apologies & the muffin challenge

I’d first like to start off this post with an apology.

I’m sorry.  I feel like I’ve abandoned my blog … but I haven’t.  I PROMISE!

I’ve just been ridiculously … insanely … exhaustingly … busy.

In the last month and a half I have …

must love food

  • celebrated my grandfather’s 90th birthday (extra-amazing & super special).

grandpa

snippets of the party

  • moved in with the manfriend (happy dance).
  • packed and unpacked boxes and boxes of books, kitchen equipment, clothing, shoes … books. More books. So many … hardcover books (aka über heavy to carry).
  • Oh! And I baked for these pretty awesome pop-ups in Magpie’s three Ottawa locations … you not only got to look at some stellar jewellery … and clothing (from Victoire) BUT you also got to nibble on some mini lemon and mini chocolate tarts.

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A-MAZ-ING?!

Holy heck ya! But also super tiring … especially when you add my regular 40 hour a week job into the mix.

I’m pretty darn exhausted.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been baking, taking pictures, editing them and then working on a post. It just means … it takes me a while to get it all done.

I think sharing my banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffin recipe might make it all ok though.

I mean … think about it. Bananas. Chocolate chips. Peanut butter chips. Tossed together and lovingly baked. A total winner … plus perhaps one of my favourite things.

banana chocolate - peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins

These muffins rock it something fierce.  I’m so glad that I decided to give this recipe a go for last month’s baking crew challenge.  When Tom & Aimée, Cory, Meredith and I decided to bake muffins for our March gathering … I think we all kinda thought “muffins!?  seriously.  how exciting” (insert sarcastic voice).

But I’m actually really glad that’s what we baked.

First off … I got to make something new … and something that I think will remain a staple in my baking roster … because frankly … these are divine.

Secondly … Meredith made these perfectly delightful rhubarb & ginger muffins (originally Jamie Oliver’s mother’s day muffin recipe).

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She sourced out some fresh rhubarb and the result was a muffin packed full of rhubarb and a generous amount of ginger.  I loved it.  I actually meant to make a batch of these for my grandfather’s party … (I ran out of time!).  Huge winner.  It’d be great with some strawberry curd stuck in the centre … maybe I’m just getting a little too fancy though?

Tom & Aimée decided to make one of my personal favourite recipes (and it was actually from my blog!) – pumpkin chocolate chip loaf became muffins.

tom & aimee's pumpkin chocolate chip muffin

This is a classic recipe for a number of reasons:

1.  It’s good.  It packs a punch of pumpkin.  Which really means it tastes like the absolute best thing in the world.

2.  Because you add chocolate chips to the mix … it doesn’t taste too healthy.  Or boring.  Nope.  These muffins are good.

3.  Pumpkin chocolate chip loaf is still the most popular recipe on my blog.  There’s a reason for it.

4.  It was the first thing I baked for the manfriend and I after our move.  New kitchen = must test the oven = pumpking chocolate chip muffins.

All in all, this was a successful, and super tasty baking crew challenge.  Everyone gets into a muffin making rut, and by challenging ourselves, we were able to present some tried and true classic recipes … but also added a few new ones to the mix.

I’d like to think that my banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins are one of those new classics.

I’m also tempted to change it up a little the next time I make them.  I was thinking of drizzling caramel sauce in the centres and then only using the coffee cake topping for the top of the muffin (rather than layering it in the centre as well).  Thoughts?  Am I going too far?

Oh … one important note to make … don’t eat too many of these all at once.  You’ll probably want to.  The first one will taste so good that you’ll think … what the heck! why not?  Well … it just might make you feel a little ill … they are jam-packed with bananas (I used 7 in the recipe) … they also have a handful of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  And cinnamon-brown sugar.  These are intense.

banana chocolate – peanut butter chip coffee cake muffins

ingredients:

3 c. flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 c. butter, room temp

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 1/2 c. mashed fully ripe bananas (6 or 7)

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. sour cream

coffee cake topping:

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Heat your oven to 350 F.  Spray your muffin pans with non-stick spray.  I don’t use liners for muffins … I don’t know why … it’s just not something I do.

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

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  About 5 minutes at medium speed.  Scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat everything until incorporated.

Add the bananas and vanilla, mixing well.

Add the flour mixture and the sour cream to the batter: alternating between each addition, starting and ending with the flour.  Mix well.

Fill each muffin tin with a tablespoon of batter.  Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the coffee cake topping.  Cover with more batter.  Sprinkle with the rest of the coffee cake topping.

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Bake for 22 minutes … or until the top of the muffins bounce back when gently touched / or your toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to sit in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Then remove and allow them to cool completely.  Or seriously … just dig right it.  These are too good to wait.  PLUS this recipe is a winner because you get over 3 dozen regular sized muffins AND 1 dozen large muffins.  Think of the amount of mini muffins you could get?!

