Monday, February 2, 2009

Recipe: (Almost) Banana Baumkuchen!

While we were antiquing on Main street a couple weeks ago, I pulled M into a small Filipino grocery store to explore and pick up some goodies. We wound up pestering the store lady (who was really nice and informative!) and chose a couple items to purchase and savour later. One of the bottles that I picked was none other than a tiny $2.39 / 25ml bottle of banana flavouring.



When I was a little girl, and throughout my teenage years, I had an aunt who would travel to Singapore every couple of years or so. Being Chinese, she wound up packing edible goodies for her family at home in Canada. One of those, I remember, was a fragrant banana-flavoured cake with layers and layers of millimeter-thin sheets. She'd tell us stories of how she had to stand for hours in line *just* to get a couple cakes for us, but it was worth it.

Years later, I thought I would try to replicate the cake. I wanted specific tools, like a retangular crepe pan. A foodie friend from BCIT would end up gifting me one - but, it didn't work. I tried making a "stacked crepe cake", but it was nothing like what I had tasted years before.

Finally, I came across a recipe for baumkuchen. What is baumkuchen, you ask? Baumkuchen is a German layered cake. Traditionally, it is made on a metal spit. The metal spit is heated up and a thin batter would be brushed on. The spit would be rotated to coat, and due to the heat of the spit, it would cook quickly. Another layer of batter would be deposited on the cooked batter and thus the thin layers were prepared.



My method created a rectangular cake with a sort of "souffled pancake batter". Although the batter did, in fact, souffle at times, the end result was something that I was visually happy with. The flavour, however, leaves something to be desired, but I'll experiment with it and come up with a suitable substitution. Recipe can be found below.

Ingredients
8-10 egg yolks (eight if you're using large eggs, 10 if you're using medium eggs)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 banana flavouring (need to add more!)
1/2 vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt

8-10 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Method
Grease a 5" by 9" loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-coloured. Set aside.

In mixer bowl, beat together softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in banana flavour and vanilla extract. Incorporate egg yolks until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until just combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Fold egg whites into butter mixture until incorporated.

Heat broiler up to high, or 400ºF. Adjust oven racks so that loaf pan will be approximately 8-10 inches away from top heating element.

Pour / scrape about 1/3 cup of batter into pan. Gently spread with a spatula so that a thin layer of batter coats the bottom of the pan. Broil for 1-3 minutes until the batter is an even golden brown. Remove from oven and spoon 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter onto cooked layer. Broil again for 1-3 minutes until the batter is an even golden brown. Repeat process until all batter is used up.

Cool in pan ~10-15 minutes. Loosen from pan using a sharp knife; invert onto cooling rack. Trim the crisp edges from the cake; wrap and chill.

It is a somewhat arduous process, but the visual effects (and nostalgia for me!) are very beautiful.



I presented my aunt with a batch of baumkuchen yesterday. Even though the flavour wasn't exactly spot on, I hope she'd appreciate the effort!

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