Thursday, October 29, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "Sophisticated and perfect for company"

Photo by Aimee
Food Geekette

Like just about everything else, baking is relative.  If you compare this cookie strudel to a simple drop cookie, it seems pretty complicated.  But if you compare it to making real strudel, it suddenly becomes much simpler.  At culinary school, Aimee watched a guest pastry chef roll out a piece of pastry until it was of the requisite paper thinness.  After seeing the whole process, she had two thoughts:  "so good" and "I'll never do this."  But now she can make Rose's cookie strudel, which is also "so good" and completely doable.   In fact, she will "seriously make these again," only next time, with a double batch.

Which Mendy did this time, as he often does.  Is he just extra smart or is it because he has a lot of mouths to feed?  Perhaps as a reward for the extra pastry/cookies, Mendy's wife bought everything he needed to make them so he didn't have to run out and pick up currants, nuts, and sour cream, or whatever he might have been missing.  He loved these, noting that "heirloom recipes are the best!"  There is something satisfying about making and serving a recipe that's been making people happy for generations!

No double recipe for Catherine.  In fact, she wasn't even sure she would have made them, "if left to [her] own devices, because "the picture doesn't do justice to the flavour," although she did take some of the finished product to a neighbor's house "just so I could truthfully say I hadn't eaten all of them." Baking in steamy Darwin, Catherine was happy to abide by the recommended intervals in the refrigerator; otherwise, it would have been impossible to work with the dough.  As for waiting the recommended six hours before eating?  "I don't even think I made the 6-minute mark."

Vicki did a little better.  She waited almost a full hour before tucking in to her first piece.  How could she help it?  The aroma was so enticing.  Her granddaughters and daughter-in-law sniffed the air and asked, "What ARE you making?"  Vicki should also have made a double batch of this "delicious pseudo-strudel" to make sure she had enough for all visitors.

Katya started her post on Cookie Strudel by saying she's become a big fan of The Great British Baking Show and has started paying more attention to presentation and general excellence.  So I was naturally expecting a dreamy photo of this strudel.  I guffawed when I saw the photo ("tasted great but looked a mess") that shows what happens if you make one single vertical slash in a strudel oblong.  Sad to say that I always enjoy reading about small gaffes or major mishaps more than reading about perfect outcomes.

It looks like Rachel had a pretty good outcome, even though she was so puzzled by the dough recipe and technique that she had to read and re-read the instructions to make sure she was doing it right.  (I had the same reaction--I read the instructions and asked, to no one in particular, "Are you sure?").  Rachel also posted pictures of both bread dough and cookie strudel dough to show how similar they look at the beginning, but how they veer off into completely different final products.  Baked, cooled, sliced, and rebaked, this dough resulted in strudel cookies par excellence!

Kristina, back from the glitz and unreality that are Las Vegas, not to mention the Grand Canyon, which seems unreal in a different way, settled right back into her baking routine and made not only the cookie strudel, but also the white chocolate bread.  (Best husbandly comment on the bread:  It'd be even better if you took out the white chocolate.")  Jay (same guy who recommended omitting the white chocolate) said he'd like it better without the currants.  But the People at Work (PAWs) really liked the strudel, currants and all.  Of course, we all know that PAWs are not very picky.

Faithy and Milagritos, who have both been gone, have promised to bake these ASAP, based on the rave reviews from the lucky bakers who got to taste these luscious treats.

Next week:  the Reverse Marble Cake.  Or, to be completely accurate, The Marble in Reverse With Custom Rose Blend Ganache Glaze.  Trust me.  You will want to have this moist, delicious, easy, and striking cake in your repertoire.  And I believe that there are no periods of refrigeration to slow down your baking.  You could omit the glaze if you want to save even more time, but which is more important, time or chocolate?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cookie Strudel

If I were choosing a cookbook category for these delicious gems, I think I'd tend to put them in the Pastry section rather than the Cookie section, but I can see why you wouldn't want to call them "strudel," which conjures up images of paper-thin dough more work than anybody would have time for.  It still seems more like a pastry than a cookie dough.  But this is just a quibble, and who cares when you can easily make these irresistible cookie/pastries at home, without much trouble at all.  The only trouble is trying not to eat them.  I just could not pass them by without taking one to nibble on.

