banana chiffon cake, redux


In the quest to perfect this recipe, I tried it again this weekend. The result is a cake that was tender and moist, not too sweet, and full of banana flavor.  Alas, in appearance, it is not perfect. As you can see, the top has cracks, the result of a too hot oven because the temperature cannot be precisely calibrated to 160˚C. To me, the question is why bake? At the heart of the art of baking is to make something so beautiful and so delicious that only a photograph is all that remains of a cake.

Banana Chiffon Cake
Cake Baker’s Note: Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Separate the eggs when they are still cold. What’s always worked for me is to crack open the whole egg into a small bowl then separate the egg in my hands by letting the white run out between my fingers. I reduced the baking time to 45 minutes and used all purpose flour instead of cake flour. That’s on my next to-do list–until I run out of bananas in the freezer!

Prep time: 30 minutes.
Bake time: 45 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours

214g cake flour (250g all purpose)
281g caster or superfine sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
112g (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
5 egg yolks, unbeaten
118g (1/2 cup) cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325˚F/160˚C.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the oil, unbeaten egg yolks, water, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. When the beaters are raised the egg whites stand straight up.

Pour whipped egg whites into the batter. Gently fold until just white streaks remain.

Scrape batter into an ungreased two-piece tube pan. Using a thin blade drag it zig-zag fashion through the batter to release any air bubbles.

Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean—with just a few crumbs attached. Invert the pan over a wire cooling rack. If the pan has feet, let it stand or, if not, invert over a funnel. Let the cake cool thoroughly, about 2 hours.

To unmold, re-invert the cake and gently insert a sharp thin blade between the pan and the side of the cake. Press forward towards the cake. Pull the knife out and repeat. Use a skewer to release the centerpiece. Invert over wire rack. Keep the pan inverted over the rack to remove the bottom. Again, insert the blade between the cake bottom and the pan bottom. Press down gently. Once you remove the centerpiece re-invert the cake. Put it on a pretty plate then glaze the top or just sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I took this cake to Robert’s last night. We each had 2 slices and there was still half a cake left over.


cherry-fennel scones

Reblogged from More Than One More Day, Wednesday January 19, 2011: The Fennel and Golden Raisin Scones looked so pretty in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook that I decided to try them. My plan was to use up all the ingredients in my pantry before leaving for the States, but  I didn’t have raisins on hand. I did have dried cherries and cranberry raisins. I didn’t know how the combination would work but I went ahead anyway. Halfway through preparations, this recipe has to be frozen so it must be started the night before if you want them for breakfast. Or get up really early! Since Andy will be baking a few at a time for one person, I decided to brush the tops before freezing. To make these scones from start to finish takes at least 3 hours to 13 hours at most.
3 tablespoons fennel seeds, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups dried cherries and cranberry raisins combined, coarsely chopped
4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg lightly beatenPrepare the ingredients. In a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seeds coarsely. Set aside. Coarsely chop the cherries and cranberries and set aside. It’s important to chop up the fruit otherwise large pieces get stuck in the biscuit/cookie cutter.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Add the dried fruit, cream, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Stir until the dough just comes together.

Make scones for freezing. Prepare a baking tray lined with waxed or parchment paper. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board. Dust your hands lightly with flour. Pat the dough into a circle about 1 inch thick. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut rounds out of the dough. (My cookie cutter is 2 1/4 inches in diameter.) Place on the prepared baking tray about 1/2 inch apart. Gently pat the scraps together and continue cutting out rounds. I got 18  rounds out of this amount of dough.  Firm up the scones by freezing them for at least 2 hours or overnight. At the point, the scones can be put up in plastic bags for baking later. They can be stored for up to 3 weeks frozen.

Bake the scones. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Combine the beaten egg with the 1 tablespoon olive oil and brush lightly on top of the rounds. Using your thumb and forefingers, sprinkle the top of each round lightly with fennel seeds. Place the scones 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the scones are golden and the tops are flecked with brown spots. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool. Scones are at their best on the day they are baked.

