It’s been a very tiring yet meaningful, fruitful Christmas this year, with so many restless working days and sleepless working nights. Yet, it reenforced me again that I love what I do knowing that many people (a crowd of picky, demanding foodies in HK) were eating my cakes to celebrate the festive season; knowing my pastries filled with labor-intensive love were delivered as lovely holiday gifts to ones beloved families and friends. I’m honored to be the one who made people happy and more merry on festivals like this.
Classics like red velvet cake, pecan pies, cranberry upside down cakes and chocolate tarts are always a hit during Christmas. And as usual, I love to add some of my own twists into those classic staples. My recent fave include red velvet chiffon cake with candied pecan Bavarian, and the sugary nutty gooey pecan pie with an extra touch of caramelized banana tucked underneath. I know, it’s totally against the trend of being light and healthy. But hey, it’s Christmas! And it’s not so wrong with the nutrition packed wholesomeness of pecan and banana, right? Well, not too bad of a perfect excuse to indulge some real comfort dessert I guess
There’re so many other things I love making lately, and my fave of the fave must be the lusciously creamy lime tart. (I think i’ve lost count how many of lime tarts I’ve made in the past couple months:P and hope people who’re close to me have not got sick of them yet:p) The recipe is based on the Tartine’s cookbook with a few adjustments and modifications. I would proudly say that it’s my own recipe now!
One of my dearest friends got married in 2012, we all made a trip to Sydney to be part of the warm, cozy and intimate wedding gathering and celebration. Definitely one of my highlight in 2012 as well, words can’t describe the words and blessing I have for her.
Sorry for the cheesy quality for the pecan pie (absolutely no time for taking any good picture before having them delivered on time…not to mention styling before shooting… this is a last minute shot of a mini one as a little gift for my friend
If you are a fan of this heavenly sticky rich pie, do try this recipe out! I always use the Chez Panisse recipe for my flaky tart dough, filling is adapted and adjusted from David Lebovitz’s recipe (who worked for Chez Panisse as well) then my favourite caramelised banana to add something extra in terms of both aroma and texture, in this case, creaminess that is. Of course, the banana part is totally optional, but I personally do love it in my pecan pie A typical pecan pie filling calls for corn syrup or golden syrup, I sometimes use agave nectar in mine if I’m in the ‘make myself feel less guilty’ mood for its low glycemic index or grade B maple syrup for its unrefined nutritions with its charming deep, complex sweetness and aroma. And use coocnut flower sugar in place of the dark brown sugar. Those much healthy alternatives would just work as beautifully as the regular old sugar and syrup. It might sound a little redundant, but I like my pecan lightly toasted with a drizzle of clove honey and sprinkle of cinnamon and Fleur De Sel before going to the pre-baked pastry shell — yes, pre-baked! Some bakers prefer not to have the pastry blind-baked as they like the filling to fuse into the shell during baking; yet, I like my pastry to be perfectly cooked through, even to a point where it’s almost too dark brown before I put the filling in, so the pastry would stay crispy after it’s done, or even after it’s been sitting on the cake stand for a night
So here’s the recipe…once you have the pastry done, this is actually something pretty easy and quick to whip up as the perfect festive dessert. And definitely, a crowd pleaser.
Flaky pastry: (I usually make more than I need, so I can use half, and save the rest in my freezer for later use! Talking about convenience!) (makes two 9″ inch pie or tart or galette)
2 cups of all purpose flour
12 tablespoons butter, unsalted, diced and keep it very chilled
1/4 cup iced water
1/4 tsp. sea salt, I still use Fleur De Sel here
1. scatter the chilled diced butter over the flour. (Using a food processor works best for this) Pulse the flour , salt and butter a few times or until it’s become a sandy mass with pea sized butter-flour chunks. Sprinkle the iced water in, pulse couple more times, or until the dough just start to come together. Do not over work, or the dough will be tough.
2. Gather the sandy dough together, divide into two. Shape each into a flat disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest in fridge for at least couple hours befre rolling.
3. When it’s ready to roll. lightly dust the counter top, the rolling pin and both sides of the dough. Before rolling, use even pressure to pound the dough a few times with the rolling pin. So now, it’s nice and pliable. Start to roll from centre, keep turning the dough from time to time to make sure it doesn’t get stuck with the rolling surface.
4. Roll into a even 1/8″ disk, large enough to cover the tart tin with over hang. Carefully brush away the extra flour using a pastry brush. Then transfer the dough onto the baking tin without stretching the dough. Pleat the overhang around the edge of the tin, make it as neat and nice as pssible.
