Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Awesome Substitute for Banana Bread & More

There are many items that are notably "staples" in my kitchen for baking that I rarely go a day without. But there are times when I've misjudged the amount of an ingredient I've had available or just didn't realize that I was out of it. What do you do when such a thing happens? Number one, don't panic, for there is always hope. Number two, bookmark this page!
Welcome to my ingredient substitution page! I've tried to collect a bunch of substitutions for you so you can refer to it in times of need.
This happens to me more than expected - it's not too easy keeping a completely stocked pantry all the time. And sometimes, you don't want to run to the grocery store to pick a missing ingredient up. Sometimes, it's easier said than done. Whether you've got kids, are in your pajamas, or just don't feel like you're up for the trek (and trust me, sometimes it feels like a trek just to make it to the grocery store), you want a backup plan - plan B. Well, here's plan B: Substitutions Page. Save it, download it, keep it nearby for easy access while cooking and baking. And if you have any questions about ingredients that aren't on this list, send me a comment and I'll try to help you out.
On to baking...

There are times when you want banana bread from your brown bananas and there are times when you don't. This week, I had a couple of past-their-peel-and-eat-stage bananas but wanted something more indulgent than just banana bread. I found the perfect cake. It's a single layer cake, humbled and homestyled but special in spite of this. This cake is a chocolate banana cake that is deep in its chocolateyness (if that's not a word, it should be). The color of this cake is strikingly dark and juxtaposed with a cream-colored peanut butter Swiss meringue frosting, it's nothing short of lovely in appearance and taste. Of course, you can always just bake the cake and have it sans frosting. It's so full-bodied in taste that you wouldn't miss it. It comes together quite quickly and is a wonderful snacking cake. This is a great cake to have in your repertoire for those days when you have overripe bananas.

Chocolate Banana Cake
(Slightly adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

1/2 c + 1 T cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/4 c + 2 T hot water
1 large overripe banana, peeled & mashed
1/4 c + 2 T sour cream, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/3 c all purpose flour, sifted (or 1 1/2 c + 1 T cake flour, sifted)
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
10 T unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon chunks and brought to a cool room temperature

Line a 9x2" round baking pan with parchment and spray it with non-stick spray. Place an oven rack in the middle of your oven and turn it on to 350F to preheat.
In medium bowl, pour the hot water over the cocoa powder and whisk until there are no clumps of cocoa left. Set this aside to cool slightly. Once the cocoa mixture is cooled to at least warm (about 10 minutes; you can speed up the process by putting the cocoa mixture in the refrigerator), mix the mashed banana, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract together in a food processor or using a blender. Add the cocoa mixture until it is evenly incorporated. Set this aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Start the mixer on low just to combine the ingredients, uniformly. Once this is done, add your butter, piece by piece. Once the butter is all in, mix for about 30 seconds until you achieve a sandy consistency.
Slowly add the banana-sour cream mixture and beat on medium for about 1 1/2 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl about half-way through. The mixture should become lighter in color and be fluffy in texture. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out free of wet batter or crumbs. Alternately, if you touch the center of the cake it should gently spring back upon release.
Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then invert it onto a wire rack and invert again, so the cake is right side up on the wire rack. Let this cake cool completely. You can then frost it with any frosting you choose, though peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream seemed to be the perfect accompaniment.
This cake is best kept at room temperature for up to 3 days on a covered cake plate.

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