The strudel/cookie dough is really simple.  You don't even need a machine.  Flour, salt, softened butter, and sour cream all mashed together until it forms a ball.  However, then you realize that it must be refrigerated for at least two hours, which threw off my schedule so that I ended up making the cookies the next day.  Yes, there is a PLAN AHEAD, but maybe it should be in big, bold red, as in PLAN AHEAD.  I don't think I'd miss that.  Although even the "plan ahead" instruction doesn't alert me to the possible overnight resting of the dough.  I didn't have it planned for anything, so it was no big deal, but you would think that with the number of Rose recipes I've made, I would no longer be surprised by instructions that include big time gaps.

The dough is sticky (it would be impossible if it hadn't been refrigerated), but not too bad to roll out.  Don't be shy about using flour though.

Jim got a phone call while I was rolling out the pieces of dough and strewing them with pecans, raisins, and cinnamon.  I told him he missed the most interesting part of the cookie.  He chided me for not waiting, but I told him there was no stopping a woman on a mission.  I thought of taking a few pictures with my phone, but then I looked at my extremely messy hands, and thought better of it.

My trusty lame makes sharp slices.

These are maybe a bit browner than the picture in the book, but this is the way I like pastry (I mean, cookie) dough.  Deep brown, but not burned.

They're on a plate that JJ made for us with his handprint in dark blue.  You might be able to see a couple of fingerprints if you look closely.  I love the colors.  You can see that the dough is both soft and flaky, which is a great combination.  I probably wouldn't have made these if it weren't for this bakethrough, so thank you, Alpha Bakers!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "Truly Outstanding!"

Photo by Tony
One Crumb at a Thyme

This delicious and unusual bread was a sort of bread within a bread--which presented a few obstacles for the Alpha Bakers.  Not that it was that difficult to do, but without visual aids, a first reading of the recipe seemed to yield a "Huh?"  

As Tony said, "more hands-on pictures" would have been helpful.  On the other hand, having made the bread once, it became "a comfortable friend ... which I can not visit and re-visit ..., now armed with experience."  If you were afraid to make this bread because you were unsure about the instructions, never fear--Tony's blog has all the step-by-step pictures you will ever need.

For a different--but just as fun--instructional photo, take a look at Katya's cover picture of what happens when parts of the center part of the bread "escap[e] from its respectability blanket, resulting in delicious caramelized bits of white chocolate."  Katya couldn't quite escape from the original base recipe (a raisin bread recipe), and she added some golden raisins to the dough--something that Club Med never thought of--but who's going to Club Med?

Jen's "plain bread overcoat" also "split open at the seams during the bake," showing bits of white chocolate that she described as "funky."  To Katya, they were delicious; to Jen, funky.  Half full, half empty?  But the bits of funkiness, certainly didn't get in the way of a rave review of this bread--Jen described it as "soft and slightly sweet but not overly so....  It needs neither butter nor jam nor anything, not even a toasting.  It just needs a nice cup of tea and permission to be devoured in 24 hours."  Permission granted.

Jen mentioned that the bread dough made her stand mixer "dance across the counter," but Catherine did her one better (or one worse?)  She had just "popped into" the laundry when she heard a "loud, catastrophic-sounding crash" from the kitchen.  While she was checking the laundry, her stand mixer danced right off the counter, miraculously leaving the dough unscathed.  (No pieces of white chocolate were harmed in the baking of this bread).  In fact, Catherine is so taken with this bread that she's mulling over the possibility of opening a Club Med-Darwin branch and using a local crocodile to hand out the bread to guests.

