Banana Chai Cupcakes

I love using these pretty cupcake cases - they make the cakes look even more appealing!

I love using these pretty cupcake cases – they make the cakes look even more appealing!

Good morning! I hope the transition from February to March (and from winter to spring by the looks of things here!) has been very pleasant and appropriately filled with baked treats for you all – apologies for the lack of communication lately! I haven’t been very well, nothing serious, but it did take it out of me for a while, plus I think I’d underestimated how hard my final term was going to be. I will be awash with deadlines very soon so I can’t promise to post frequently, but when I get a bit of time to bake I will certainly share the results here 🙂 Oh and the Foodie Facts will be making a re-appearance too, not daily for the moment, but as and when I find useful/interesting/wacky tidbits I’ll pop them up.

So, Banana Chai Cupcakes, sounds pretty exciting right?! The idea, I have to disclaim, was not mine, but the recipe sort of is. Yesterday that rare and beautiful thing happened where I experimented with patchworking different bits of recipes together and the result was actually a resounding success! It will depend on personal taste of course, but I love the subtle mix of spices along with the sweet banana flavour in these cakes. The texture is really wonderful as well; the cupcakes are so light and fluffy, despite the mixture being quite wet, with a perfectly risen and crusted sugary top.

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I also tried this as a loaf, which worked absolutely fine. I do prefer the cupcakes personally, however, just for their size and the contrast between the fluffy insides and crispy muffin top! Please don’t be put off by the amount of spices the recipe calls for. You can decide what spices you want to include anyway; I browsed lots of chai tea and spiced cake recipes to create my blend, and will probably make alterations next time I make these to find the perfect combo. My other tip is go to a wholesale oriental foods store! I found one ages ago and bought masses of spices – they’re so much cheaper in bulk, and if you store them carefully (airtight containers, dry cupboards) they do last. Plus its fascinating to look around stores like that, and I picked up a bamboo steamer for £1.50, so look out for bargains!

Grinding up spices on the mezzaluna.

Grinding up spices on the mezzaluna.

Sorry again for the long silence before now, and I hope this delicious recipe is to your taste – slightly unusual, but all the more impressive for that when it eats as well as this do!

Ingredients

For the spice mix:

  • 4 cloves (or ¼ tsp ground cloves)
  • 2 black peppercorns, ground
  • ¼ tsp ground star anise OR fennel seed
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom seeds (about 3 pods worth)
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the cake mixture:

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • 10 oz sugar (¼ brown rest white)
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp strong black tea
  • 10 oz self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

*I realise this recipe is in ounces; its an old one my mum was given and I haven’t tried it with metric measures as my scales can weigh in ounces as well as grams. If yours don’t then you can easily convert the measurements here:  Metric Conversions (They’re not all whole numbers which is why I didn’t put the grams up – will test at some point and see what gram measurements work best!)

Step 1. Grind up all the spices together. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar (I don’t) fear not; you can chop the cardamom, fennel seed/star anise, peppercorns and cloves down to a fine sand with patience and a good knife. I used a mezzaluna (see photo above) but a large sharp knife and a good chopping board will work similarly well. Or you can buy them ground, but whole spices do keep better – they don’t dry out and lose as much flavour as pre-chopped or ground spices do.

Step 2. Mash the banana in a bowl (not the mixing bowl) til soft then combine thoroughly with your spice mix. In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Then, one ingredient at a time, beat in the spiced banana mush, eggs, vanilla essence, golden syrup and tea. I usually add a tablespoon or so of flour with the eggs so the mixture doesn’t curdle.

Step 3. Add the flour and bicarb of soda and mix thoroughly into the wet ingredients. Now either drop into cupcake cases (fill them about three quarters full) or turn into a loaf tin. The tin needs to be non-stick, or greased and lined with baking paper. This mixture made 6 cupcakes and 1 loaf for me.

Step 4. If making cupcakes, bake for 30-35 minutes at 170C/Gas Mark 4. For a loaf, bake at the same temperature but for 40-45 minutes. When the top is springy to touch and a skewer (or a piece of uncooked spaghetti) inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out with only a few tiny moist crumbs on – if its completely clean the cake may be too dry – the cake(s) are ready. Leave to cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight tin. Banana cake usually keeps well for a good few days as its quite moist.

**Notes**

The ingredients list says to use a quarter (i.e. 2.5 ounces) brown sugar to three quarters white – this was the ratio I happened to have in my cupboards as I was running out of brown sugar. I’ve made banana cake with all  brown and all white sugar before and its been fine; use whatever ratio you prefer, though the 1/4 brown to 3/4 white did work well for the cupcakes. I think that’s everything really; as I said before, use trial and error for your own spice mix to see what suits your tastes. Hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much as I did!

Sources: Betty Crocker ‘Chai Cake’ recipe, my mum’s banana cake recipe, various chai tea and spiced cake recipes.

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Til next time x

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Banana Chip and Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Firstly, let me apologize for the radio silence – its been almost a week since my last post! – for which I can only excuse myself by saying I’ve been very busy… I have an ominous feeling that this summer just gone will have been the last lengthy period of absolute nothingness I’ll have been able to indulge in for a very long time. Probably until retirement.

