I can say this much.
I had no intention of baking three different recipes on the same day, but a wonderful young girl (my daughter) entered the kitchen and wanted to bake a birthday cake with her Papi (that’s me), and I couldn’t refuse. What was I to say? “Scat! Get out of here kid! Can’t you see I’m busy being a cool dude?” It wasn’t anyone’s birthday, but she was dreaming ahead.
# 3 Chocolate Chip Peanut Banana Loaf, p. 21,
I’m learning! On the most recent iteration of my CV, I’ve included a, “What I learned”, remark following each position I’ve held. So, hey! What did I learn a) baking this banana loaf, and b) baking three different recipes on the same afternoon when I only wanted to bake two and had other things to do too (as always!)?
I learned that…
- It was worth it to quickly say yes to my daughter who wanted to spend time with her “Papi” in the kitchen.
- A banana bread/loaf of some kind is among the easiest of things to bake successfully.
- I LOVE gooey, chocolaty, stuff in bowls. I like swirling it around with a spatula. Not so different from little boys and girls who love playing in muddy puddles after a rain.
- You can always add an extra, gooey, icky-looking banana.
- All of the above are reasons to bake with children if you get a chance, or can make the opportunity.
The Banana: Yes. I added the extra banana (or two?) to this recipe. I had to. The ugly thing was sitting there all dark and sinister looking and otherwise inedible. What did it change? It required an extra 8 minutes in the oven. The loaf remained moist and YUMMY for days. “For days?”, I hear ye say. “Sounds to me like, well, maybe it wasn’t so good after all.” Nay. One dear blogger (8th grade team) hath shared that it was YUMMMMY. Nay sayers are welcome to contradict this assessment in the comments below.
The Peanuts: This Magnolia Bakery recipe is one of the few banana loaf/bread recipes that I’ve seen calling for peanuts – not peanut butter, not peanut butter chips. The peanuts in this recipe were supposed to be “finely chopped.” Well, with two other baking projects to go, I did the guy thing. I put them in a plastic sandwich bag, grabbed a hammer and pulverized them. It was quick, efficient, but left me with more powder than finely chopped bits.
CAUTION: Don’t even think about putting an icing on this banana loaf. Simply not needed. On the other hand, a cup of coffee wouldn’t be a bad idea. But then, I live with a coffee cup in my hand. — Ahhhhh. I detect the smell of espresso in the kitchen right now.
#4 Traditional Vanilla Birthday Cake, p. 97
Do I wish that my cake had turned out like the one pictured above? Well sure I do, kind of. And, no, mine didn’t. But, with my new growth mindset ( 😉 I know that I can get there with practice and maybe even do something better.
So. I say “so” a lot, don’t I? And then there’s all those dashes and “!” everywhere. I can’t tell you how terribly conscious I am of my punctuation habits. I thought the doctoral studies would put to death all shades of punctuation darkness, but nooooooo.
The authors of the Magnolia cookbook state that they wanted to make a cake that was neither a “yellow cake nor a traditional sponge cake”. The inclusion of whole, unseparated, moderately beaten eggs was needed to create this distinction. I love the cake that emerged from the oven!!!! It was CRUMBY! Wonderfully, loverly, crumberly yummery. (I love being the author who gets to create words. Ehemm.) It was moist. This cake is the undeniable evidence that something magical happens when a baker mixes basic ingredients together instead of buying them pre-mixed in a box. And it’s vanilla. It’s simple, basic, and a blessing.
DETOUR or ROADBLOCK
- The icing. The icing is actually recipe #6 for me from the cookbook (p. 127, Vanilla Buttercream). This was the disaster part of the day and my area of future growth. In some days to come, I will present a study on the do’s and don’ts of creaming butter and sugar. My icing turned out grainy, and I didn’t have time to correct it. But here are the sources of error that will guide my upcoming study:
- The sugar. The icing calls for powdered sugar. Be careful. I bought an inexpensive variety of powdered sugar coming out of India. It didn’t feel sufficiently powdery, but it’s what I had at the time.
- If your butter gets too warm, the whole process breaks down and separates – mine did.
- Do you whip the butter THEN add and whip the sugar? or do you start beating the butter and sugar all at once? I’ve seen contradictory advice on the web.
- Too sweet? My children were critical of the icing; said it was too sweet and that I put too much on the cake. I think the “too sweet” remark would not have materialized if the creaming of the butter had gone well. As for too much, I’ll always lather on the icing on cakes made for such – it’s my favorite part!!!
I shaved off the domed top of each cake layer so that all sides would be flat and create a better shaped cake. I used a long bread knife and it worked just fine. I made thin, pie-shaped, snacks out of the part I shaved off. The kids loved this as much or more than the cake. They ate them for snacks and took them in their lunches.
#5 Oatmeal Almond Raisin Cookies, p. 40
This blog has gotten too long, so this will be short. This is a great cookie, but I’ll go straight for what went wrong.
The recipe called for toasting “finely chopped toasted almonds”. Now, remember how I rushed the peanuts for the banana loaf. Well, I had an opportunity to make two mistakes with the almonds and batted 1000 on that task. First, I over-toasted the almonds. They went from golden to dull, dark brown. Then I pounded them to much – remember my peanut technique?
Next. I had an opportunity to overcook them and made good on that one too. But was it a true disaster? No. I baked about half of them the right amount (for my liking). The recipe calls for 15-18 minutes in the oven. At 15 minutes, you’ll end up with a light-colored cookie that remains moist and chewy for days. For those that go 18 (or longer?), you’ll have dark brown “lembas” pucks (Elven bread that lasts forever, a bit tough but still chewy, and satisfying if you’re really hungry). There are still two lembas pucks at home after a week.
But it was all worth it!