Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Banana Muffins in Venice

I am in Venice right now, visiting my family, and breathing in the soul of my ancient home town.  I haven't been able to do much baking or cooking, until I saw some sad looking bananas that begged to be used instead of tossed.  It is so hot here that everything spoils really quickly.  Having made banana muffins everyday for few months at one of my last jobs, I knew I could make them without a recipe.   My mom had just tossed some old baking powder so I only had baking soda at hand.  They turned out really tasty, and a happy fellow ate three of them!

Venice is as beautiful as ever, but I can hear her cries at every corner.  There are massive amounts of tourists coming every day, and with that many problems follow.  I know that complaining here won't serve any purpose, so I will leave you with some pictures of this magnificent and fragile city. 

Venetian lights have a wonderful pink hue.  While it is now a modern trick, in the past the glass had certain metals added to it to make it transparent, that also caused the glass to turn pink in time. 

I love looking at Venetian windows, they are so unique and their style reflects the hundreds of years when Venice was a powerful republic.  This little palace is a jewel and is seen from the Gran Canal, near San Marco square.

The campanile of San Marco is really straight, not sure how the picture came out like this, I decided to not straighten it.  The frog is part of a statue set at the tip of the old customs point, Punta della Dogana, which is now beautifully restored after being in state of disrepair for years.

Banana Muffins
makes 12

4 oz butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 medium bananas, mashed
1 tsp white vinegar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Pecan or walnuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven at 350F.  Butter or paper line the cups of a muffin pan.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together.   Beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Add one egg at the time, and mix until well incorporated.  Add the mashed bananas and the vinegar, cleaning the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Fold in walnuts or any other nuts if desired.  Portion into the pan and bake until the top springs back when gently pushed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cherry Almond Cake

When I am invited to people's homes for dinner often I get asked to bring dessert, and I eagerly do so. If I have time I use it as an excuse to try something new so if the recipe works I can add it to my growing collection of tested recipes. Eager to finally cook a dessert containing fruit other than apples, I decided to try a cherry dessert, so when I saw this recipe I knew it was the one to try.

I also wanted to try this cake because it looked like I could easily make it gluten free since it already contains almond flour. I got used to eating gluten free, but my big sweet tooth really suffers from the lack of an occasional slice of cake or piece of cookie. With this cake I can eat all I want!

This cake could be made with different fruits, and some of the almond flour could be substituted with pistachio meal. To make it with regular flour, omit the tapioca and use all purpose flour in place of the rice flour. I will bring lemon verbena ice cream to the dinner party as well.

The original recipe comes from Sigrid's blog, Cavoletto di Bruxelles, who got the recipe from Annalisa Barbagli, a contributor of the Italian food forum Il gambero rosso.

Torta di Ciliege

500 gr cherries, pitted
100 gr brown rice flour
100 gr almond meal
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
80 gr butter, at room temperature
100 gr granulated sugar
2 eggs

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a cake pan (I used an 8" pan). Spread some granulated sugar to the bottom and sides. Sift together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, add one egg at the time, clearing the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Spread the batter at the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Add the pitted cherries pressing them a little into the batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a cake taster comes out clean.



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