Just looking at the loaf of bread brought out the poet in Vicki:  "It is the delicate ballerina white tutu of breads."  Like many people, she preferred it plain, rather than with jam (although there's really nothing "plain" about white chocolate bread).  Her daughter suggested that it might make a mean bread pudding, and, rather than filing that away for another day, she immediately whipped up an apple-white chocolate bread pudding.  Delicious.

Now Rachel actually went on a Club Med vacation once, and got a loaf of The Bread, so to her, the bread sort of evoked "the relaxed feeling of being on a vacation where everything was taken care of for me."  Unfortunately, this time she had to bake the bread herself.  But it all turned out okay.  "The bread itself was delicious.  Soft, very slightly sweet, with a great texture."  Her husband agreed, "slicing himself an inch-thick slab for dessert."  But Rachel, one thing you didn't mention--how did this bread compare to the Club Med version?

Next week, it's a cookie week again, but the Cookie Strudel is going to be unlike any cookie you've ever had.  When I looked at the recipe, I thought it looked interesting, although very un-cookieish.  I wasn't prepared for how delicious it was.  Do try to make this strudel/cookie!

Monday, October 19, 2015

White Chocolate Club Med Bread

For some reason, when I made this wondrous bread for the beta testing, I didn't focus on the fact that it was a  "Club Med" bread.  According to Google, the Club Med breads are quite famous, and most famous of all is the White Chocolate Bread.  The recipe, along with a YouTube video, is available on the net.  Not surprisingly, the original bread is considerably easier to make than Rose's, and the Club Med people don't mind in the slightest that the white chocolate chips (yes, chips) are dark to the point of being burned on the outside.  I may try the original sometime, just to compare, although it looks like the breads are so different that it would be difficult to compare them meaningfully.

Mixing the bread is pretty easy, once the sponge has bubbled and risen, but it takes quite a while in the KitchenAid to get it to this consistency.  I hate to think how long I'd have to knead it by hand.

I still had a lot of Valrhona white chocolate that Woody brought when he was here last summer.  I used all of the remaining block chocolate.  I'll bet the Club Med bakers don't use Valrhona white chocolate chips.  I don't think Valrhona makes white chocolate chips, but anything is possible.

I got a new measuring tape because Jim keeps accusing me of stealing his.  How was I to know that we have his and hers measuring tapes?  Although the dough is sticky, it was pretty easy to roll out.

Lots of white chocolate.  I used to love fake white chocolate.  Now it tastes awful.  Sometimes I'm sad that my taste buds have become more refined.

This is where Rose's bread is dramatically different than the official Club Med bread:  it has an outside layer of plain white bread dough to keep the encased white chocolate-studded dough from being exposed to direct heat.  The directions are kind of like written directions for tying your shoes--it's an easy process but difficult to figure out from the instructions.  At least it was hard for me, until suddenly it became obvious.

My dough over-rose.  I don't think there is such a word, but that's what it did.  I proofed the dough in my oven at 85 degrees.  It's a pretty nice feature, but I don't always remember to compensate for the fact that 85 is considerably warmer than my kitchen's room temperature on a brisk fall day.  The dough was already more than an inch higher than the top of the loaf pan when I took it out of the oven in order to preheat the oven.

Consequently, the bread was too high and it collapsed in one corner.  Not this corner--Jim always tries to hide my errors with his camera angles, and I always confess.  But it's just as well you can't see how goofy the loaf looked.

The crumb is not perfect.  It still tastes good, though.  Jim and I ate most of this at one or two sittings; then I sliced and froze the rest of it.  It's a little delicate for the toaster--I was afraid it was going to fall apart or the white chocolate bits would burn.  But neither fear was realized, and I think it tasted even better toasted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Midweek Roundup: " A Fix for Chocolate Fiends"

Photo by Katya
Second Dinner Blog

Over the top or perfection itself?  That is the question that we all ended up pondering to one degree or another.  Does this recipe try to do too much with what is, after all, meant to be a simple, basic dessert:  the brownie.  Or was the pate sucre crust a stroke of baking genius, coming together to make two excellent components even better.  I'll let the bakers speak for themselves.

