La Seine at the Pont-Neuf, Paris
Sometimes, when you've stopped an activity for a while, it's easy to forget that a long time ago you may have been good at it.
Back right after college, I was a mad photographer, taking pictures of everything all the time. Digital SLRs weren't around back then, at least not in any sense I could afford, and I so enjoyed shooting film, feeling that I was learning immeasurably with every roll, that it wouldn't really have mattered if I could have afforded a dSLR anyway. Then, oh the irony, I went to graduate film school and never had a minute to shoot still photographs unless it was for an assignment. Later, working 14 to sometimes 16 hour days, there was only just time to eat and sleep.
In due course, everyone moved from film to digital and I, still skeptical and attached to the Minolta I'd had since I was 12, started very slowly with a little Canon Elf that I purchased to take on a solo trip to New Zealand. That was a complete blast and I loved this little foray I was making into digital photography (in fact, if you go back on this blog, all the pictures were taken with that Canon Elf for over a year).
Then life happened and I completely forgot about photography for a while. Good and mostly bad things overshadowed the need for hobbies, until just recently.
The biggest catalyst was probably Baby Saffron. I take pictures of her all the time because I know she's changing every day and I don't always notice since she and I are never truly apart.
When she's older, I want her to be able to see herself as we see her now. I want her to have a treasure trove of pictures to choose from, if she wants to, for any occasion as an adult. If she has children I want them to see pictures of her as a baby and child. And, let's face it, she's just adorable, so it doesn't hurt to look at pictures of her anyway.
I know that back then I had an eye for it, and looking at the pictures I take now, I realize it will take some time to get that back. I still think I take better pictures with film, that somehow the camera and I get along better in the analog format, but I'm sure that with a lot of practice I can acquire my eye back on the digital format. It will be fun trying anyway. And I think this blog is going to become a little less about food and a little more about a lot of other things, primarily photography. I hope you'll stay with me as I go on this little adventure. Right now I'm just having fun digging through my old photographs. Very few of my film photographs have been scanned like the black and white pictures above and below, but I plan on rectifying that when I have the time to go through old boxes of negative and scan the ones I don't want to forget.
St. Patrick's Day, New York
As with the lemon bars, what does that have to do with upside down caramelized banana cake? Well, actually I saw a picture of this cake somewhere and had to follow the link because 1) I love bananas and 2) it looked so intriguing. When I read the post about it over at The Wicked Noodle, and realized we were talking about bananas + caramel, I had to try it. Besides, it was time to do something different from yet another banana bread recipe.
Apparently this is a popular cake in Brazil and can be found in every bakery there. You'll notice in the pictures that the crumb is a bit dense, that's just the fault of yours truly overbeating the egg whites. It tasted wonderful anyway, the most delightful thing about it being that as the caramel is truly just caramelized sugar (there's hardly any butter in this cake), the bananas release juices as they cook which blend with the caramel below them, creating little pools of banana-flavored soft caramel between the slices of fruit. I had a little difficulty with the caramel as I've never made any in a thin-bottom pan before, so it was interesting to say the least.
While I love the look and flavor of this cake, I will say that if I want a cake with a really strong banana flavor I'd stick to a banana-bread type of recipe because this, as the look and name indicate, is another cake with caramelized fruit on top. If you love bananas and want a cake that will start a conversation, particularly if you're not in Brazil, this is the cake for you.
And by the way, if you haven't been to Paula Cinini's blog The Cookie Shop yet, run! don't walk, over there right now.
Banana Upside Down Cake
adapted from Paula Cinini at The Cookie Shop as posted on The Wicked Noodle
For a 10" or 26cm circular pan
For the caramel banana layer:
- 1 1/2 cup (170g) sugar
- 4-5 ripe bananas (must be ripe or they will become hard)
For the cake:
- 2 cups (240g) all purpose flour
- 1 cup (90g) cornstarch
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs, divided, at room temperature for best results
- 4 tbsp (50g) unsalted butter
- 1.5 cups (150g) sugar
- 1 cup (200ml) whole milk
For the banana layer:
- Put the sugar in the pan you will be baking the cake in and heat it on medium heat to make a dry caramel (no water). Once it's fluid and light amber in color, with a wooden spoon, as best you can try to distribute the caramel evenly all over the pan (bottom and sides sides). Keep in mind that the caramel will set quickly so you may not be able to coat everything, don't worry about it. Set aside.
- For the cake to look like the pictures here or at the Wicked Noodle, split the bananas lengthwise and distribute them with the cut side down, over the caramel. Alternatively, you could cut the bananas in thick slices and pack them over the caramel. Either way, try to place them as close to the pan sides as you can (they will shrink a bit) as this may make taking the cake out easier afterward.
For the cake:
- Heat the oven to 350° F (180°C).
- In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch and baking powder). Set aside.
- In a dry, clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- Beat the butter, sugar and egg yolks until very light and creamy. This is most easily done with an electric mixer, stand or hand.
- Use the dry/wet method, adding the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat only just until the flour is incorporated.
- Fold the beaten egg whites into the batter carefully by hand, preferably with a spatula.
- Pour the batter over the banana layer, distributing evenly.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden and a toothpick inserted in the
center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cake rest for a bit so that it cools slightly and the caramel sets to some extent, but try to unmold it while it's still warm for ease.