More Decadent than Elvis Himself: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Gooey Butter Cake

There is a funny thing about indulgences and I.

I don’t regret them.

Why should I? If I die tomorrow I will never believe I had enough lobster rolls, creamy crème brulee, or BBQ ribs with sauce so thick and delicious it’s not only all over your face but your shirt as well. We deserve indulgences, not all of the time, but certainly more than people tell us we can. Especially with the frets and worries over Hurricane Irene, I think we all appreciate the little things in life, from moments with family to our crazy cravings.

In an effort to nail a craving and make something so bone chillingly decadent, I went to a Paula Dean recipe I found via mybakingaddiction.com. I changed the instructions for my own entertainment, but the ingredients are relatively the same. It’s simple in concept; it’s a peanut butter banana gooey sticky butter cake. Something Elvis would have moved those hips of his for. This cake is thick and definitely tastes like peanut butter, so if you are not a huge pb fan I say substitute with anything like it, say nutella or some almond butter? This is pretty delicious but very heavy so it would be the best for a rainy wet day when everyone is in and can use their spoons to dig directly from the pan.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Gooey Butter Cake

[Adapted from Paula Dean via mybakingaddiction.com]

For the Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:

  • One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 whole banana
  • 1 stick butter, very softened
  • One 16-ounce box powdered sugar

Chocolate Ganache Topping

  • One 1.25oz chocolate bar, sweetened
  • Half pint heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients, milk, eggs, and butter and mix well. Pour into a lightly greased thirteen by nine inch baking pan. Set aside while preparing the filling.

2. To prepare the filling start by beating the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat until combined. Do the same when adding the peanut butter. Add the banana and the softened butter and mix well. Carefully add the powdered sugar, closing your eyes when you see how much you added, and mix well. Spread this mixture over the cake mixture.

3. Bake from 45 to 50 minutes at 325 if using a metal pan; 350 if using a glass pan. You want the center to be a little gooey, so make a judgment call and do not over bake.

4. While the cake is cooking make the chocolate ganache. In a medium pan over medium heat bring the heavy cream to a boil. Break up the chocolate bar and place in a heat resistant bowl. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate, and mix until the chocolate is dissolved. Place in the fridge to let the chocolate settle a bit.

5. Once the cake comes out either pour the chocolate ganache on top of the entire cake or on individual slices. Extra chocolate ganache will solidify in the fridge after awhile, but the cake will keep very well if kept at room temperature.

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Photographer Crush: Thomas Allen

Back to school means back to dorm living, dining hall food and responsibilities. The biggest one of all? Classes of course. But while class might be a chore for some, I find I actually like being in a classroom. It might be the aspect of mystery, you never know if this class is going to be a game changer. But I think it is mostly because they get me thinking. Sometimes I think some of my best ideas come when I’m in class. I am currently a media studies major (well, declaring as soon as I can possibly do so) so I kind of spend my days thinking critically of all things from mediums to the media.

Photography is one of my favorite mediums, and I especially love when an artist is able to transcend the medium and get a little creative. Anyone can take a nice picture of a rose in a vase, but can everyone physically make the subject that they want to photograph?

I was so inspired by Thomas Allen’s work that this past summer I made my own versions of his book cutout shots. (See my photo collections!) Allen uses vintage book covers and photographs the cut out shapes from the covers with keen importance given to the focus, placement and lighting of his subjects. The result brings the drawn images of a book cover to realism, just like reading the words on the pages can do. I especially love the varying depth to each photograph, and the colors are so rich thanks to the lighting and the detail of the drawn figures. They almost look like scenes from a movie!

Too bad I’m back at school, this makes me want to shop the flea markets and find some vintage literature. For now, look at my favorites below and start thinking creative with your photography.

For more on Thomas Allen:

http://thomasallenonline.com/

//Allen’s personal website//

http://foleygallery.com/artists/artist_ins.php3?artist=8

//gallery website//

Cool Team-Up: Chloe and the New York City Ballet

Pretty is something I am craving as we come quickly into fall. The fall leaves are gorgeous, but I have to really appreciate them; Once they are gone I have to wait until spring. And I am not quite patient with the weather!

