Thursday, September 1, 2011

More bananas, please.

I'm having a banana moment right now. It hit me a few weeks ago, when I wanted to bake something banana. I probably hadn't eaten a banana for several months, but since then I have eaten them out of hand, sliced them up into my oatmeal, and hoarded Jared's leftovers for banana baking.

Last night, I found myself with two perfectly ripe bananas and went searching for a bananas recipe that only included ingredients I had on-hand and didn't require immediate consumption (sorry, bananas foster and banana-stuffed french toast...). This banana cake by Lucinda Scala Quinn fit the bill perfectly.

Since the recipe required melting butter, I went ahead and browned it since bananas are a natural match for that caramelized flavor. To do so, just melt the butter over medium heat and let it foam away. When the foaming subsides, it will start to brown but watch it carefully so it doesn't burn; a nice pale golden brown is perfect. Pour off the liquid, leaving the solids behind, and you're ready to use it in place of regular melted butter in almost any recipe. The caramel flavor is further ramped up by a brown sugar streusel topping. I need not tell you that this cake is delicious for breakfast, a rustic dessert, or even an afternoon snack.

Banana Cake with Browned Butter
Adapted from Lucinda Scala Quinn

Note: I had a few changes from the original. First, Lucinda used an electric mixer to finish combining the wet and the dry ingredients but I avoid using my mixer for any muffin method recipe so I mixed it all by hand. Your dishwasher (in my case, me) will thank you. Also, I didn't have buttermilk so I mixed 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup of plain yogurt and it worked just as well. Finally, you can of course use regular melted butter in place of the browned butter, but my humble opinion is that the couple of extra minutes are totally worth it.

Serves 8

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted and browned (see instructions above)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or see above for substitute)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), cut into pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan with butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is moistened. Stir in 1/4 cup of the buttermilk until combined.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the other 1/4 cup of buttermilk with the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Add the bananas and mix thoroughly (but don't over-mix... remember, it's like a muffin batter). Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

3. For the streusel, place the butter, flour, and brown sugar in a bowl and rub with your fingers until you have pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

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