Cardamom and loaf pans, a Kitchen Conclusion

Another Kitchen Conclusion post to start off 2018!  This time, I’m highlighting two recipes from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine.  Both just happen to involve ground cardamom and loaf pans.

Not a resolution per se, but I want to be better about cooking and baking from my plethora of cookbooks and magazines in general.  And let’s not forget all the cookbooks that I take out of my local library.  I also like to cook with people, and for people.  It makes for a better incentive than just cooking for little ol’ me.

When my sister proposed that we bake the Milk Street Magazine’s pistachio cardamom cake on New Year’s Eve, I easily agreed.  She had most of the ingredients while I had the flour.  It went faster with two people.  I handled the grinding of the pistachios and the other dry ingredients.  She prepped the wet ingredients.  We skipped the glaze because (1) we weren’t presenting this cake to anyone, and (2) neither of us needed the extra sugar.

The only criticism I have is the bake time printed.  It said 325ºF for 50-55 minutes.  As we were sliding the loaf pan into the oven, I had huge doubts about the bake time.  It’s hard for me to say how long it took in total since I had to keep adding time, but it was probably about 70 minutes in my oven.  No, my oven doesn’t run under-temperature.  If anything, it’s usually running a few degrees higher than the displayed temperature.

Overall impression of the cake itself?  Maybe we didn’t toast the pistachios long enough.  The dominant flavors seemed to be orange and cardamom.  I think I even tasted the tang of the Greek yogurt more than any pistachio flavor.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The cake was still very tasty.  But for my sister who is a big fan of pistachio, it was a slight let down.

And then last week, while I was enjoying a day off from work, I decided to try the Milk Street Magazine recipe for brown butter cardamom banana bread.  I’m generally not a huge fan of standard banana bread.  I have a version with chocolate chips and cinnamon that I like, but that’s probably because the chocolate and the cinnamon tend to distract from the banana flavor.  (Oddly enough, I love fresh bananas on their own.)

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Brown the butter!

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mixing the wet ingredients

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I did like the cardamom and banana combination.  Ok, not more than chocolate and cinnamon, but I’m definitely willing to bake this one again.  I also gave a few slices to a friend.  Their reaction came back as favorable.

Having said that, I couldn’t taste the brown butter.  Maybe I didn’t brown it enough?  I mean better to under brown than to burn something, but maybe this is a theme in my kitchen.  I don’t know.  I guess I’ll just have to try again sometime.

In general, I find the Milk Street Kitchen recipes to be unintimidating and delicious.  I like their use of bolder flavors.  I have also made their savory sweet potato gratin with happy results, lest you think I only make desserts.

I definitely recommend giving them a try if you haven’t already.

Reference Links:  Warning, depending on when you are reading this post, you may hit a paywall.  If you want to see the recipes in full, I believe that they are both in the book Milk Street: The New Home Cooking.  Chances are that your local library carries a copy! 

https://www.177milkstreet.com/recipes/pistachio-cardamom-cake

https://www.177milkstreet.com/recipes/banana-bread

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A birthday cake fit for a Captain

Rumor has it that like fine wine, plumduff (a.k.a. the Captain) gets better with every passing year! To mark that fact on her birthday, I made her a very simple birthday cake. Since we’re big fans of Cooking Lite here at the Awesomesauce of Greater Boston, this is the relatively-healthy cake and icing recipe I used.

A whale cake for the Captain
Here’s the wet batter mix. I hand beat everything, as I totally refuse to use an electric mixer unless I really really have to.

A whale cake for the Captain
The batter all set and ready to go in the cake pans. Instead of making buttermilk as milk + white vinegar, I actually bought real buttermilk at Trader Joe’s. Maybe it’s just my imagination but to me this was why the cake came out well.

A whale cake for the Captain
See, here are the cakes exactly 30 minutes later, perfectly moist and delicious. It was not a lie.

A whale cake for the Captain
Blehh. Now just to spite the awesome cake, the icing was a disappointment — it was supposed to be a merengue, the flavor and general texture was good, but the consistency was all wrong. I clearly fatigued the egg whites while making the icing. Merengue is so hard to make so I’m not too disappointed. After letting the icing sit it did solidify just enough to coat the cake, though it kind of looked… gloopy.
Flavor-wise it was good though. I added a teaspoon of rose water to the icing just to see how it would affect the flavor. Conclusion: barely detectable. Maybe next time I’ll add a bit more to the cake itself to give it fragrance.

A whale cake for the Captain
Here’s the whale decoration I made for the top — cut out a whale shape from a piece of paper and used spray-on decoration that I had left over from Halloween. It’s black spray food coloring, but sprayed lightly enough it looks gray! I used a whole clove for the eye and put the candle on the blowhole.

A whale cake for the Captain
And here’s the candle all lit and ready for birthday wishes.

Many happy returns to the Captain of the Awesomesauce!