But along with my love of all things beautiful, fashion and dance are certainly up there. I cannot wait until I get back to dance classes at school and I can wear all of my fall fashion finds. So I am celebrating all of those things with this video from Nowness, Bon Duke, Block, Choreographer and NYCB corps member Justin Peck, and NYCB Principal dancer Janie Taylor sporting Chloe’s spring/summer 2011 collection. A complex collaboration indeed for a simple and captivating video. The collection was inspired by dance, which is quite evident with its tight leotard tops and flowing, sheer skirts. The collection contains so many beautiful pieces, but my favorites are the draped dresses and skirts in simple colors of nudes and white. Who wouldn’t feel like a beautiful dancer in one of those?

I love the video because it is so simple yet poignant. This is exactly why we need ballet. Those shapes, those lifts, the perfect beauty. That’s all ballet. And the clothing moves expertly along. Simple movements, in the studio atmosphere with changing outfits. Yes, yes, yes!

Watch the video up above, and check out the collection that inspired the video here: http://nymag.com/fashion/fashionshows/2011/spring/main/europe/womenrunway/chloe/

Fascinating Videos: Radiolab Presents Symmetry

I’m going through a big video phase lately. It is inspirational to see how so many people are expressing their own points of view through the visual essence of just a few minutes of film. What beautiful respect to the medium.

I saw this film a couple of months ago but it has been lingering about my thoughts since. This is a Radiolab video made by Everynone, check out http://www.radiolab.org/ to learn more about the radio show and podcast and http://everynone.com/ for more fascinating videos. What I love about this short is how each subject is juxtaposed, under the lens of comparison the subjects represent symmetry and opposition while conveying an innate similarity that exists in imperfect connections. The music and editing set a pace that takes the viewer through a narrative that ends on a perfect yet chilling note. Check it out and try to imagine what pairs you would feature if you were clever enough to think up this concept.

Reading for Thought: Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Popularity” Issue

I like keeping record of what intrigues me now. With passing time I find that my taste changes, but ever so slightly. Seems to be the same way with the United States.

Bloomberg Bussinessweek’s latest issue is called “The Popularity Issue”, and does it deliver. It is not wordy, rather informative but any motives they might have with the inspiration is not necessarily subtle. The issue is very much a statement, loading readers with stat after stat of what Americans consume (those both edible and not so) and ending with what we inevitably owe, the national debt.

With an economic climate that is confusing to most financial and political professionals, it is interesting to view consumerism through the lens of popularity. Is what is popular necessarily what people need? Most of the items on the Bloomberg list do not impact an entire country of people, except in terms of pop culture. Everything that is shown on the pages of the magazine are popular because of strong executive decisions by certain people in powerful positions. Undeniably, I have heard about most of the items on the list making the popularity ever present but that still does not solve our issues. If we make so many goods and buy these goods in such quantities, how can we solve our national debt?

So we basically still like the same things America. Jeans? Been wearing them for decades. Oreos? People will still continue to debate the best way to eat them. Debt? Well, that is still here. And not going away any time soon. There is a movement out there for what is unique and what is different, but at the same time we like our popular comforts. We have room for the new, but we will not necessarily give up our standard of living. Nor should we. Perhaps we should remove popular from the equation. Mr. Pres should not be there just because he looks nice up on podium, he should be Mr. Ideas. Security, in jobs which would result in standard of living security, is what is right and deserved.

But like everyone else “I don’t know” is the popular answer for now. For now, yes. But when we start believing in that phrase for long our problems of today will seem trivial.

Just needed to get a bit of that put into writing, I think it’ll be quite interesting to look back upon. But for now, go and check out a copy of Businessweek. Where do you fall in the debate? Most likely with popular opinion.

