combined. Pour into cooled pie shell. Freeze for 12 hours.

For the topping:

1-2 bananas
2 tablespoons demerara sugar

When ready to serve, thinly slice 1-2 bananas and layer on top of the pie. Sprinkle with sugar. The original directions say you can brulée the top. If you wish to do this, use superfine sugar instead of the demerara, because it is the sugar that melts and browns in brulée. Alternatively, you can brown the bananas in a little butter on the stove top. Slice and serve.

roast chicken with vegetables and quinoa pudding

Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Carrots

This was amazingly easy to make and so good for you! Another recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Light and Healthy cookbook, it is light, the chicken is juicy, and the vegetables are crisp-tender. Since I like food that snaps with spice, I found this dish to be rather bland. So. Fair warning to those whose palates are decidedly more adventuresome.

4 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on, trimmed of extra fat
Salt and pepper
1 pound carrots (I used baby carrots)
10 ounces Brussels sprouts
1 butternut squash (about 2 cups), peeled, seeded, cubed
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, peeled and quartered (didn’t have any; left these out)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, if needed (or water)
Lemon wedges for serving (didn’t have any; used lemon pepper)

Seasoning I added:
Mrs. Dash Italian Medley seasoning, optional
Garlic powder, optional

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450˚F
2. Toss the Brussels sprouts, carrots, butternut squash, shallots, garlic, oil, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a bowl. Spread the vegetables in a 13×9 inch baking dish and roast for 15 minutes.
3. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. [I sprinkled Mrs. Dash and garlic powder here.] Lay the chicken, skin side up, on a wire rack. Carefully place the wire rack over the dish of partially cooked vegetables (the rack may overhang the dish slightly). Roast until the chicken registers 160 to 165˚F on an instant-read thermometer, 30-35 minutes. Note: If after 30 minutes the chicken registers 155, I would take it out and move on to step 4. On resting, the chicken’s internal temperature will continue to rise.
4. Transfer the chicken to a platter then remove and discard the skin. Tent the chicken loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. If the vegetables are not yet tender, stir in the broth or water and continue to cook until they are tender, up to 15 minutes longer. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to the platter with the chicken. Serve with the lemon wedges, or, as I did, a dash of lemon pepper.

For dessert I made a Quinoa Pudding from a recipe I found on allrecipes.com . It can be either a dessert or breakfast, depending on how you feel about quinoa. Personally, I could eat it any time of day! Quinoa, which is originally from South America, is not a cereal grain as it is not a member of the grass family (Thanks, Wikipedia). The taste is slightly nutty and the texture pops in your mouth, a little slippery, with a mouth-feel that reminds me of caviar! I eat quinoa for breakfast (and dessert) with a spoonful of dried cranberries on top. You can put a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of whipped cream to make it remind you of those decadent desserts you will forgo because you are on a diet.

Quinoa Pudding with Dried Cranberries

3/4 cup quinoa*
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk
2 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons sugar (I used a sugar substitute)
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Rinse the quinoa. This is a step you shouldn’t ignore, as I did. I ended up with a cup of foam on top of the quinoa when it was cooking. Put the rinsed quinoa in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
2. In a blender, add the milk, bananas,sugar or sugar substitute, and salt. Process until the bananas are puréed. Pour the milk mixture into the pot with the quinoa and mix.
3. Over medium heat, cook and stir until the quinoa mixture becomes thick and creamy, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Can be eaten hot, at room temperature, or cold.

*I buy quinoa in bulk at Whole Foods. If you’ve never tried it before, 3/4 cup isn’t an expensive investment.

You Call This Yakisoba? Monkey Bread Too!

It’s not easy if you’re an omnivore to suddenly give up meat, and even if you’re an observant Catholic. AJ wasn’t too keen on this aspect of Lent although he was perfectly willing to give up riding the bus, indeed any public transportation, as a form of penance. To him, a walk was good exercise and he would do it anyway. But meatless Fridays were sure to be boring and tasteless. To make tonight’s menu more appealing, I did a variation on yakisoba and made a special dessert.

You Call This Yakisoba? (With Brown Bean Chili Sauce)
1 package fresh Japanese style noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 leaves kale, chopped
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup green peas
1/4 cabbage, roughly chopped
1/4 cup scallions, sliced thin
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown bean sauce (recipe follows)

Boil the carrots in a saucepan for about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the peas and edamame and cook for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.Bring the water to a boil again and add the fresh noodles. Cook for about two minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Fry the cabbage. When the edges are brown, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and simmer 2 minutes. Add the kale, carrots, garlic, and scallion. Cook 2 minutes until the kale is wilted. Combine the peas and edamame with the vegetable mixture. Add the cooked noodles and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Lift and separate the noodles with a pair of tongs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with brown bean chili sauce.

Brown Bean Chili Sauce
4-6 fresh red chilies, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar or lime juice
1/4 cup bean sauce, mashed
dash soy sauce, if more saltiness is desired

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. This is a pungent sauce that is perfect for boiled chicken.


Monkey Bread Too
2 cups biscuits, shredded into 1 inch pieces
2 large bananas sliced into rounds
cinnamon and sugar to taste
1/4 cup chocolate chips (white or semi-sweet)
2 tablespoons half and half

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a large bowl, combine the biscuits and bananas. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste. Toss to coat thoroughly.

Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Pour the biscuit mixture evenly into the pan. Bake 20 minutes.

In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips in 10 second increments. Add up to 2 tablespoons half and half until the chocolate is the desired consistency for pouring.

Spoon some of the bread and bananas into a small bowl and drizzle the sauce on top. Delicious!