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Just like everyone else, I also have a long list my tried and tested [and improved!] banana bread recipes but that does not stop me from tinkering with a new recipe whenever I have some ageing bananas around. While I am not adverse to nuts in my banana bread, I tend to sidestep walnuts in favor of pecans or hazelnuts. Similarly, instead of chocolate chips, I will invariably resort to chopped dark chocolate or even Nutella because they melt to form larger pockets of chocolaty goodness. This particular recipe is part of the Bon Appétit collection of baking essentials and gets its signature taste from the earthy tones of unrefined dark brown sugar. A liberal dose of mascarpone cheese helps to keep the texture moist without the batter turning dense or sticky which, I believe, can only be the hallmark of a ‘best’ banana bread.

BA’s BEST BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup mascarpone or Greek yogurt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

4 large very ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 8 ½” x 4½” loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment.

  • Leave a generous overhang on long sides. Whisk flour, baking soda, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

  • Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the brown sugar, mascarpone, and butter in a bowl.

  • Beat till light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition.

  • Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

  • Add bananas and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate and walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

  • Smooth top and bake bread until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, for 60-65 minutes.

  • Transfer pan to a wire rack and let bread cool in pan 1 hour. Turn out bread and let it cool completely.

Bon Appetit’s Best Banana Bread

Though I have made [and loved] the classic pineapple upside down cake on more than one occasion, it never really occurred to me that I could actually use any other fruit… until I chanced upon this lovely apricot cake recipe on SusanEatsLondon.com. This delicate stone fruit simultaneously reminds me of a velvety peach and a tangy plum and works well in situations where it gets caramelized. Apricot jam is probably the best example of this wonderful pairing so you can almost imagine this as eating chunky apricot jam on a layer of rich butter cake. Serve it with a cloud of fresh cream and toasted almonds and you will find yourself slowly ascending towards dessert heaven.

APRICOT UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

Ingredients:

For the Cake

10-12 ripe apricots, halved

125g unsalted butter

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest of 1/2 lemon

130g all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons yogurt

For the Caramel Topping

100g unsalted butter

75g caster sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180oC. Generously butter a deep cake pan and line its base with apricots, cut side down.

  • Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and set this mixture aside.

  • In another bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy, and then beat in egg yolks.

  • In a third bowl, using clean beaters, beat egg whites until they are foamy. Gradually add the white sugar.

  • Continue beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. For the caramel use a heavy, non-stick skillet.

  • Melt the butter, sugar, and lemon juice over medium-low heat till it starts bubbling. Add vanilla extract.

  • Continue to simmer, stirring gently with a wooden spoon, till caramel has thickened and turned golden.

  • Pour caramel over apricots. Now, fold the dry ingredients of the cake into the butter/sugar/egg mixture.

  • Stir in yogurt. Mix in about a third of the egg whites to lighten batter, and then carefully fold in the rest.

  • Try not to over-mix. Spread this over the caramel covered apricots, and bake it for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the cake comes out clean or the center of the cake feels springy.

  • Cool in the pan for three to five minutes, then cover with a serving plate and flip. Makes 10-12 servings.

Apricot Caramel Upside-Down Cake

To use up the last of my cornmeal that was lying dormant at the back of my kitchen cupboard in a forgotten Tupperware, I made these golden chewy cookies from Sweetestmenu’s blog. She ingeniously devised this recipe after her husband requested for corn cookies and I have to say that she came up with the perfect cookie which strikes the right balance between “crisp golden edges” and “a light and fluffy centre”. I baked my cookie batter right out of the refrigerator so they did not spread much but I still loved them with my afternoon cup of Bois Cheri cardamom tea.

CORNMEAL COOKIES

Ingredients:

115g butter, room temperature

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

45g (1/4 cup) brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons golden syrup

175g (1 1/4 cup) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

120g (3/4 cup) cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 160 C (320 F). Line two baking trays with baking or parchment paper.

  • In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter and caster sugar and brown sugar until creamy.

  • Add the vanilla, egg and syrup and mix again until combined. Sift in flour and baking soda.

  • Add cornmeal and salt and stir till combined. Chill for 5 minutes before shaping into cookies.

  • Place on prepared trays 1-inch apart and bake for 12 minutes until edges turn golden brown.

  • Keeps at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes 12-14 cookies.

Chewy Cornmeal Cookies

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