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Cooking in the Time of COVID-19 {CtBF} #EverydayDorie

Strange times… Staying at home for the duration is obviously wreaking havoc on us all.

Being an introvert, I haven’t found being physically isolated overly challenging.  Fortunately, this is 2020, so technology allows powerful ways to stay connected while remaining sequestered while we try to flatten the curve.

I am fortunate that I don’t have anywhere I’m supposed to be.  My schedule is mostly my own.  Thankfully, many of the events that give my week structure have moved on-line.  I can still “attend” classes at my yoga studio via Zoom.  My early-morning boot camp friends have organized for an abbreviated workout also on Zoom.  The video lets me see familiar faces, though not so much chatting.  My book group even met on-line this week.  And I had a video meetup with my sisters with cameo appearances by their other family members.

I’ve also reintroduced daily walks that petered off after our dog died.  Sometimes I walk with Howard, sometimes alone.  I now realize how much I miss checking what’s going on in the surrounding neighborhood with a daily tour.

I also forced some forsythia from the yard for some early spring cheer.  And, I gave Howard a haircut, with clippers.  In the long term, I won’t be replacing the barber, but I did a good enough job to fill in for now.

My sourdough starter, normally relegated to the refrigerator between loaves, has taken up residence on the counter.  In the past week, I’ve made baguettes twice plus baked an olive-rosemary loaf.  And I just pulled a country boule out of the oven.

Grocery shopping is an activity I adore, and normally, I go almost every day.  You could almost call it a hobby.  In trying to steer clear of germs, for the first time in recent memory, it’s been a week since I stepped foot in a grocery store.  This means I’m successfully making progress on my never-ending goal of reducing the contents of the freezer.  I’ve found some treasures.  We are eating well.  There’s plenty in there: a chicken, a duck, CSA vegetables I froze over the summer, leftover scraps like chunks of corned beef and roasted turkey, frozen homemade soup and tomato sauce.  Obviously, we’ll need to refresh the perishables soon, but it’s been a fun ongoing challenge .

All the exercise seems to be countering the increased cooking and baking I’ve been doing.  I’ve actually lost weight.

On my last foray to the grocery store, I planned ahead for this week’s  Cook the Book Fridays recipe challenge Last-of-the-Bunch Banana Bundt and picked up a bunch of bananas.  I have an interesting relationship with bananas.  My perfect eating banana is well past where most people will have made a banana bread.  I’m someone who buys a bag of bananas off the seconds table and still waits a week before I consider them edible.  I can’t stand any hint of that “green” flavor bananas have.

When I was ready to bake the banana Bundt, I used the first of the bunch, not the last.  The other bananas are still waiting to be ready for me to eat.

Almost ready for me to eat!

I made a few adjustments to Dorie’s banana Bundt.  For one thing, I don’t like coconut.  I’ll eat Thai curry made with coconut milk, but the texture of shredded coconut repulses me.  I wasn’t sure what would happen if I left out that volume of ingredients, so substituted chopped pecans.  I also chose to use extra butter instead of coconut oil for the same reason.

As you might guess, Howard doesn’t eat bananas at all, not even in cake.  I’m not currently comfortable about the safety of sharing food I prepare with people outside my house, and the last thing I want to do is eat an entire cake by myself.  So, in the interest of minify-ing, I divided by the eggs and made half the batter.  Many years ago, I bought a mini-Bundt pan that’s never been used.  This was the perfect occasion for its maiden bake.  For fun, I followed through with the icing.  My milk had soured, so I used cream instead.  It took quite a bit to make the icing thin enough to drizzle.  I wasn’t so artistic with that.

The end result: half a dozen mini-Bundts giving me a week’s worth of darling sweets to look forward to with an afternoon cup of tea.  This was a nice cake!  I liked the addition of bittersweet chocolate.  It offset the sweetness of the banana.  The pecans worked well too.

If you have bananas, you probably already have the other ingredients on hand.  Last-of-the-Bunch Banana Bundt makes a good candidate for “distracti-baking” while you’re social distancing at home.

To see what my blogging friends from Cook the Book Fridays thought of this banana cake, check out their links here.  You can find the recipe on page 251 of Dorie Greenspan’s Everyday Dorie.

Keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.  You are in my thoughts.  I’m grateful that we’re connected across the miles, oceans, etc.  We’re all in this together.

ffwd: double-chocolate and banana tart

I think this recipe should have been called a double chocolate and double banana tart. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is an unusual dessert. The double chocolate comes from a chocolate shortbread crust and a thick layer of ganache. The double banana comes from a layer of caramelized bananas and a layer of fresh banana slices.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned below, the primary other eater at my house doesn’t mix fruit and chocolate and wouldn’t have anything to do with a banana for a million dollars. So I had to get a little creative with this one. Once again, I went the mini route. The full pastry recipe made four mini tart shells. I’ve made the non-chocolate version of this crust before. With both versions, I just love the ease of the press-in dough. I also think the texture and flavor of the pastry is excellent.

The original plan was to make one banana mini tart and then figure out what to do with the others afterwards. As it turned out, my friend Karen came over for a visit, so I made two banana mini tarts for us to eat while we caught up.

The caramelized bananas didn’t actually come out the way I expected. I don’t know whether I sliced the bananas too thin, but they pretty much fell apart while they were caramelizing. I did transfer the mixture to a parchment-covered plate, but there wasn’t anything to pat off, and when it cooled, I was afraid I’d be stuck with a hard candy blob. So, I quickly divided the soft mixture to the mini tart shells to harden in place.

The ganache layer was simple to put together. Hot cream is poured over finely chopped bittersweet chocolate to melt the chocolate. Then butter is whisked in to finish the ganache. I spread the ganache over the bananas and let it cool in the fridge for about an hour. I only made half the ganache called for and used only half in these mini tarts.

To finish it off, I arranged sliced bananas over the chocolate and glazed it with melted apricot jam. They were gorgeous!

Karen and I had fun critiquing the tarts and figuring out how to perfect them. We thought the caramelized banana layer was the best part and that there wasn’t nearly enough of it. In a full tart, the layer must have been awfully thin. We thought the tart should have had at least twice as much caramelized banana in it. We also thought the double chocolate might have been overkill, and that a plain shortbread crust would have been better. We also didn’t love the apricot glaze. A simple caramel drizzle would have been nice and maybe a touch of crème anglaise.

Howard wasn’t at all disappointed to miss out on the chocolate banana tart, but he does adore chocolate. I took a cue from the bonne idée for this one and combined Dorie’s idea for a chocolate nutella tart with Karen and my ideas on improving the original and concocted chocolate caramel almond tarts with the remaining two chocolate shells.

I spread a thin layer of Trader Joe’s fleur de sel caramel sauce on the bottom, then I reheated the rest of the ganache and spread that on top. Finally, I toasted some sliced almonds and layered them on top of the ganache and let it rest in the fridge to firm up. To finish it off, I drizzled more of the caramel over the almonds just before serving. It was pretty, not as gorgeous as the banana version, but looking fine. It was rich, but Howard liked it. I could see making the full sized version sometime.

Check out how the other Doristas made out with their tarts here. We don’t share the recipes here, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

Going Banana-less with a Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart