Saturday, February 22, 2014

Banana Chiffon Cake

Trying out different flavors of chiffon cake has been on my mind for several years. I've posted a berry chiffon cake here on the blog before, but I've been looking for chiffon cakes that are more similar to the Chinese style chiffon cake, also posted here, in texture. I like making chiffon cakes for everyday snacking and the texture of the berry one I felt was not quite suited for eating out of hand. The first flavor variation I attempted several years ago was actually banana, but I never found a recipe that I really liked until I tried this one recently.
I've adapted it to my liking and the process is basically the same as my Chinese style chiffon cake. The texture is light and airy without being mushy and it has the perfect amount of sweetness and banana flavor. Best of all, there are no extra egg whites or yolks to bother with.
Like most banana recipes, you'll want to use very ripe bananas for the best flavor. I'm excited to substitute other fruit purees to see how they work, so look out for that in the future. However, knowing me, that would probably be the far-off future.
Banana Chiffon Cake
Adapted from Wen's Delight
Makes One Large 10 inch chiffon cake
140 g cake flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
220 g bananas, about 3 bananas
8 large egg yolks (9 medium or 7 extra large)
Large pinch of salt
80 ml vegetable oil (1/3 cup)
160 g granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 large egg whites (9 medium or 7 extra large)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Sift the cake flour, baking soda, and baking powder together 3 times. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract, and a bit more than half the sugar (reserve the rest for later). Whisk for several minutes, until it turns pale yellow and thick ribbons fall from the whisk. 
Puree the bananas in a food processor. Mix the oil into the egg yolk mixture, then the pureed bananas, whisking well between each. Fold in the flour mixture and whisk until well blended, but don't overmix.

In another large bowl with a clean whisk or in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and the remaining sugar and beat on medium speed until stiff.

Fold a third of the beaten egg whites into the batter with a spatula and mix until blended. Add in the rest of the egg whites and fold gently until just blended. Be sure there are no large clumps of egg whites left as this will leave wet spots in the finished cake.
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until set and golden brown, about 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. As soon as it comes out of the oven, invert the pan onto a cooling rack so the cake won't collapse, let cool completely. To unmold, run a knife around the edge and remove the cake, run knife under the cake to remove the bottom. It's easier to remove if you slice through the cake but you can also just slip the center out or serve it on the pan.
Cake will last several days at room temperature well wrapped.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Tang Yuan) 汤圆

For Chinese New Year recently, I decided to make some glutinous rice dumplings, aka tang yuan, for the occasion. In past years, we've usually kept them plain or filled them with a mixture of chopped peanuts and shredded coconut. This year, I decided to try making sesame as well as peanut butter filled dumplings.

Sesame dumplings are another childhood dim sum favorite of mine, although they've since disappeared from most dim sum menus. For some reason, I've never thought to make my own, but they're actually super easy to make. They can also be made ahead of time, frozen, and then cooked when you want to eat them. I find they do taste a bit chewier when cooked fresh, though, so if you have the time to do that, you should. Otherwise, they're still delicious when cooked from frozen.
I like to roll the sesame dumplings in toasted soybean powder when they're done because that's how they used to serve them in restaurants, similar to mochi, but you can also make a sugar syrup to serve them with or just have them on their own. Toasted soybean powder can be found in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese stores since all three cultures make some version of glutinous rice dumplings dusted with soybean powder. You definitely need to serve these fresh though, so they don't really last much longer than 15 mins or so if serving dry, but you could probably keep them warm in a sugar syrup through dinner if you don't want to cook them last minute.

Interestingly, mochi made by steaming glutinous rice flour dough does last about a day and is good even when cold, but these tang yuan don't and aren't. I'm guessing mochi has a higher water content in comparison.

For this recipe, make the filling the day before you want to make the dumplings so it has time to set up. Then just make your dumpling dough, form the dumplings, and cook or freeze the next day. I won't include the peanut butter recipe here because I don't have exact measurements for it. I just blended up some peanuts in a food processor until smooth, added a bit of oil, and sugar to taste. Then I froze the mixture and formed balls of filling for assembly.

Tang Yuan
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia

1 pound (16 ounces) glutinous rice flour
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
4 tbsp granulated sugar
Toasted soybean powder, optional

Place glutinous rice flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, pour the boiling water into the center of the glutinous rice flour and mix until you get a small mound of dough. Add in the cold water and mix until a smooth dough is formed. If the dough has cracks, add a bit more water.

Take a small ball of dough, slightly flatten, place a ball of filling in the center, and enclose. At this point, the dumplings can be frozen in a single layer before being placed in a sealed plastic bag for further storage.

When ready to cook, bring a pot of water to a low boil, drop the dumplings in and stir gently once in a while. The dumplings are ready when they float to the top. If cooking from frozen, let float for about a minute before removing. Serve in a sugar syrup or coat with toasted soybean powder before serving.

Sesame Filling
1/2 cup sesame powder or ground toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the ground sesame seeds and sugar. Stir to combine. After cooling for a bit, place mixture in the refrigerator to harden. Scoop out small balls of filling with a teaspoon or spoon and roll into a ball. Leave in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Where have you been all my life!? Banana Nut Granola

I'm typing this after enjoying a bowl of yogurt topped with this delicious granola. I believe this is only the second time I've ever made granola although I've eaten it plenty of times. I think the reason I don't really make granola is because I don't really eat it consistently. (The first time I made granola also didn't turn out well, so I was still dealing with some trauma from that.) I'll have it once in a while on yogurt, but that's about it, so I imagined it would be tough to get through a batch of homemade granola. There's also so many kinds of granola for sale that I tend to end up picking up a bag from the store when I do want some.
For the past few months though, I've been going through one tub of yogurt after another, so I figured the granola would at least have someplace to end up. I've also been finding it difficult to find the perfect granola since I don't want anything too sweet, artificially flavored, not crunchy enough, or with too much dried fruit. The last package of store bought granola I got was terrible, so I decided to give homemade granola another go. After seeing the many delicious granola recipes on Shutterbean and reading about Tracy's love of homemade granola, I settled on the banana walnut granola since I happened to have some overripe bananas again and I'm a fan of banana flavored things in general, if you can't already tell.

Boy, have I been missing out! This granola is exactly what I wanted, loose, not overly large oat clusters, not overly sweet, crunchtastic, and made to my own specifications. I didn't have any banana chips on hand when I made this, but I mixed some in to the finished granola afterwards. I overbaked the granola a tiny bit because I was worried about the bananas affecting the crunchiness of the oats, but it still turned out fantastic. Next time, I won't worry about mashing the bananas completely smooth so the mixture isn't as wet. If you happen to have toasted nuts or coconut on hand already, just add them in towards the end of the baking time instead of mixing them with the oats. This granola is also super versatile, so substitute or add whatever you like, add dried fruit towards the end so it doesn't burn.
Banana Nut Granola
Adapted from Shutterbean
Makes about 7 cups of granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
4 tbsp flaxseed meal
1/8 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 medium-large very ripe bananas
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut, flaked or shredded, sweetened or unsweetened
1 1/2 cups banana chips

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Mix together the oats, nuts, flaxseed meal, and brown sugar in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mash the bananas. Mix in the maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and vanilla extract until well blended.

Pour the wet ingredients into the oat mixture and mix until the oats are all nicely coated. Spread the mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until nicely golden. With about 20 minutes left to go, mix in the coconut.

After baking, mix in the banana chips, if using, and let the granola cool on the baking sheet. It will become much crunchier after it cools. Transfer to an airtight container and enjoy as is, with milk, or  over yogurt.