I do enjoy having lots to do, generally; I’m really getting into most of the material for my course at the moment, the aforementioned musical I’m a part of this semester is going fantastically, and paying for a monthly gym membership means I’m hoiking myself out of bed for two or three fitness classes a week and some occasional swimming sessions. N.B: everyone should go to Zumba, I went today for the first time in yonks and had a ball!! So far, so active, healthy and productive. But… here’s the rub. I find that having to squeeze baking into the melee of everyday uni life, rather than wafting around in the holidays taking hours over a simple batch of biscuits (or attempting lemon meringue three times over just because I can) , reduces the quality of my bakes. I’m a firm believer that, unless you train yourself to work in such an environment, like they must have to on Bake Off I suppose, stress has a big impact on how your food turns out. Unless I have lots and lots of time without a certain cut-off point, I find it hard to switch off whilst I’m baking, and not let opticians appointment times, Childe Harold’s pilgrimage, and career prospects invade my headspace. I don’t doubt that this is the case for almost all the other food bloggers I follow, bakers, chefs and fellow students around the world, but that knowledge doesn’t mean getting the balance right is any easier, unfortunately.

However, I do have a recipe for you, finally. I have pinched it ever so cheekily from a really interesting food blog I like to follow (with really lovely photography too) called ‘Pastry Affair’, by Kristin Rosenau. I did read the copyright rules on Kristin’s site, and I think, I hope, it doesn’t count as infringement if I direct my readers to her site, which is what I’m going to do for the recipe. My cookies fell sadly short of the ones pictured there – I place the blame wholly with the Lurpak I had to use for making them spread ridiculously and consequently become far too thin and crispy. Still, the taste was there, and I liked my small change of dark chocolate chunks instead of chips, because I think biting into a chunk of chocolate in a cookie can be one of life’s greatest pleasure’s if you’re really in need of some comfort. So without further ado, here is the link to Kristin’s recipe – if you ever read this humble article Kristin, I’m indebted to you and also sad that I couldn’t do these cookies proper justice due to the absence of any butter/butter-like substance in my fridge excepting Lurpak, which I can affirm does not do cookies any favours texture-wise; the spread is far too soft and melts really quickly. Now, without any ado, the link:

http://www.pastryaffair.com/blog/chocolate-banana-chip-cookies.html

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Source: ‘Chocolate Banana Chip Cookies’, Pastry Affair by Kristin Rosenau. Do check out her blog, its lovely and well-written and much more established and exciting than mine. 

   

Fruit ‘n’ Oat Cookies

So, I had some fruit to use up this weekend – a banana and some Gala apples which I’m not particularly fond of to eat raw – and was determined to stay away from my go-to using up fruit recipe; banana cake. So I made banana cookies! With apple. And oats. And cinnamon, and nutmeg…all of these ingredients sounded a promising combination to me, so I was hoping when I put them together in dough form they would come out as little baked rounds of gooey, sweet but slightly spiced deliciousness. And I’m pleased to report that they pretty much did. They have quite a soft crumb (may add slightly more flour next time) and spread quite a bit on the trays, but I was really pleased with the texture – the banana kind of melts and goes gooey but not runny, whereas the apple holds its shape and has a bit of resistance still when you bite into it. The oats add a nice healthy chewiness too, and if you wanted to counteract that completely I think sprinkling granulated brown sugar on top of these before they’re baked would be fantastic.

It felt like the first time I’d baked in ages when I made these last night; I think its because I’m so busy again and the days are so full I forget what I’ve done and when. It was good to get round to making these, and to experiment a bit and have that anticipation when they’re in the oven and cooling when there is a possibility that they might actually taste like the worst thing you’ve ever made. Its nice when that doesn’t happen 🙂 Think I will definitely be making these again, leftover fruit recipes have a new addition to their collection!

Ingredients

  • 125g butter
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • good pinch of cinnamon 
  • 1/4 (approx, or to taste) grated nutmeg bulb (is that what you call them? bulbs? feel free to comment and correct me if not!)

 

Step 1: Cream the butter with both types of sugar. Gradually add the beaten egg, plus the vanilla extract, and mix well. 

Step 2: Sift in the flour and cinnamon, add the salt and grate in the nutmeg. Mix to form a softish dough, scraping all the flour from the bottom of the bowl and incorporating. Now chop up your banana and apple into small cubes – you want bitesize chunks so they’re easy and enjoyable to eat – and fold carefully into the cookie dough. Use a metal spoon and go slowly, trying not to mash up the banana which is easy to do as you’re using fruit slightly past its best so softer than normal.

Step 3: Dollop onto a lined or greased baking tray in tablespoon-sized blobs, spaced well apart to allow room for them to spread, and bake for around 15 minutes at 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Step 4: Important!!! Let the cookies cool on the trays before you move them to a wire cooling rack, otherwise they will fall apart. Cool completely – or eat warm if you fancy it – and store in an airtight tin. Very satisfying and not so rich as a big double chocolate cookie that I’m so fond of. Means you can eat more of these! Enjoy 🙂

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Source: BBC Good Food, ‘Millie’s Cookies recipe’ (I’ve never had a Millie’s cookie so can’t say whether they do resemble them or not, but anyway I tweaked the recipe a bit and they’ve got fruit in and stuff so they’re better 😉 ).