Katya thought it tilted toward the overkill side, but it must be said that she may have contributed to any chocolate excess by using cacao nibs instead of walnuts.  And, like Jim, Katya wanted it on the record that she has a standing objection to too-cute names, like fudgy-pudgy, for example.  Still, it's to Katya's credit that, not a huge chocolate adorer herself, she made the tart and sent it to work, where it was "much appreciated."

The pie was definitely on the plus side for Rachel (and yes, it was a pie, not a tart--she realized too late that she didn't have a tart pan, so she decided a pie pan would have to do).  Although she used a lot of flour in the process of rolling out the crust, it was not tough at all, and it "rolled out well, didn't stick or break."  She had to assure her nut-loving daughter that there would be enough walnuts in the pie and had to bake it longer than she thought she should (probably because of the pie pan), but in the end, everyone was happy.  "Fudgy indeed.  As for pudgy, it's a good thing the pie is so satisfying and flavor-packed that a small slice is plenty."

Kim paid this dessert a compliment by selecting it for her husband's birthday cake/tart/pie.  "Chocolate Brownies with chocolate shortbread and chocolate ice cream is about as dreamy a dessert as it gets for Captain Canada."  She invited friends to the party and gave them each an individual fudgy pudgy; then she asked them all to make a birthday wish for her husband.  Nice idea!  "The brownies were really good," Kim reported.  "Chewy, creamy, and crunchy from the cookie crust."  And the birthday captain?  "He was very happy."

The tart also served as a birthday cake for Jen's husband, Mark.  (I almost didn't put a comma before "Mark," but then I realized that without a comma, it looks like I'm saying "the husband of Jen's who is named Mark as opposed to other husbands she might have scattered about.  We wouldn't want that).  Anyway, Mark is all for chocolate in a birthday dessert, but he "does not believe in brownies with nuts."  So they substituted cherries macerated in booze, which do fit in with Mark's belief system.  Next time they may try a mix of cherries and walnuts.  Jen said that this brownie may be her favorite Rose brownie, but she admitted that she also recalled being smitten with the Barcelona Brownie Bar.  You can never have too many recipes for delicious brownies!

I thought that Faithy's blog post was going to turn into a "I hate this crust" story.  Although it's "very easy to make," "it melts super quick."  Faithy kept the crust in the freezer for three days, but still "had to fight with the heat" to keep the crust workable.  Then she observed that the shell "had lots of oil seeping out."  So you can see why one might think that she wasn't going to be happy with the crust or the shell.  But it turns out that though the brownie was "very rich and chocolatey," maybe it's not quite as good as the cookie shell itself.  "I really like this cookie."

Vicki admitted that she wasn't especially keen on making a super-rich, super-chocolatey dessert (even though chocolate's her favorite), but when she found out it was National Chocolate Week in the U.K., she had to admit it was kismet.  So she got out all her different chocolates (not to mention cocoa) and went to town.  Then, just to gild the lily that was already pretty golden, she topped the tart with leftover milk chocolate caramel ganache (a much better leftover than, say, tuna casserole).  By the time she finished making the tart, she was over her brief anti-chocolate moment of insanity, and ready to "share this meltingly fudgy brownie wrapped in a tart."

Catherine came smack in the middle on the burning question of whether this brownie tart is too much or just right.  (I don't think anyone could accuse it of being too light or too bland).  Catherine says it's "over the top" but not "overkill," and I think I can understand that distinction.  She made it as a contribution to a farewell party for a work colleague (the colleague herself brought butter chicken and naan--too bad she's leaving!)  While we're talking about Catherine, let's just note that she hates to chop nuts and has discovered she can use a meat tenderizer to chop them.  I just hope she doesn't try that when she's in a bad mood, or she's likely to end up with pulverized nuts.

