Sunday, August 30, 2009

Green Bananas

Call me crazy (ahem bananas...) but I hate ripe bananas. In fact I only eat green bananas. Now I don't mean so green that you can barely bite through them or peel them but just green enough. I find them refreshingly grassy that way and the riper they get the sweeter and worse they become. Ripe bananas are just too strong in flavor and I can't stand the mushy texture.

I have to admit, I feel quite badly about throwing away my bananas as soon as they turn a bright, bright yellow. Smelling their unpleasant sweetness while eying the trash can the other day, I thought instead to save those inedible fruits. I decided to bake banana bread!

Seldom do I have such a strong feeling to bake and actually have all of the ingredients on hand. Most of the time there is always one ingredient missing and that is what happened in the case of this bread. OK actually I was missing two ingredients.... chocolate chips and white flour. The chocolate chips are any easy omit but the flour, well I'm ashamed for not having any in my kitchen. I did however have some wheat flour stowed deep in the cabinets from a past bread experiment. So I went with the wheat and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

This comes from Molly and is so easy a monkey could mix it together (doh!). Moist and tender, and tastes best the day after.

Banana Whole Wheat Bread
adapted from Orangette

3 ripe bananas (medium or large)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups whole grain wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or nuts, optional)

Preheat the oven to 375. Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the eggs and combine. Stir in the remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour batter into a parchment-lined or oiled loaf pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Great Cupcake Debate

How many cupcake shops does one city really need? Cupcakes have been on my mind since moving to Pittsburgh. Early on I realized that there was some debate among bloggers, locals, and the like who makes the best cupcakes in the city.

I decided to see for myself and started with Coco's in Shadyside. This shop sells cupcakes, the occasional caffeinated beverage, and is always empty when I visit. Maybe I just miss the cupcake rush hour. The best thing about Coco's is that it is walking distance from my apartment. This cuts the guilt of eating a lot of cupcakes a bit since I have to walk about 1.5 miles round trip to satisfy my needs. Coco's also has different flavors daily and seasonally so there's always something new to try. They also have vegan options on occasion.

I first tried the orange kahlua cupcake. Rich with kahlua icing and just a hint of orange in the cake.

The vegan margarita cupcake. Vanilla cupcake (I think) with a really nice lime icing. Salt may have been an interesting addition...

S'more cupcake. Chocolate cake, marshmallow-y icing, chocolate fudge, mini marshmallows, and graham cracker dust.

Peanut Butter Banana. Ripe banana cake with peanut butter icing so soft and light it melted a bit on the way home.

Coco's does cupcakes pretty well. Their flavors are adventurous and come together nicely. The s'more cupcakes taste like s'mores. The peanut butter banana tastes like peanut butter smeared on a ripe banana. The icing is never sickening but perfectly light and just sweet enough. My only complaint is the underlying cake.

The inside is dense and somewhat oily. I'd much prefer a lighter, more tender cake underneath. The cake to icing portion is a little off as well leaving me slightly overwhelmed by the icing and missing the flavor of the cake. Give Coco's a try if you're walking down Ellsworth.

Next stop, Dozen's Bakeshop. After I recover from the sugar overload.