coconut milk

When bananas go ripe…

by Liz on August 10, 2011

in Food

Banana bread with cardamom, nutmeg, and coconut milk.

When bananas go ripe, you make banana bread.

This recipe was inspired by my travels to Thailand, and the flavors of the banana desserts I tried in Bangkok and Phuket.

Of course, banana bread tastes nothing like Thai fried bananas, or bananas in coconut milk. But once you fall for the fragrant fusion of both, it’s hard not to crave the sweetly perfumed notes of Southeast Asian cooking. With slight hopes that I would be transported to the coastlines of Phuket at first bite, I tweaked around with a traditional banana bread recipe spotted on Saveur, by substituting coconut milk for buttermilk, and adding fragrant teaspoons of cardamom and nutmeg. Cardamom, by the way, smells like absolute heaven, a fact I’m quick to forget, but just as quick to remember when I use it to cook.

I’ve also been experimenting with Thai and other spices in my baking for almost a year because I thought it was a fun way to play around, and experiment with new flavors on a foundation of American recipes. The great thing about banana bread is you can play around with the top note ingredients. I used three ripe bananas as directed, but you can always use more. Sugar? You can adjust that too. The recipe below calls for 1 cup of sugar, but I just used half a cup. Thanks to the presence of ripe bananas, the bread was not lacking in sweetness.

Then there’s the coconut milk. It tastes great in baking, but I also know that buttermilk gives the bread a wonderful tanginess and fluffiness. The choice is yours.

ASEAN Banana Bread (adapted from Mom’s Banana Bread Recipe, Ben Mims, Saveur Magazine) Serves 6 – 8

Butter, for greasing pan
1 cup flour, plus more for pan
3⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom (more if you like)
1/2 tsp. grated or powdered nutmeg
1 cup sugar (I used just ½ cup and it was fine.)
1⁄2 cup canola oil
1⁄3 cup buttermilk (I substituted with 1/3 cup coconut milk, but I’ll leave that up to you.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2⁄3 cup chopped pecans (All nuts welcome! Dried fruits too.)
3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ x 5″ x 2 3⁄4″ loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set pan aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cardamom, nutmeg,and salt; set aside.

3. Whisk together sugar, oil, buttermilk (or coconut milk), vanilla, egg, and egg yolk in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Add pecans (or various nuts, fruits) and mashed bananas and whisk gently to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, 60–65 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.



Thai Chili Brownie with Cardamom Milkshake

by Liz on November 17, 2010

in Food

One of the reasons I began this blog was to really get a message going, about how not only Asian influences are all around us in the arts, entertainment, food, but also how these influences are a change for good. If you’re still reading this paragraph, hopefully you’ll agree. But if you’re a tad skeptical, may I suggest you look no further than the Thai Chili Brownie and its yin-to-the-yang: an ice cold Cardamom milkshake.

I originally created this dessert duo as my entry for the Cathay Pacific Art of the Dessert contest. After looking through the numerous entries, I completely understand I have at best a slim chance of winning two business class tickets to Hong Kong, but the very thought of traveling transpacific in a flat-bed-cum-mega-entertainment-center was enough to spend most of my weekend plotting, scheming, and baking.

The result will be announced soon, but for now dear reader, I present to you a little Bangkok sizzle in your favorite comfort food. Just don’t forget to wash it down with the most fragrant milkshake around.

Thai Chili Brownie (adapted from Alice Medrich’s New Bittersweet Brownies)
Makes sixteen, 2-inch brownies

8 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
1/8 teaspoon Thai chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1.2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Line bottom and sides of 8-inch square baking pan with foil.

2. Place chocolate, butter, Thai chili powder, and cinnamon in a heatproof bowl and set in wide skillet of almost-simmering water. Stir frequently until mixture is melted and smooth and quite warm. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla with a hand-held mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and light colored, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the warm chocolate. Fold in the flour.

4. Scrape the batter into the lined pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.

5. Invert the brownies on rack and peel off the foil. Turn right side up on cutting board and cut into sixteen 2-inch squares.

6. If you like, grate some nutmeg over the brownies to balance the bittersweet taste of the chocolate.

Cardamom Milkshake (makes 6, 1/2 cup servings)

1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Blend ice cream, coconut milk, vanilla and cardamom. Blend on high speed until a smooth consistency is formed.
2. Serve in half-cups, or glass shooters with the Thai chili brownie. Grate some pistachio nuts over the milk if desired.


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