Sadly for Kristina, this tart ended up going to her friend Gilad, who was the winning bidder on the prize of a Year of Desserts Made by Kristina.  Unfortunately, she rarely gets to taste the Gilad-designated treats, although she did manage to make a couple of chocolate cookies from leftover chocolate pate sucree ("dry and hard but still tasty").  Don't worry about Kristina, though--she wasn't totally deprived.  She brought frozen lime tart and dinner rolls from The Bread Bible for her Canadian Thanksgiving celebration, and all was well.

Mendy pronounced the tart a "winner," although he was particularly taken by the crust:  "rich and really chocolatey.  It is delicious and soft and easy to work with."  After all his work, the finished cake ended up with little fingerprints all over it (well, it does look pretty irresistible), but Mendy's magical wife conjured up a brand new cake stand with a glass dome, so the tart was both kept safe from small hands and presented beautifully as well.  

There's chocolate in next week's project, too, but don't moan, "Not again!"  This is something completely different:  a white bread filled with chunks of white chocolate.  I think you'll love it.  And if you're not planning a trip to Club Med this winter, your kitchen may be the only place you can get Club Med White Chocolate Bread.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart

This is almost like two different desserts.  If you eat it while it's still warmish, it's like a rich flourless (or semi-flourless) torte.  Slightly underdone, like a lava cake with nuts.  If you eat it straight from the refrigerator, as Rose recommends, it tastes slightly sweeter, almost like a piece of fudge.  If it's room temperature or warmer, you can barely distinguish the crust part of the tart, but cold, it's much more obvious.  I can see why you'd like it cold and fudgy, but I think I actually preferred it as a piece of cake that just happened to be ensconced in a tart shell.

I've been getting pretty proud of myself for handling pie crust.  This is pate sucree, not pie crust, I guess, but I found it harder to handle.  And, of course, smudges of flour and bits of butter all show much more clearly on the dark brown dough than they do on the more innocuous neutral color of our old standby cream cheese crust.

Of course, this chocolate is the heart of the matter.  A mixture of Valrhona and Scharffenberger.  I prefer cakes, tarts, pies--whatever this is--made with chocolate than with cocoa.  Anything made with cocoa has a sort of dryish aftertaste to me, which I'm more than willing to admit could be purely my imagination.  Still, it does make me feel good to start a recipe with a nice stack of dark chocolate.

Thanks to Rose once again for this well-designed, easy-to-use double boiler, especially since it's a one-piece double boiler.  I guess that's a sort of contradiction in terms, but it does have a separate place to heat water, so why doesn't that make it a "double"?

Rich, dark chocolate, studded with nuts going into a buttery chocolate cookie crust.  Hard to tell which is the gilding and which is the lily.  I have no objections to plain lilies, but I'm also not averse to gilded ones.

At room temperature, or slightly warmer than room temp, you can see that it looks a bit underdone.  But I did follow the directions, including taking the temperature of the middle of the cake (pie?)  Whether it was supposed to be that way or not, it was delicious.

JJ decides that a brownie tart is definitely finger food.  But see how fastidious (relatively) he is?  A napkin clasped in his hand at all times.  Chocolate and ice cream make him a happy boy.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "Aunty Catherine, we're going to make a cake."

Catherine's cake was made by hand.  Well, of course it was, you say.  No, it was made by hands--little toddler hands.  Nephew Parker's hands, to be precise.  Hands that really got in the flour and spilled and dumped in vanilla and then noted that the cake wasn't perfect because it had too much vanilla.  Baking with toddlers is just too cute for words.

But I'll use more words anyway because Jen also baked with a toddler.  In fact, she set up all the equipment on his play table and showed him the magic that is the KitchenAid.  She also explained about stiff peaks, which he now loves to discuss.  The boy ate the cake plain while the parents "went whole hog"--chocolate and caramel sauces, strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and toasted walnuts.  Plain and gussied-up versions were both good.

