homemaking

Banana Coffee Cake with Mexican Chocolate Streusel, ft. Mexican Chocolate Donut Glaze


Baking is a source of meditation for me. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I drop everything, dive into a baking project and emerge, fully refreshed. The problem is that my husband and I can only eat so many pastries, so I have to find somewhere to send all the baked goods when I am done.

This recipe, like many that I come up with, was a result of feeling the need to use up ingredients I didn’t want to go to waste. I had received some cast-off bananas and had a surplus of chocolate donut glaze from trying to refine my donut recipe, so I decided to come up with something to bring to my fellow MA candidates who were facing a similar level of paper-writing induced stress rather than toss them out. We have some nut allergies in the group, so I wanted to find a way to bring the crunch of nuts to banana bread without killing my colleagues. Luckily, my experiment succeeded, and the result was a delightfully moist coffee cake with a nutty (though nut free) Mexican chocolate topping.

A few notes on the ingredients:

When I say butter, since I am in France, I am using European butter. I do not think this is necessary for the recipe. However, European butter has a much higher fat content than American butter, and I feel it is necessary to let you know that it might change the recipe a bit.

Also, the cinnamon I am using is Ceylon cinnamon because it is all I can find here. I do recommend using it for this recipe as the flavor works much better with chocolate than the cinnamon traditionally used in the States. I have found Ceylon cinnamon in whole sticks at Mexican markets in the States, but if you do use a “regular” cinnamon I would suggest reducing the amount by ¼ tsp.

Important Banana information: If your bananas don’t look like this: they do not belong in any type of banana bread/cake. The bananas must be over ripe and have developed enough sugar (the black spots indicate increased sugar levels) in order to work, otherwise they will dry out what you are making. If you need to ripen bananas quickly, you can place them in a brown paper bag near a heat source. Also, don’t puree the bananas, it may just be a matter of preference, but I feel that mashing the bananas gives the bread/cake a better texture

 

Mexican Chocolate Donut Glaze

1 can condensed milk
5 oz semi-sweet or 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground chipotle
1/8 tsp salt

Heat condensed milk over medium heat, stir constantly until boiling. Remove from heat, add chocolate and spices and mix until all the chocolate is melted and it is smooth. Keep warm to glaze donuts or cakes with.

Banana Coffee Cake with Mexican Chocolate Toffee Streusel

Streusel

½ c butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 ¾ c flour
1 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
¼ tsp clove
¼ tsp chipotle
½ cup cold Mexican chocolate glaze, in tablespoon-sized portions reserve
½ c glaze to drizzle over the top of the cake

  1. Mix the flour, brown sugar and spices together in a bowl.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, food processor, or using a pastry cutter place all the ingredients together. Make sure to separate the Mexican chocolate into tablespoon-sized portions.
  3. Mix the ingredients until they resemble this picture:

Note: you may need to use your fingers to break up some of the butter, I would recommend using the pastry cutter method, it takes longer, but I was worried about over mixing the streusel when I used my stand mixer. Because the addition of the Mexican chocolate glaze, you run the risk of the mixture clumping up together very quickly. You need to be very careful when making this, but the toffee-like crunch it offers to the cake is worth the trouble!

Banana Coffee Cake

2 ¼ c flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt ½ cup (4 oz) butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
½ c maple syrup
2 eggs
1 c yogurt
1 tsp Mexican vanilla (traditional vanilla will work too)
3 ripe bananas

  1. Grease and line a 9”x13” pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
  3. In medium bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher, and then mix in the maple syrup, vanilla, and yogurt, set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, scrape bowl and then add the banana mixture.
  6. Scrape the bowl again, and make sure there are no large chunks of butter and sugar that have not been incorporated.
  7. Slowly add the dry mix and mix until incorporated. Be sure to mix briefly by hand to make sure the batter is even.
  8. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle 1/3 of the streusel over the top, pour the remaining half of the batter over the top, and then sprinkle the rest of the streusel over the top.
  9. Bake for 50- 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 c of glaze over the top of the cake.
  11. Allow to cool and enjoy!

This cake is very moist and if it is wrapped in individual pieces it maintains its freshness for 2 days after baking, provided you can resist eating it all!

Mindfulness and Cooking

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Braised rabbit with leeks and saffron tagliatelle.

I recently came across this NPR article on using what the author describes as “mindful muffins,” to relieve post-election stress. I think that we can expand this idea beyond just mindfulness, but as a means to find a way to incorporate cooking into our increasingly busy lives.

As I enter into my prep for a Thanksgiving dinner that I am putting on for fellow expats and MA students, as well as prep for my thesis proposal on Monday, I have been thinking a lot about mindfulness and cooking. I have always used the practice of cooking to deal with stress and center my thoughts, but even so, I sometimes find myself feeling too exhausted to think about entering the kitchen.

Unfortunately, this means that I then succumb to either eating instant noodles (my love for them will never die) or delivery, which is inevitably disappointing and expensive, not to mention, unhealthy. Convincing myself that I am too tired or too stressed to make my own food does nothing but perpetuate an unhealthy cycle. When my diet is bad, my brain doesn’t work, when my brain doesn’t work, my stress levels increase, when I’m stressed out, I feel exhausted, when I’m exhausted I don’t want to cook, when I decide not to cook, my diet gets worse. This is something I have to remember to tell myself every time I open up Deliveroo on my phone.

I know that you may not like to cook, or even think that you don’t have time, but you are making the same mistake I am. You do have time, and you may not like it, but you can learn how to. You have to change the way you think about cooking.

In fact, this is what I am focusing my research on for the next year, more specifically, the evolution of culinary discourse in the United States throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, in relation to how the Industrial Revolution drastically changed the ways Americans worked and lived. At some point, Americans began to see food only as a means of sustenance, we stripped the practice of cooking and dining of all of its cultural importance and only looked at it in terms of its practicality.

This is how we got hooked on processed foods, they are ready to eat, they give us time to work more, they have the base level of nutrients we need. This is how we convinced ourselves we don’t have time to cook, it takes away from our earning potential. But, what does that mean for us? What does it mean that we look at the practice of cooking in terms of our economic presence in the world? This may not be a completely conscious association, but it is most likely that you feel like you don’t have time to spend fifteen minutes in the kitchen because you get home too late from work. The long hours you work probably make you stressed, the food you don’t cook is probably not great for your diet, this diet makes you exhausted, your exhaustion makes your job more stressful. Do you see? You are also perpetuating an unhealthy cycle.

So, how do we change this? Look at feeding yourself as a meditative practice. Start changing the way you perceive cooking. Consider cooking as a moment that you can stop thinking about your responsibilities, take it as a moment to reflect. Consider cooking as an excuse to take care of yourself. Find a recipe you want to try, or sign up for services like Blue Apron (though, I would only use them as a means to avoid going to the market, I am not a big fan of their recipes). It doesn’t matter if you decide to make yourself oatmeal for dinner, what does matter is that you allow yourself to take the time to do it. Each time you do, you might find that you enjoy it more.

I’ll leave you with this, I got some pie crusts to make!