Collections to Envy: rag & bone Resort 2012 and 2011 Womenswear

Currently crushing on two collections from the American label rag & bone. Partners David Neville and Marcus Wainwright create both menswear and womenswear that is ready to wear and as lovely as it is to browse through the clothing on their website, wear is what you really want to do. I am a fan of both collections and never could choose because while they are different, the aesthetic is still there. I love the colors, the neutrals paired with more powerful palate choices such as mustard, plum and cherry red. I would die to hop into those dresses and wrap my arms in the beautiful sweaters and vests. I like that there is a touch of femininity in their collections but the edginess really comes through. The only reason I am looking forward to fall is so I can wear socks with my boots, so definitely gushing over the footwear on those models! Below are my favorites from NYMag, but visit their website for more of their work: http://www.rag-bone.com/

Lunch Time: Caramelized Onion Pancake with Salad, Tomato Chutney and White Bean Salad

Sometimes lunch should be easy. Sometimes lunch should be quick. But easy and quick does not mean lunch should not be special. For me, lunch is either an affair or something simple just to tide me over from breakfast to dinner. No matter where it falls on that scale, I always hope that when I make lunch it is delicious.

Here is one of my favorite ideas that incorporate leftovers. Inspired by a recipe for scallion pancakes I decided to make a caramelized onion version instead topped with a quick homemade tomato jam and leftover salads from dinner the night before.  The version I made here is a vegetarian one, but I would not shy away from customizing your pancake with ingredients like leftover meat, grilled vegetables or even guacamole.

Now that I am thinking about it, I might do just that! Enjoy.

Caramelized Onion Pancake with Salad, Tomato Chutney and White Bean Salad

[Inspiration from http://www.seriouseats.com]

Caramelized Onion Pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • Soy sauce
  • Curry Powder
  • 1 medium onion, chopped in half and then sliced
  • Olive oil, for cooking

Tomato Jam

  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • sprinkle red chili flakes

Optional Toppings

  • Field greens with olive oil and vinegar
  • Leftover white bean and corn salad
  • Grated Gruyere cheese

1. With the flour in a food processor running, slowly drizzle in the boiling water. Process until the dough comes together. If the dough does not come clean from the blade add some more water a tablespoon at a time. Transfer to a floured surface needing a few times so that the dough forms into a smooth ball. Place in a bowl with a wet paper towel over the dough and let rest for twenty minutes.

2. Meanwhile start to soften the onion by allowing the slices to cook in a small pan on medium heat. Sauté until the onions are golden brown not burnt.

3. Start the tomato jam by combining the chopped tomatoes, white sugar, lemon juice, ginger and chili flakes in a medium pot. Allow this to simmer on medium-low heat so that the tomatoes break down and darken in color.

4. To make the pancakes divide the dough into four pieces. Work on each piece of dough one at a time. Start by flattening the dough using a rolling pin. Brush some soy sauce onto the surface of the dough. Roll the dough into a log and then roll the log to form a jellyroll shape. Using a rolling pin, roll the jellyroll into a flat circle. Sprinkle some curry powder onto the surface and put ¼ of the onion mixture on top. Using the same technique as before roll the dough into a log and then the jellyroll shape. Using the rolling pin flatten the shape once again into a pancake shape. Repeat for the rest of the dough.

5. Heat up a sauté pan with a generous amount of olive oil at medium heat. Place each of the pancakes into the oil one at a time being careful not to splash the hot oil. Cook the pancakes for two minutes on each side, adjusting the temperature and cooking time if they appear to cook quickly.

6. Transfer the cooked pancakes onto a paper towel lined plate.

7. This is where the creativity comes in. Spread some of the tomato jam onto the onion pancake. Top with whatever salads you have on hand. Leftovers work really great. For mine I used some field greens with oil and vinegar and leftover white bean and corn salad. I topped the salads with some Gruyere cheese to add even more flavor. Eat like a taco or with a fork and knife depending on how fancy you are feeling. Enjoy.

Photographer Crush: James Casebere, Landscape with Houses

I recently went to the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, and while it was a great show I was not really impressed with how it was curated. Yes, the outfits are gorgeous and each room of the exhibit set a mood that matched the designs perfectly, but it was not built to accommodate the amount of people that wanted to take a look. If I am going to have to wait almost two hours in line to then be jammed against people to just see the descriptions of each outfit, I would rather wait for a table at Carmine’s. Members were able to skip the line, but not the awful crowd of people that never seemed to move. Props to McQueen, it was a great way to remember his work, but I am sorry it had to be a frustrating event rather than pure beauty.