Toddlers were not the only ones who got in on the baking this week--there were teens, too.  Teens who were entrusted with the job of taking the cake out of the oven when the timer went off.  And she did.  Out of the oven, out of the pan.  Whoops!  Well, cakes exiting a tube pan can be a tricky procedure.  Fortunately, Rachel had already decided to go heavy on the chocolate glaze, which covered up any mishaps.  Add another sauce, and "Mmmm, bananas, chocolate and caramel, who can resist?"

Or, in Mendy's words, "Fabulous!"  As in, "This fabulous cake will definitely be made here again."  And he even got to use his regular oven to bake this cake in, since it's parve (the oven looks huge compared to his toaster oven).  Mendy has frequent pictures of his kids, but this blog is nice because it includes pictures of both Mendy and his blissed-out-looking wife, who has just finished a piece of the cake with the "wonderful combo" of chocolate and banana.

This banana chiffon cake may have been the first baking project that took place in Katya's new kitchen. deep in the wilds of Brooklyn.  (Don't you hate it when you can't remember where the light switches are and you feel like an interloper in your own home?  But Katya has a Small Appliance Shelf, which will make her feel like she truly belongs in her kitchen).  Despite the fact that there were beetles in her flour (of course, she used non-beetled flour for this cake) and despite the fact that her leftover ganache turned out to be a little too leftover-y, the "non-split banana cake holds up well on its own."  Welcome back to the fold, Katya!

Aimee shared her cake with her roommates, one of whom hates bananas.  But after the banana-hater polished off another piece of cake, she asked innocently, "Are there any bananas left?"  A
imee said, yes, there were two.  "Good!  Then you can bake another cake!"  Aimee figured she might as well do it--after she picked up another dozen eggs.  Aimee likes chiffon cakes a lot--and this one was no exception.  "Super light, moist and full of banana flavor."  Not to mention making you an excellent candidate for Roommate of the Year.

And the Stalwart Baker of the Year award might just go to Kristina, who managed to bake both the banana chiffon cake and the banana feather loaf, even though she could barely get her aching body off the couch and into the kitchen.  She baked the "yummy" cake in her grandmother's old angel-food cake pan, which has seen many a cake in its lifetime.  After she and her husband tried the cake, she took most of it into the office, where one co-worker told her it could use more chocolate and another one reprimanded the "more chocolate" guy for criticizing free cake.  But if a cold can't keep Kristina from baking, a little friendly suggestion about more chocolate won't do it.

A cold couldn't keep Kristina out of the kitchen, but Vicki was afraid that the humidity might stifle her chiffon cake plans.  Fortunately, the humidity turned out to be a chiffon-friendly 36%, and into the kitchen she went.  Her only mini-problem was adding the cream of tartar at the wrong step, but the cake didn't seem to notice.  She served it as Rose suggested:  a slice of cake topped with the chocolate ganache drizzle, caramel sauce, whipped cream and nuts--and a cherry on top!  (It was really a strawberry, but I turned it into a cherry in my mind, as a bow to the banana splits of my youth--always, of course, with a cherry on top).

No cherry or strawberry on top for Kim--for her, it's all about the deliciousness of the plain banana cake.  "No fork, no knife, no plate or napkin, just my fingers and the cake."  If Kim's cake looks extra high and light, it may be because of the respect she pays the lowly egg.  Her advice:  "Never take your eyes off of them--ever.  Never walk away from them.  Handle them gently, never harshly."  Probably good advice when it comes to relationships with friends and family, too.

Jenn cut the recipe in half, as she loves to do, and baked it in a small bundt pan.  Good idea, yes?  Maybe no, says Jenn.  While the top and sides browned nicely, the bottom (top?) remained white as, well, as a banana.  But without great banana flavor and without the lightness of a typical chiffon cake.  Some of us were questioning a few weeks ago whether a bundt pan can be used interchanageably with a tube pan--Jenn's experience seems to indicate maybe not.  Perhaps more experimentation is needed.