Oh … and on another note.  Although Cory didn’t participate in the baking crew muffin challenge … we did have another guest.

Tom & Aimée recently got FENTON the cutest little fella ever … and so after eating muffins, we all sat down and hung out with him.

Isn’t he adorable?

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sundays with justin: a lesson in ganache

Justin and I had so much fun the last time we visited that we decided to meet up again.

Only this time we worked on a collaboration.

I baked the cake.  Actually … two small cakes.  Chocolate & banana.  Top that with a Sailor Jerry’s rum syrup & rum chocolate ganache … you have yourself an afternoon in the kitchen with Justin Rogers.

Amazing???

Mother of pearl YES!

It turns out … everything I thought I knew about making chocolate ganache was wrong.

My goal is always pretty simple when making ganache … I just want something that is thick enough to cover an entire cake and not look dull or cracked.

1.  I thought that you bring cream up to a simmer.

Wrong.

According to Justin’s instruction – getting it that hot throws off the tempering processes … ensuring that your chocolate ganache will be dull and flat … not shiny and rich looking.  If you have an instant thermometer you should aim for about 65 degrees.

2.  I thought that you should have equal parts chocolate to cream.

Wrong …in some instances.

According to my lesson if you are making a white chocolate ganache you should actually double the amount of white chocolate to cream ratio … unless you want to make a whipped white chocolate ganache topping … then you would have slightly more white chocolate to cream (300g white chocolate to 250g heavy cream and 25g corn syrup).

3.  I thought you had to pour your hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before stirring.

Wrong.

If you leave it that long … it won’t be the right temperature to temper the chocolate (especially if you’ve heated your cream properly).  Allow to sit for about 60 seconds and then stir.  The 60 seconds allows the cream enough time to penetrate the chocolate pieces and get the melting process started.

I also learned that the following can be used in making a ganache.

Corn syrup.  Gelatin.  Sugar. 

I know!  And here we all thought it was a simple task of boiling cream and pouring it on top of chocolate pieces.

Well … that does work too.  But check out what I was able to do with Justin (ok … to be honest, Justin did it all – I asked questions and took pictures … but I put in my time baking the cakes that morning before heading over to his kitchen).

Pretty eh?

Yeah … we impressed the pants off everyone who saw it … plus it tasted pretty awesome.

The one thing that I realized when working with Justin is that every single step is really important … and goes into creating the final, professional looking finished product.

1.  Make a simple syrup.  Use it on the cake.  It works to moisten all those crumbs that have a way of ruining a frosting or ganache.

2.  Once you cover the cake (top and sides) with the syrup … stick it in the freezer for a little bit.  Not too long.  Just long enough so that the cake is firm and not moist to the touch.

3.  Cover the cake in a first layer of ganache.  Seriously.  It creates the smooth work surface that the second ganache layer clings too.

4.  And yes.  When I say first layer of ganache … I mean you have to make two different ganaches.

One with cream, water, dutch cocoa powder, chocolate disks and gelatin.

The second with cream, chocolate disks and corn syrup.  Oh … and rum.  Lots of good rum – added to it once the cream has been added.

5.  Once you’ve poured the warm cream over the chocolate disks … you can continue using heat.  Use a heat gun … or blow torch … or hair dryer (on highest heat) … moving it over and under your bowl will allow a little more heat … plus it’s a cool tool to use in the kitchen!

6.  Blend your ganache well … Once you’ve mixed it by hand and let it sit a little … blend it again!  If you’re making enough you can use your food processor … you want it to be really well combined.

7.  Strain your mixture before each use … once before pouring it over the cake (to remove air bubbles), and again if you are going to re-use the ganache that falls on the parchment paper underneath your cake.

And then …

Have fun decorating the cake!!!!

Justin stuck to very classic french … a little gold dust with some almond pieces along the sides.  I chose to decorate with chocolate chips … inverted so that the tips stuck in the cake and the flat end created a cool effect …

I love both!

*bakers note:  please read the recipe below carefully … I didn’t the first time and kinda messed it up … :0)

chocolate – banana cake

cake

ingredients:

1/2 c. + 1 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp boiling water

1 large banana, peeled

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp sour cream

2 eggs

3/4 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 + 1 tbsp flour, sifted

1 c. sugar

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c. + 2 tbsp butter, room temperature

read carefully … this is where I went wrong the first time I made this cake…

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 30 minutes.

Now …

Preheat your oven to 375 F and spray a 9 inch round pan with non-stick spray (or bake two 6 – inch rounds).  Set aside.

Using your food processor … process the banana and sour cream until smooth.  Pulse in the cocoa mixture, vanilla and eggs.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand – mixer (this recipe does require a bit of clean-up), mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the butter and half of the mixture from your food processor.

Mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  At that point, increase the speed to medium and beat for 90 seconds.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Return to a low speed, add the remaining banana-chocolate mixture from your food processor, in two parts, beating at medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition.

