Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Baking up a gloomy week

In the wake of weeks scorching, we have a week of cooler climates and can only hope that there is some relief where it is most needed. In times like this it tends to drive home the message that life is short and that you have to make the most of it at every and any opportunity. I tend to forget that and mis-prioritise life sometimes. And of course there are less selfish thoughts to be had too. It's devastatingly sad but we persevere and hope for the best.

Gloomy days are perfect for a bit of kitchen baking - not only does the oven keep things toasty and warm but there's always the promise of comforting and reassuring smells emanating from trays within. Overripe bananas in the fruit bowl mean only one thing: banana cake. And since I'm feeling a little less than energised today I vow to take as many shortcuts as edibly possible, numbered in brackets following.

As an aside, I've found that when attempting to be lazy and taking shortcuts it often backfires and I end up using more time and effort than if I were to do the job properly. I guess the lesson is to treat shortcuts with a sensible and respectable amount of suspicion.

For the most part my shortcuts are of the minimising washing variety as I proceed to microwave the only remaining, small chunk of butter in the mixing bowl I intend to use (1). I'm actually a bit short on butter and these days our toast spread options are a cholesterol-reducing one and an olive oil based one. I deem them both inappropriate and the corner store too far so sunflower oil it is then (2).

I measure in the sugar, brown because there isn't enough white opened (3) and I like the tanning effect of the darker sugar anyway. I pull out the trusty wooden spoon (4) because it's such a hassle to get the hand beater out, and then cleaning the beaters. For anyone's information, the mentioned mixture doesn't so much cream as a normal softened butter and white sugar mixture would. It rather clumps, but that's okay as I crack in an egg.

The bananas are spotty black all over and instead of getting a separate bowl to mash them, I peel them straight into the mixing bowl (5) intending to mash them with the wooden spoon (6). Turns out they're not as ripe as their skins would indicate (don't judge a banana by its skin?) so I end up needing a fork (-) to aid the process. Not so difficult though the mashed banana is somewhat chunkier than I would normally have - not worried.

There's subsequent throwing-in of spices, bicarb soda, flour and milk - all together now - and a good deft mixing with the wooden spoon, trying to emulate the results of the electric mixer but giving my arm a pretty good workout at the same time (+).

I'm making mini cakes rather than a bar or loaf to cut down cooking time (7) and attempt to fill the muffin tin with just the wooden spoon. Alas, the wooden utensil has served me well but it is truly the job of a spatula to clean out the bowl. That or fingers. I love the taste of raw cake dough, in particular, I think, that raw flour taste and texture, which is one of the main parts that I'm told is not so good for consumption.

Banana cake batter in tin

The minimalist washing up effort - not bad, hey?

Ten minutes into the baking process and those promised smells were wafting - ever so sweetly delectable with their cinnamon tinge. If ever there's a reason to love baking it's got to be for the smells alone. The actual outcome is a close second. Another 15 minutes and my mini cakes are peaking - cakes always seem to do that in my oven, maybe except brownies.

Out of the oven

Peak a boo

A quick poke and it seems they're ready to greet the world. Out of respect for the health-conscious, the lactose-intolerant (he doesn't know there's milk in it) and the icing-dislikers of my family, I opt to forgo the stickily tedious job of icing these cakelings. A citrusy, cream cheese icing would be divine.

Coming a nearby third in the 'why I love baking' reasons is the opportunity to taste creations piping hot from the oven. Although I have greased the non-stick tray, my experiences past with removing baked goods from 'non-stick' surfaced trays has been questionable at best.

These banana-ry babies need no coercion more than a quick side loosening and a delicate twist out of their individual holes. Piping hot indeed, I drop them to cool on a rack and slowly eye off the first victim. The cakes turn out surprisingly more light and fluffy than ever - I'm not sure if it's my super wooden spoon-beating or the smaller sizing (though I've made banana cupcakes that weren't this fluffy).

There's even some rustic, textured chunks of banana visible in some of the cakes. So much for sloth being a sin, today I've found it rather serendipitous and efficient.

Banana chunk


Betty said...

omg i've never seen muffins rise like that they look amazing!

have you ever tried like making a syrup? after your muffins are dine prick the tops with a fork and slowly drizzle in some orange syrup or lemon syrup, i mean if you dont like sugary fattery icing, a syrup is sweet & not so much of the calories :)

Tina said...

Hey Betty - Yeah, it's weird. Must be something about my oven... I like the syrup idea - thanks - sweet but no butteriness!


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