5. Prick the bottom all over. Place back into freezer for at least 15 minutes to firm up before baking.
3 medium eggs, preferably Japanese free range
120g brown sugar, or coconut flower sugar
180g corn syrup or golden syrup, or agave nectar, or maple surup
200g toasted pecan,(toasted with honey, cinnamon and Fleur De Sel in an preheated 180C oven for about 7-8 minutes), half very roughly chopped, and half whole
120 g finely chopped bitter-sweet chocolate, (I use 61% Valhrona, and I do not like using chocolate buttons)
2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1 tsp. vanilla paste
1 banana, sliced, caramelised in a non-stick pan with a little sugar
*rum raisin is another good extra something that marry well with the others in this pie if you do use them, simply add two tablespoonful each of rum and water with 1/4 cup of golden raisins in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer for couple minutes, off heat. Let it sit overnight allowing the raisins to macerate. (Sounds a little time-consuming, but when you do, you’ll find it super simple and easy
1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
2. Bake the crust for about 35 minutes or until dark brown. Let it cool.
3. Prepare the filling: simply whisk all the ingredients for filling altogether until well mixed.
4. Pour the filling into the cooled pastry shell, bake for 35-45 minutes until filling is lightly puffed but the centre still looks moist. Let cool.
5. Garnish with dollops of whipped cream and extra candied pecans.
It’s a very rich pie. It’s good on it’s own with a cup of tea to cut the sweetness. But I like it served with generous mount of softly whipped cream. Call me cream fanatic:P
This is probably the best banana bread ever! You just got to put it into your ’soon to be made’ list! I made it last night during the Earth Hour 2009, so it was made in complete darkness…I still can’t figure out why I had to do this–weighed everything with my eyes almost got stick to the little screen of the digital scale, trying to get the numbers right…maybe we just want to do something life usually doesn’t give us the chance to do. But then, it came the biggest disaster in my kitchen, my second batch of banana cake was dropped upside down onto the floor while I tried to relocate it to lower rack to avoid over browning on top…and that’s the end of this poor cake. It should have turned out great with the variation on different proportion of different flour used–yes, the one I call it ‘the best banana bread ever’ is made out of regular cake flour, and the batch that’s ruined half way baking consists 25g cake flour, 80g organic oat flour and 25g almond meal…it sounds great already, yeah? And guess what, we actually tried some of the disaster, it still tasted darn good. I’ll definitely make this one again.
I’m not a big fan of banana-whatever nuts bread, I don’t particularly like biting into large chunk of nuts in tender cakes, but I do love the aroma nuts can deliver to the sensation, so I toasted up some pecans to the point where all the nutty flavor’s brought out, then chopped them really fine, almost powder like, and folded into the batter at the last stage.
Here’s the banana-pecan recipe, which once you tried, you’ll never bother trying other recipes again.
(Note: with simple recipes like this, the flavor of the final product largely depends on the quality of your ingredients…well, this actually applies to everything you make in the kitchen. So grab the best fresh ingredients you can get to get great flavor started.)
Ingredients: Make one small loaf
90g unsalted sweet butter, room temperature
80g caster sugar
1 large egg , room temperature (cold egg will have the tendency seize the batter)
1 large ripe banana, half mashed, half cut into around half-inch-cubes (of course you want to do this right before you need the banana to be incorporated into the batter, yes, you may say, I can just use some lemon juice to prevent the banana getting browned. But I don’t want the acidity from lemon for this recipe even it’s just small amount.)
(note: the banana needs to be really ripe, preferably black spotted, it’s gonna contribute to a full rich flavor.)
130g cake flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt (you can use any salt, I just prefer my Fleur De Sel for everything, both savory and sweet)
40g pecan, toasted at 180C (350F) for about 8 minutes, or until the nutty aroma starts to fill your house. Cool completely. Reserve 5 best looking pecan halves for garnish, hand chop your toasted pecans very fine. Set aside.
1. Turn your oven nob down to 160C (320F) after toasting the pecans.
2. grease a 21 x 10 x 7 loaf pan, and line with parchment paper.
1. Cream the butter until it’s creamy and fluffy, add the sugar, continue to cream until pale and creamy again.
2. Add the egg, beat really well until the egg is completely incorporated, and it’s thick and creamy.
3. Add the just-mashed banana, beat well.
4. Add the sifted flour in two additions, I keep using my hand mixer for this task, it works better than folding in this case, just don’t over beat your batter, mix till everything just incorporated together.
5. Now, fold in your finely chopped toasted pecan.
6. Spoon the batter into the lined loaf pan, scatter the cubed banana (which should be done the very last minute) into the batter, (reserve 4 pieces for garnish,) lightly press them down to be immersed, use a rubber spatula to smooth out the surface. Arrange the reserved pecan and banana pieces on the cake surface, lightly press in. You can arrange them the way you like, I snuggled them nicely in the center.
7. Bake for about 40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool briefly in the loaf pan on cooling rack, then take it out and let it cool completely.
It’s optional to make it look even more temping–but the glaze gives a really nice sheen to the cake, especially gives the glittering for the pecan and banana pieces floating on top.
To make the glaze, simply warm 2 tsp. of good apricot preserve with drops of water, brush the cake with a pastry brush.
How good is the cake? Really, you wouldn’t know until you make it and eat it. But let me tell you, as soon as the cake’s coated with the sheer glaze, which was almost one in the morning, my mom and brother rushed down stairs to the dining room saying they can’t take the buttery, banana-y and nutty smell anymore. And three quarters of the cake was gone in ten minutes, considering they’re extremely conscious about eating late.