You’ll notice that the batter is pretty light and creamy.  It also tastes insanely good. :0)

Bake the cake for 35 – 45 minutes (again … this will depend on which size cake pan you use and your oven … my small cakes took 25 minutes … my larger one closer to 50).

Let the cake cool on a wire rack in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake and invert it the wire rack to allow it to cool completely.

simple syrup

3 tbsp water

1/2 c. sugar

In a saucepan, stir together the water and sugar until all the sugar is moistened.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, add some rum if using … or vanilla extract for a non-alcoholic syrup.

Generously brush the syrup over the top and sides of your cake.  Allow to chill in the freezer for a few minutes.

chocolate ganache

ok … I’m going to be honest … I can’t re-create Justin’s ganache yet.  So … that will have to come.  I’ll be practicing over the holidays though … so recipe update to come. 

Until then … a classic ganache recipe would be:

225 g chocolate disks

225 g cream

25 g corn syrup

Heat cream and corn syrup to 65 degrees.  Mix well (the corn syrup will likely fall to the bottom of the bowl).  Pour over the chocolate disks.  Allow to sit for 60 seconds and then mix … stirring until smooth.

Pour through a strainer and allow to sit a bit to thicken.

Place your cake on top of a wire rack, which should be sitting on top of a piece of parchment paper.

Once your ganache is thick enough, pour it over your cake … start on the outside of the cake and work your way to the centre.  It’ll drizzle over the sides naturally.

Remove the cake from the wire rack (a metal spatula is great for this), place it on a clean plate and start decorating …

Ganache can be stored in your freezer for up to 3 months … so don’t throw away everything that ends up on the parchment paper.  Strain it and save it!

cardamom chocolate chip banana loaf

I heart Donna Hay.  She is to me what … Martha & Nigella are to other people … I think she’s awesome (I also think her donna hay ipad app is pretty spectacular as well).

I heart that she makes things that I want to make, are easy to make, and that they actually turn out!  Plus … her food styling rocks my world.  Seriously … I’ve found myself thinking … how would Donna make this look?  It’s become a slight obsession.

And I’m totally cool with that.

Who wouldn’t want to make something that looks good?

And when you look at her recipes and realize … oh yeah – I can totally do that! 

Like this one.  It’s so simple … but so delicious.

I wouldn’t call this a banana loaf.  It’s more of a spice loaf with bananas on top … but it’s still delightful.  For realz.  This might become a new little gem in your recipe folder.  

Donna Hay’s original recipe was banana cinnamon breads.  I decided to change things up.  I flipped through my flavour bible and decided that pairing cardamom, chocolate chips and bananas would work well.

I was right (well … the flavour bible was right).

This is a real holiday recipe – spicy and sweet (the bananas and the chocolate chips) … plus it smells absolutely amazing while baking. 

And it’s good two days later … even when you’ve kept it in the fridge (I’m not a fan of keeping baked goods in the fridge … it sucks all the moisture out). 

Oh yeah … it’s super adorable – so again … another awesome hostess gift!  Or perfect for Christmas morning … or a couple of days after Christmas when you just want something good to eat without all the fuss.  This recipe will answer that need.

I decided to double the batch … I was seeing lots of friends and wanted to bring everyone a little lovin’ from my oven.  Doubling meant that I made 1 dozen mini loaves and 1 dozen extra large muffins.  Both turned out great – and their size meant that I was able to bake them in under 30 minutes.  AWESOME!

cardamom, chocolate chip & banana loaves / muffins

ingredients:

5 oz butter, room temperature

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 c. almond meal (ground almonds … or hazelnut meal would work too)

1/3 c. buttermilk

1/2 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon if following the original recipe)

1/2 c. chocolate chips

2 bananas, sliced

melted butter for brushing

brown sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Spray your mini loaf pans, or muffin pans with non stick spray.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy – about 5 minutes.  Add the egg  – beating well. 

Turn off the mixer.  Add the flour, baking powder, almond meal, buttermilk, and cardamom and fold in until smooth.  Toss in the chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed.Grab your ice cream scooper and scoop the batter into your pans – I used 2 scoops in both the loaf pan and the muffin pan molds. 

Grab your bananas and slice them.  As you can tell – slice them however you want … I think thicker is better – since they will be caramelizing as the batter bakes … and you want them to keep their shape.

Gently brush the melted butter on top of the banana slices, and then generously sprinkle brown sugar on top of the melted butter.

Done!

Bake for 25 minutes – they will be golden and smell ridiculously delightful (you might want to bake them a little longer … resist the urge – you don’t want them to dry out … don’t forget – since there is no banana in the batter, it’s not overly moist to begin with).

Remove from the pan mold immediately.  You don’t want them to keep baking.  Allow to cool on a wire rack … these are great warm from the oven … but equally delicious at room temperature.

I think I’m going to make another batch of these this week … only perhaps I’ll make them into mini-muffins and bring them into the office … or just save them for myself :0)