The Cake Baker’s Notes: I discovered that the scones were underdone even after 25 minutes. Perhaps the egg wash made them soggy. In any case, I recommend baking an additional 5 minutes or more, in 5 minute increments, up to a total of 10 additional minutes. The flavor was a cross between a savory and a sweet scone. The fennel gave it a light licorice flavor and the cranberries were tangy-sweet. The cherries were negligible, probably because they were unsweetened. I’d make this again using the flavored dried cherries since they have a stronger flavor to complement the fennel.

cuban eggs

I don’t know why this is called Cuban Eggs! I blogged about this recipe about four years ago when I was in New York City–and I was writing another blog. But I’m in Thailand now and writing my second food blog Foodie Joanie. I still don’t know why it’s called Cuban Eggs but it is worth re-blogging!
Anyway, I found this recipe in the South Beach Diet for Beginners. Beginner cooks or beginner SB dieters? However you see it,  it can be either or both. This dish is quite easy to make and takes just half an hour. I made some adaptations to the recipe as you’ll see from the notes in brackets. The sauce was quite flavorful with the tang of tomato but it overpowered the cheese. AJ enjoyed these eggs and we both pronounced this recipe “a keeper.”
Cuban Eggs
8 large hard-cooked eggs (I used large eggs; egg size wasn’t stipulated in the recipe)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I used mild)
3 tablespoons non-fat half and half (5 tablespoons non-fat milk)
salt and pepper to tasteSauce for Cuban Eggs
1/2 cup onion, chopped (I used scallion, minced)
1/2 cup sweet green pepper (for color contrast; but any color will do. I had red pepper on hand)
1 tablespoon butter (Oh, no! Use olive oil instead)
2 tins (8 oz.) non-salt tomato sauce (I used 1 salt and 1 non-salt)
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce, optional (my addition)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped (I used cilantro)

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C

Hardcook the eggs. Put eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover the pan and heat the water to boiling. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and remove shells. Split the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and put into a small bowl. But the whites in a 9-inch square baking dish.

Season the yolks. Mash the yolks with the back of a fork. Add the cheese and the milk. In fact, add just enough milk to make the yolks a thick consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each egg white with a heaping tablespoon of the yolk mixture. Place the filled eggs in a single layer in the baking dish.

Make the sauce. In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the scallions and sweet pepper and cook until fragrant. Mix in the tomato sauce and add the Sriracha, if using. Pour over the eggs.

Bake the eggs. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with cilantro, if using.

juicy chicken breast with grilled asparagus and baby corn


This is not a pan-seared chicken breast! The black streaks on the chicken came from the grilled veggies that tumbled on top.

1. First pound the thickest part of the chicken breast so that the thickness is even all around. Liberally salt and pepper the breast. Dredge the chicken in a little flour. If desired, sprinkle on top a little rosemary and thyme. The flour will seal in the juices.

2. Heat up a skillet on medium high heat. I have a four-foot square balcony with a two foot counter space next to a sink. I run a long extension cord outside and plug in this skillet. Once the skillet is heated, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter (I used an olive oil spread). When it sizzles, add the chicken breast and cook on one side one minute. Turn over and cover the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and cook 10 minutes. Don’t open the lid! Turn off the heat and let the chicken breast sit in the skillet for 10 more minutes. THEN open the lid. Chicken breast perfectly cooked and juicy inside.

3. Turn up the heat in the skillet. Grill the veggies in the remaining fat. Drizzle nampla or fish sauce on top. Aroy!

I got this recipe for juicy chicken breast from the Joy of Cooking (1975) cookbook. It really works too! The first time I tried it was for the  March 1, 2013 post when I made apple stuffed chicken rolls for two.

ground pork lettuce sandwiches–no recipe needed!




I bought an induction cooker for Baht 1500 (about US$46.00). It came with a skillet and a spatula, seven settings, and instruction books in Thai and in English. I’ve only used the fry setting to make my mother-in-law’s favorite week-night Chinese meal, a deliciously light dish I call “lettuce sandwiches.” It’s made with ground meat and served on a leaf of organic cos or romaine lettuce. On the meat I drizzled some wasabi-soy-garlic sauce and sprinkled on top a few cilantro leaves and chopped scallions. It’s heady stuff that not only clears the sinuses it also adds a salty tanginess that’s very satisfying in a crunchy sort of way! To make this all you need is a pound (500g) of ground meat (beef, chicken, or pork will do) browned in a little oil, salt and pepper. Eat. So simple to make!