Baking for Others: 1, 2, 3

Posted by on Monday Apr 20th, 2009 | Print

EVENT: Various, from Writing Group to Halloween Party to Office Birthdays
TYPE: Simplicity Itself
GOODS BAKED: Carrot Cake Cupcakes; Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Bread; Double Apple Walnut Cake

I was sitting one night at my friend Sami’s, drinking and eating banana bread to celebrate our friend Jessy’s birthday, when I stopped for a second and realized that the banana bread was so, so good. Like, so much better than the one I’ve always made from a simple Joy of Cooking recipe. It was really gooey, not just with an excess of chocolate chips, but with a dense, butter-y, banana-y crumb. It reminded me of the best banana bread I’d ever had before this night—the one made by Phoebe’s mother, Sarah.

Jessy’s roommate Allie turned out to be the baking culprit, and, as she explained when I showered her in compliments, she doesn’t follow a recipe at all. “I just remember it by 1, 2, 3,” she said: “1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, 3 parts flour.” Allie adds an egg for good measure, some vanilla extract for flavor, an extra banana, and something to make it rise—that’d be baking powder or baking soda. Add a pinch of salt and any fancy mix-ins, and suddenly there’s a loaf pan full of batter cooking in your oven.

Thinking about it later, I realized that Allie’s simple equation not only covered the basics of banana bread, but of all its sister breads as well: zucchini walnut, pumpkin pecan, apple raisin, carrot cake—and on and on.

Of course I got to experimenting, mixing various fats for the 1 part, sugars for the 2 part, and flours for the 3, to the point where you almost couldn’t make out the proportions anymore. But beneath my creative liberties–the canola oil instead of butter, or maple syrup substituted for some of the sugar–you can just discern Allie’s pattern. And of course underneath all that versatility is also tastiness itself. Below are the recipes for three renditions of this recipes, but playing around, the variations are endless.

From my small kitchen—where who needs recipes when you can count on your fingers?—to yours,

Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Makes about 20 cupcakes

You can also make this in a loaf pan or a 9×13″ sheet pan, but then you’ve got to bake it for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

Ingredients
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs, beaten
2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and line a 12-cup cupcake pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and soda. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil until thick. Fold the dry ingredients into the beaten mixture until well blended. Stir in the carrots and the nuts and raisins. Pour into buttered and lined cupcake pans and bake for about 15 minutes, until risen and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. Garnish with a few extra walnuts as desired.

For the icing:

8 oz cream cheese
8 oz butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk as needed

Beat all the ingredients until fluffy, adding milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.


Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Bread
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 can pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and soda. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, and vegetable oil until thick. Fold the dry ingredients into the beaten mixture until well blended. Stir in the pumpkin and the nuts. Pour into the prepared loaf pan or pans and bake 1 hour, until it tests done. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.


Double Apple Walnut Cake
Makes 1 loaf

The double apple contains both applesauce and diced apple. Together with the syrup and nuts, they make this version of the cake deliciously rich.

Ingredients
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, baking powder, and raisins. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, applesauce, and vegetable oil until thick. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet just until well blended. Stir in the apples and the nuts. Pour into the prepared loaf pan or pans and bake 1 hour, until it tests done. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

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  • AnnieLa

    So interesting that in actuality, your post is about ratios. May I recommend a new book that just came out called Ratios, by Michael Ruhlman. Check out his blog at blog.ruhlman.com. The book is a basic one about ratios in cooking. When there is no recipe, there are the basic combinations for all sorts of things.

    While you’re at it, you should also take a look at my other friend Jackson Malle and his blog at pomandersaveur.blogspot.com. He’s been doing a similar one to yours and he is your age and a super great young man (nephew of Louis Malle, the french director, son of Dorothy Lyman the actress and sister to Emma Tillinger, Martin Scorsese’s producer) and he lives in the cool New York Mews, called Pomander Walk, up on 94th St on the upper West side here in NYC. The Walk was built in the 1920′s to house showgirls. Two rows of small English Tudor houses. Over the decades people like Lillian Gish and Humphrey Bogart have lived there.

    Anyway, because your from the family you are and Jackson is from a similar background, it’s kind of cool that I follow both your blogs through my Google Reader and I thought you should be aware of each other.

    Best,
    Ann LaGravenese

  • Frankie

    AnnieLa, who are you fixing up with this super great young man? Cara or Phoebe? Or both? A note on banana bread: the bananas have to be jet black bruised – a lot of time markets are selling these at a big discount to get rid of them.

  • Anonymous

    what size of pumpkin puree is used for the pumpkin bread?

  • sam fisher

    hey
    thanks for the lovely recipe
    I’m not a much good with baking but your recipe is pretty detailed
    thanks for sharing it
    I love to try this definitely

    werbemittel süßwaren
    regards
    sam