Monday, September 24, 2012

Banana Fig Bread with Toasted Walnuts

I’m into quick breads lately. What’s not to love? Unlike most cake, it makes a convenient and healthyish breakfast. Enfold a slice in plastic wrap and it’s an easy-to-take-with you breakfast or snack. I have a long commute to my teaching job, so a big hunk of walnut-studded banana bread and a thermos of coffee help get me through the drive. Made with whole grain flour and yogurt it’s nutritious...but still a bit indulgent, too. Quick bread recipes also provide the basis for creativity. Zucchini bread updated with big, fat flakes of dried coconut is a is carrot bread chock full of dried, chopped dates.

In addition to their versatility, quick breads are so, um, quick, that before you know it, you can have homemade bread perfuming your kitchen and keeping you company for days. It has true staying power. Wrapped tightly in foil, it will keep well for up to a week. Like fine red wine, most quick breads actually improve with age.

Such is the case with Banana Fig Bread with Toasted Walnuts. Me and banana bread go back, way back, to the days when I couldn’t stomach the fruit in its natural state but would happily ingest it mashed up into batter and baked into a fragrant loaf of goodness. I’ve since made peace with the yellow boomerang, I even enjoy one on occasion--but always on the green side and never ever ever with brown spots, although ironically the darker the fruit the better the banana bread.

While my kitchen has manufactured (okay, made) countless loaves of classic banana bread, a new variety caught my eye. The key difference here being the addition of dried figs, which get chopped up into little pieces and stirred into the batter. What results is a sublime and wholesomely decadent treat. That’s oxymoron speak for good.

Banana Fig Bread with Toasted Walnuts
Adapted from Ted Allen

1c chopped, toasted walnuts
1 1/3c all-purpose flour
2/3c whole wheat or other whole grain flour (spelt, graham, etc.)
1/2 brown sugar
1/4c sugar
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1c dried figs, stemmed and diced
6T unsalted butter, melted (or 6T vegetable oil)
1/3c plain yogurt
2 large eggs
2t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F/180C
Whisk flours and next four ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine bananas and next five ingredients in a medium bowl, stir in walnuts.
Fold banana mixture into flour mixture.
Spoon batter into a buttered and floured 9x5-in. loaf pan.
Bake 45-55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean, shielding with foil as necessary (to prevent top from becoming too dark or burned).
Cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes.
Remove from pan; cool completely before slicing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lemon Faux Pudding

I like the word faux.  There's not nearly enough moments in my life when I get to use it. 

Ahem, when I lived in the U.S. I’d occasionally buy packets of flavored powder that were mixed with firm, silken tofu to make a pudding of sorts. I’d find them in the health food section and they came in chocolate and vanilla flavor. Although the powder's distinct tang would inevitably impart a slightly awkward mouth feel, it took at least seven or eight (okay, many) bites of pudding for me to tire of it. More important is the smooth texture. When mixed into a creamy state, the velvety character of a pudding made with tofu is, dare I say, far superior to its milk-made cousin.

In Denmark I’ve never come across the powder, so this homemade lemon variety is perfect. I’d wager that making your own over buying the powder is a better bet anyway. The other reason I was quick to make this version is the delectable crumble topping. It’s akin to granola but with fewer chunky additions and the inclusion of thyme, which pairs stunningly with lemon.

If you think tofu is gross and wouldn’t dare let it pass your lips, fuhgeddaboudit. Its extra lemony flavor--not to mention the creamy texture--is reason enough to put any tofu bias aside. Don’t be a tofuist. It’s not like being ageist or sexist, it’s worse. If you already embrace the tofu, there’s nothing else to say, is there? 

Lemon Faux Pudding
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Pudding Ingredients:
1 block of firm silken tofu
2T fine cornmeal or semoule (I use the semoule I get in France)

pinch of sea salt
1/3 to 1/2c honey, depending on how sweet you want it
grated zest of one lemon
3T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Crumble Ingredients:
2T coconut oil, melted (can substitute with vegtable oil)
1/4t vanilla extract
2T granulated sugar
1/4t sea salt
3/4c rolled oats
1/4c unsweetened coconut (large flake or shredded)

1t fresh thyme leaves (I used dried)

For the pudding:
Wrap tofu between layers of paper towels and set aside for a few minutes to drain.

In a food processor (or using a strong hand in a mixing bowl) combine tofu, cornmeal, salt, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Blend until completely smooth.

Refrigerate a minimum of 1 hour.

For the crumble topping:
Set oven to 350F/180C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all dry ingredients.  Add melted coconut oil and vanilla and stir until mixture is thoroughly moistened. 

Spread the mixture in the pan and bake until golden and fragrant, 12-18 minutes, depending on your oven.