But not next week, because we'll be baking a tart, not a cake.  When I told Jim that I'd be baking a Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart, he said, "I don't like that name."  "But it's a brownie," I said.  "And you love brownies.  And it's double chocolate because of the chocolate crust."  "I still don't like the name. And you can quote me on that."  So I am.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Banana Split Chiffon Cake: A Baking Adventure With Woody

This is the third of four things that Woody and I baked for the Boys of Broomball.  As you can see, it's done up with plastic wrap, waiting for its trip to northern Minnesota.  I told Woody that he must bring at least one piece back for me, and he promised that he would sneak a slice off the cake so that the hungry broomballers wouldn't scarf it all up for dessert.  You can see why the t'ai chi and the broomball people are so fond of Woody (aside from his winning personality, of course)--he never comes empty-handed.

The TSA folks were quite curious about the black, smelly objects that Woody had in his bag.  Just overripe bananas, nothing to worry about.  Apparently overripe fruit is not on the list of forbidden objects, and they were allowed.  I also had some very ripe bananas stored in my freezer, so we had a surfeit of them.  I didn't understand why this cake was called a banana split cake.  Woody was vague, but he assured me I'd like it.  I said I'd only be able to judge if I actually got to eat a piece, and he assured me again that he'd make sure I got a taste.

I love this recipe for no other reason than that it contains almost equal amounts of yolks and eggs, and it lets me subtract from, rather than add to, my burgeoning supply of frozen egg whites.  It's also quite easy to put together:  bananas, oil, lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla all go into the food processor.  (Woody kindly gave me permission not to go out and buy a bottle of walnut oil).

Then the batter is finished with flour, sugar, and baking powder.

Well, it's a chiffon cake, so of course there are egg whites involved.

And the meringue is gently folded into the batter.

You can tell this is going to be a high riser.

I don't know what this is supposed to look like, but it looks just about perfect to me.

Woody didn't complain about the way the cake looked, but he was deeply disappointed in my angel-food cake pan, which didn't have legs.  "Why don't you have a better pan?  How are we going to cool this?"  I said we'd use a bottle of wine, the same way we cooled the angel food cake for Heavenly Bakers.  (I didn't remind him that the cake had been a dismal failure).  For the dismal failure, I'd used a Riesling, which usually comes in a thin-necked bottle.)  This time, I had no Riesling, and the only bottle that fit was a Sancerre that I'm quite fond of, so I was relieved that nothing bad happened to it.

As with the Black and White Brownies, there is no picture of the cake because, like the brownies, the banana cake made its way to the Great North Woods in its pan.

I asked Woody when we were going to make the chocolate drizzle glaze.  He quite shocked me by saying he wasn't going to bother (which is generally my phrase, not his); he'd just pick up some chocolate sauce at a grocery store near their cabins.  He must have seen the look of disbelief on my face, and he said, "Oh, the guys will never know the difference."  That way lies danger--if you start telling yourself that no one will ever notice, you'll start using cheap chocolate.

Woody was true to his word.  When he came back, he first told me that the guys had devoured the banana cake.  I was about to reprimand him, when he pulled out a healthy hunk of cake.  "I cut this part off for you and Jim and hid it from the broomballers."

After I tasted it, I was very grateful.  I had low expectations for this cake, because it seemed that it would be very plain and not particularly interesting.  I put some strawberry ice cream and chopped walnuts on my plate, and took a big bite.  What a wonderful surprise!  I finally understood why Rose called it a banana split cake; the banana flavor is very big and ripe, and you can make the cake in many different ways, using any of the traditional flavors associated with a banana split.  The strawberries and nuts were terrific, but you could also use chocolate and/or caramel sauces, or hot fudge, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream, or chocolate ice cream with fresh strawberries and caramel drizzle.  The permutations and combinations go on and on, and I'll bet you can't make a bad variation.

Next time I want a banana split sundae, I may just have to bake a cake instead.