Monday, April 10, 2017

Tropical breakfast bread

Last week I had you make a batch of caramel syrup. This week I’m going to show you one of the many spectacular ways in which you can enjoy this divine ingredient.

Bananas reign among my husband’s five major food groups (the others being peanuts, ice cream, potatoes, and more ice cream). 

So, I usually don’t have much opportunity to make banana bread unless they were on sale somewhere and J.H. bought way too many in an excess of enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, this breakfast bread should be on constant rotation in my (and your) house and is an excellent excuse for bringing too many bananas home and allowing them to ripen past the fresh-eating state. This isn’t your mom’s banana bread, though, as I’ve mixed this traditional recipe up a bit and introduced more tropical, almost Taiwanese flavors into one of our favorite breakfast pastries.

Worthy of Chartres
Finely diced, fresh mango is fabulous here, not only for its flavor, but also because when you use a fluted Bundt pan like this one here (see the Tips), you get a little stained glass action going in the ridges, and that makes the morning a whole lot better.

The usual massive amount of sugar found in most banana breads is swapped out here so that you can taste other, more naturally sweet things, like chewy Medjool dates and toasted cashews. 

That fact and the whole wheat flour here might suggest that this is a very healthy meal and almost worthy of health food status, but I wouldn’t take that at all too seriously, since the final caress of caramel makes this look and taste totally luscious and bumps up the sugar quotient quite nicely. 

Serve with hot coffee or some warm milk for the perfect breakfast, brunch, afternoon snack, or late night kitchen run. J.H. wants me to add that ice cream would go very well with this, too.

Smells like Hawaii, too
Tropical breakfast bread chez Huang
Serves 8

Pan and dry ingredients:
Spray oil
2 cups (300 g) whole wheat flour, plus a little more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt

Fruit and nuts:
2 large, very ripe bananas (about 13 ounces / 370 g total)
1 ripe but firm mango (around 10 ounces / 280 g)
6 Medjool dates
1 cup toasted cashews
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
Cake with caramel puddle

The rest:
½ cup (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup (65 g) dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup or more caramel syrup, or confectioner’s sugar as needed

1. Set the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 350°F (175°C). Prepare a medium-sized (6 cup / 1400 mL) Bundt pan or a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 13 cm) baking pan by spraying it with oil and dusting it with flour (see Tips).

2. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a work bowl. Peel and mash the bananas in a medium work bowl. Peel and seed the mango before cutting it into ½ inch (1 cm) dice. Pit the dates and cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices. Chop the cashews very coarsely, since you want them to retain some personality. Add the mango, dates, cashews, and grated ginger to the bananas.

The ice cream fiend
3. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Stir in the fruit and nuts, and then gently mix in the flour mixture only until everything looks evenly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, level off the top a bit, and then bake the bread until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the thickest area comes out clean (around 45 to 55 minutes). Lightly cover the pan with foil during the last 20 minutes if it is browning very quickly.

4. Cool the bread in the pan for about 10 minutes, as this will make it easier to dislodge the bread. If you are using a Bundt pan, carefully run a thin knife around the edge of the bread to loosen it, and then turn it out onto a plate; if you’re using a loaf pan, just loosen the bread, but leave it in the pan. Immediately brush the caramel all over the bread, letting it soak in and drizzle down the sides. After at least 10 minutes, you can serve it warm. Or, cool it down completely and refrigerate. Powdered sugar may be used instead of the caramel; in that case, sift the sugar over the cooled cake just before serving.


My new favorite pan
Get a gorgeous Bundt pan if you want to change up your cake game without too much effort. I mean, look at this cake. It doesn’t need frosting to make a statement. In fact, the frosting would hide its intense beauty. This particular one is called Nordic Ware Heritage and is the 6-cup size, which is relatively small and half the size of a regular (10 to 12-cup pan).

One thing you have to be sure to do when working with a fancy pants pan like this is to oil and flour it properly. Spray oil or butter work fine. BUT be sure work the oil into all of those little fissures, or else you will have a dickens of a time removing that cake.

What I do is spray oil all over the inside of the pan and then run a pastry brush up and down each ridge. Don't overdo it with the oil - you don't want it to puddle in the pan - but be sure that it completely coats the surface. Then, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of whatever flour you are using inside the pan. Rotate and shake the pan to cover every scintilla of the surface with flour, and the knock out the excess by tapping it with your hand.