Sunday, January 27, 2013

Buttermilk Banana Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

On days where absolutely nothing goes right, I banana bread. There's just something so satisfying about smashing bananas with a fork, beating butter and sugar, and turning it all into cake. Especially a bundt cake... since everyone knows that bundt cakes are just effortlessly-baked cakes which are fancy, circular quick breads which means you just had cake for breakfast.

This sweet, dense, golden brown banana cake was everything I needed last week. If the secret to a perfectly-moist, sweet banana bread is overripe, mostly brown bananas (and a dash of cinnamon and buttermilk), then the secret to an in-your-face stressful week is an apartment that smells like warm, baked banana bread and the satisfaction of making something successful happen all on your own.

... and then pouring icing all over it. 

Icing this cake was a challenge. As I was smashing bananas into this cake, I kept thinking... don't do it. Do. Not. Do. It.

Do not brown that butter. Do not even think about browning the butter. Brown butter icing? Stop it. Do something new. Do something with chocolate. Something with... peanut butter. Or rum! 

Wait. You're still thinking about it. What are you... DROP THE BUTTER. 

Well. There was only one way that was ever really going to go. 

I fell in love with rich, nutty-sweet brown butter icing when I made a pumpkin buttermilk cake last fall and knew immediately when I pulled this cinnamon-spiced banana cake out of the oven that it would be that icing I poured all over the top of this thing. 

And staring down at that just-moments-ago-glazed-cake makes me realize what a good decision that was... and also crave an iced chocolate cake doughnut like nobody's business. It does look like a giant doughnut, right? Is it just me?

Note: do not write about sugar and cake at 7:16 in the morning.

Note: make giant doughnuts happen

Another helpful tip? Sift your powdered sugar before whisking in the vanilla and brown butter for your icing. If you're lazy/rushed and desperate for a slice of cake for dinner like me, you'll end up with these unappealing clumps in your icing. Not a big deal... just not very pretty.

This cake was nearly a chocolate chip-banana situation, but since the last two banana breads I baked were extra-sweet and full of chocolate and fresh berries (dark chocolate raspberry banana bread and white chocolate cranberry streusel banana bread), I really just wanted a banana bread so good and plain it could stand alone without all the add-ins.

Except, you know. For the mini chocolate chips I sprinkled on top.

I can't even. 

Buttermilk Banana Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing 

Printable Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)

1/2 cup butter (confession: I always use salted butter)
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk
Mini chocolate chips for sprinkling, if desired

Preheat oven to 350°F. Flour and butter a 10-inch bundt pan (or spray with nonstick cooking spray); set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the softened butter and granulated sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated, then add the vanilla. 

Using a large spoon, stir in half of the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour mixture. Quickly fold in the mashed bananas. 

Pour into prepared bundt cake pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and tests done in the center. Allow to cool 15 minutes in pan, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, add the powdered sugar to a medium bowl. Melt butter over medium heat and whisk until it begins to bubble up and foam. Continue to whisk until golden brown (more information on browning butter here). Remove from heat and pour into bowl of powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cooled cake and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, if desired. 

Source: Cake barely adapted from Lick the Bowl Good, originally from Southern Cakes. Icing from Amanda's Cooking.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Brown Butter Toffee & Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies.

It's 2013... and I am still baking cookies absolutely everything with brown butter. 

I know. Now is the time for new. It's the time to be unexpected and bold, to make changes and lists and resolutions, to really get out there and live differently and adventurously and by the seat of our pants. I think it might also be the time for salads and juicing and getting ourselves to the gym... but let's just pretend no one ever said that. 

I mean, be real: let's celebrate the new year with salads! ... said absolutely no one ever.

Personally I think January is more about taking the best bits of 2012 and infusing them into our new year. Like... how I ate my weight in milk chocolate toffee-covered macadamia nuts last fall in Hawaii. How I discovered a favorite new way to bake perfect chocolate chip cookies... and fell in love with a simple fancy way to sass up basically anything: golden, nutty brown butter. 

Since 2012 started with triple fudge oreo cruch cookies, I'm of the mind that 2013 should start exactly the same: with loaded-up chocolate chip cookies. 

Unrelated: should I be worried that most of my new year's resolutions have to do with butter and brown sugar? Like... bake on the edge, be more adventurous, create new recipes, try new things, figure out vanilla beans, and seriously... bake a pie. No? Okay, good. 

There are some new things happening here though! Things like... there are nuts in my chocolate chip cookies. This is definitely an unexpected seat-of-the-pants situation... because the only thing I ever want in my chocolate chip cookies is more chocolate.

Oh hey. There's sea salt on these cookies too. That's totally living bold.

And there's this one new shiny, cherry-red thing in my life. It's totally not a big deal except it is.

In love/obsessed/cannot even deal.

These cookies are also kind of a big deal and start with my go-to chocolate chip cookie base (and one of my personal most-made cookie recipes from last year): brown butter chocolate chunk cookies. They were an instant 2012 favorite... buttery soft, perfectly chewy, extra thick, and full of that rich, nutty brown butter flavor that made them something more than just another chocolate chip cookie.

As if "just another" chocolate chip cookie could ever be a bad thing.

And the rest is just straight cookie math. 3/4 cup of everything within arm's reach went into these cookies. Crushed milk chocolate-covered toffee pieces + dark chocolate chips + chunks of macadamia nuts + a sprinkle of sea salt = the only way to really start the new year.

And... done. We're officially in this 2013 thing. Happy new year (21 days late)!

Brown Butter Toffee & Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
3/4 cup crushed toffee pieces (I used Heath milk chocolate toffee bits)
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top

Brown 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter (more information on browning butter here). Once butter is browned, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool slightly.

In a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the other stick of butter with the granulated sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the slightly cooled brown butter and the brown sugar and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add all at once to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, and toffee pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Scoop dough into balls using a small cookie scoop and place 2-inches apart on a lightly greased or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 

Source: Brown butter chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Joy the Baker cookbook.