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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fresh Banana Cupcakes With 
Dreamy-Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
I just happened to have a very large plethora of very ripe bananas. I usually freeze them as they get past the point where the three of us like them. We'll only eat them if they are green tinged around the edges. This gives a clean, fresh and firm banana, not soft, bruised or mushy. The latter description is apparently how the Polynesians used to like them. Insert a nasty, tongue-sticking-out face here .

Greg likes them refrigerated. He likes everything refrigerated, but then gets irked when the fridge is so blasted full that things fall out on when the door is opened. I could stop buying groceries, I said..... all I got in return for my smart aleck statement was a grumble.

I like shopping for a weeks worth of food stuffs, and all of the other household stuff as well. Who wants to live at the grocery store? Of course when I'm cooking for my cookbook, blog, or some family event, I usually try to coincide these together as it's way easier on the pocketbook when I do. I love going to Sprouts on Wednesdays for "double bargain day." For those of you that don't have this wonderful little store, double bargain day Wednesday means you get the sale prices from the prior weeks Wednesday as well as the current week's Wednesday. That really works for me!

So back to the bananas. If I don't buy bananas a couple times a week, I get complaints that we are sans tropical fruits. If I buy a little bit more to keep up, or get ahead with the banana demands, we then have to many cuz... the yokels that demanded them in the first place have decided that bananas just weren't what they wanted at this time. Really?! Blast it! Back to being banana deficient! This is how I found myself with at least 30 very, very very, ripe bananas, some frozen and some just chilled and looking precariously close to imminent explosion!

I've decided to try a new mix idea, something a bit closer to cake or pastry flour, just finer for a a more refined texture and taste. I wanted definitely a cupcake texture, not a muffin. Now granted, some are very close to the same thing, but I was ready to give it a good try. And Violá! Fabulous banana cupcakes! I tried one while it was still warm, the aroma was just too intoxicating to wait 'till they were frosted. I do not use banana extract, ever, and my banana baked goods made with excellent quality ingredients then taste excellent, I just use extra bananas, and adjust the rest of the moisture products being added. This gives it superb banana flavor-naturally. Yes, I know, some-people swear by using banana extract. You can use it if you want too. ; } 

Banana Cupcakes With 
Dreamy-Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting            Makes 12-18
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Place paper liners into a 12-cup muffin tin, you may need to use a second pan as well, depending on how full you fill them.

1 cup super fine rice four
1/3 cup potato starch, not potato flour
3 Tablespoons tapioca starch/flour
1 heaping teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt,   *if you are using table salt only use a 1/4 teaspoon
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large whole egg, at room temperature
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups bananas, very ripe and well mashed

1. In a medium bowl sift all of the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
2. In a separate medium bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla extract. Set aside.
3. In an electric mixer bowl on high speed, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer on low speed and the whole eggs, and egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each one.
4. With mixer on low, add one third of the dry ingredients, then add one half of the banana mixture, scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, combing well, then repeat and end with the last third of the dry ingredients. Combine well but don't over mix!
5. Divide the batter evenly between the lined muffin cups, filling each about half way. Bake for 18-25 minutes, tops will be lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire cooling rack about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the muffin tin and cool completely.

Dreamy-Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream: makes about 10 cups
**BIG HINT - With clean cloths, wash and dry the bowl of an electric mixer. This ensures that there is no trace of any fats, grease, or proteins, which will cause your egg whites either to not increase in volume and strength very much, or not at all. This is why it's so important to be sure that absolutely NO egg yolk is in any of the whites, not even a trace! 

Special Equipment:
Candy Thermometer

10 egg fresh whites, room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cool but not cold
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
colored icing sand or sprinkles for the decor

1. Add the egg whites and sugar to the clean mixer bowl, place the bowl over a saucepan with about 2 inches of simmering water, not boiling. Do not let the water touch the bottom of the mixer bowl or you will scorch the egg whites. Whisk the mixture constantly but gently, until the temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on the candy thermometer. If you don't have a candy thermometer you can use the touch method, whereby the sugar must be completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot - rub a bit of the egg mixture between your fingers, it should feel very smooth. If the whites feel gritty then they must be cooked longer until they are smooth.
2. Using the whisk attachment for a stand mixer, and the speed starting out on low (gradually turning the speed up to full whip), begin to whip the whites until the meringue is thick and glossy. They will "grow" up the the sides of the bowl and triple in volume. The bottom of the mixer bowl must feel neutral/room temperature when touched with your hand. If the bowl is still hot or even very warm, it will melt the butter when you add it, which obviously ruins the frosting. If this is happening, then keep whipping it until the bowl cools down. Whipping the mixture can take up to 10 minutes give or take a few.
3. If/when the bowl is neutral/room temperature, switch to the the paddle attachment . With the mixer on low speed, add the butter cubes one at a time, until incorporated, and keep mixing until it has reached a silky smooth texture. If you find that the mixture curdles, just keep mixing as this is normal, it will return to silky smooth. 
*If you find the mixture is too runny, you can refrigerate it for about 15 minutes, then continue mixing with the paddle attachment until it comes together.
** If chilling it doesn't seem to help you can add 1 Tablespoon of meringue powder sprinkled over the mixture while beating.
4. Add the vanilla, and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until all is well combined. 
5. Slide an icing bag into a drinking glass and fold the excess bag over the rim of the glass. This frees up your hands for filling the bag with your delicious frosting. I use a large star tip in the end of the bag to give it a flowery-ribbon effect. You may choose which one you wish. The frosting flows better at room temperature. Storage, even for a day must be in the refrigerator, then pull it out 45-60 minutes before using. You may have to beat it with the paddle attachment to loosen it up and smooth it out.