What did impress me while at the Met? A photograph from American artist and photographer James Casebere. It only took one of his digital chromogenic prints from one of his latest series, “Landscape with Houses” to pique my interest. I love that he constructs spaces to then photograph them. This past summer I took a course at Pratt in the city and I dedicated the entire summer to photographing images I organized in a black shoebox. I think it takes a very special and creative mind to be able to actually create what they want to photograph rather than luckily finding the perfect subject matter. His suburban landscapes have a stillness to them, but with dramatic lighting the details come through. I am a total fan of the work he does on a large scale, with such intimate attention to detail. Below are my favorite shots but also check out his other work at his website: http://jamescasebere.net/

Landscape with Houses, (Dutchess County, NY) #1, 2009, digital chromogenic print

Landscape with Houses, (Dutchess County, NY) #3, 2009, Digital Chromogenic Print

Landscape with Houses, (Dutchess County, NY) #2, 2009, Digital Chromogenic Print

Tart Ending: Apricot Tart

That luscious, oh “nothing could taste better than this” moment happens daily during the summer. And it cannot just be to me.

Summer is the season of edible riches. Peaches, so many, they roll of the table at the Farmer’s market but you don’t mind because they’re just perfect. Blueberries are lined up in their paper cartons, you can’t help but pick one up to try. So tart, so sweet, they are poetic in their own sort of way. You leave the market with bags full of culinary gems, your head swirling with ideas. What can I do with all of this?

I made this recipe at the beginning of the summer, but it only felt natural to post only recently since stone fruit is at its peak right now. This comes from David Tanis’ cookbook (or labor of love) Heart of the Artichoke: and other kitchen journeys. This cookbook has provided me with countless amounts of inspiration and the dishes are so simple. Tanis takes an idea and lets it become a meal that is satisfying in an earthy and unpretentious way.

But of course I had to change the recipe up a little bit by making individual tarts in their own ramekins. If you want to make the recipe like I did, just split the dough up between four to six ramekins and make until the pastry is browned and the apricots are warm and cooked down a bit. Otherwise, I do not want to rewrite Tanis’ words so below is what is in his cookbook.

Make this because his recipes, and the apricots, are that good.

Apricot Tart

[From David Tanis, Heart of the Artichoke]

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • About ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into very small pieces
  • ¼ cup ice water
  • 1 pound firm but ripe apricots
  • ¼ cup water

1. Put the flour, ½ teaspoon of the sugar, and the salt into a mixing bowl, and work in 4 tablespoons of the butter with your fingers until it is well incorporated. Add the remaining butter, leaving it in little chunks. Stir in the ice water.

2. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and then squash it into a disk. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle approximately 14 inches in diameter. Transfer to a large baking sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate while you prepare the apricots and make the glaze.

4. With a sharp paring knife, cut the apricots in half to remove the pits, then cut into quarters. Roughly chop ½ cup of the apricots for the glaze. In a small saucepan, bring the chopped apricots, ½ cup sugar, and the ¼ cup water to a brisk simmer and cook for about 20 minutes; strain and cool.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sprinkle the circle of dough with about a tablespoon of flour, to keep it from getting soggy. Leaving a 2-inch border, arrange the apricot quarters skin side down in concentric circles until you’ve covered the entire surface of the pastry. Trim an inch from the edge of the pastry and gently fold up the remaining edge over the fruit. Sprinkle the fruit and the overlapping pastry generously with sugar.

6. Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned and the edges of the apricots are slightly caramelized.

7. Carefully slide the tart, still on its parchment, onto a cooling rack. While the tart is still warm, paint the apricots with the glaze. Serve at room temperature.

Photographer Crush: Martin Schoeller

Martin Schoeller is a German photographer whose work has been praised endlessly. His photography is so interesting because of his range. He can capture the everyday person with as much life and spirit as he can any glamorous celebrity. At the same time he is able to capture his subjects in the most outrageous ways or in such a casual but appropriate manner. Yes, yes his work has been in great publications and he has a string of awards to boast about, but let’s just focus on the work. It’s that great. Below are my favorites, there are too many so I decided to include several.