Friday, November 5, 2010

Wendy and Seattle

Returning to Seattle this week for the Foodista cookbook release party was a blast, and I was so happy to get to visit this amazing city again. My first visit, last June, with my sister, Wendy, and our mom was still with me. (Really, it has stayed with me this entire year.) In the evenings my mother would retire early, and Wendy and I were left to our own devices. We did a ton of walking, eating, talking and giggling. I also discovered a food item that changed my life: a chocolatine.

A chocolatine is a chocolate croissant with almond cream, and it is the finest thing I have ever eaten.  Wendy and I found the chocolatine at Le Panier in Seattle’s world-famous Pike Place Market.

When I returned to Le Panier this week, I was once again greeted at the door by the glorious smell of sugar, butter and flour.  After I got my chocolatine and a cup of some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, I took a seat at the counter, which faces the market. I ate my chocolatine while reading the Seattle Times and occasionally looking up at all the shopkeepers readying themselves for the day. The chocolatine was delicious and the weather gorgeous, but I was really missing Wendy, and no amount of chocolate can make up for that. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Wendy is a great friend. She’s smart, hilarious, easy to talk to and has the best hair of anyone I know. We never got to do the sister thing as kids—I’m eight years older—so I am so happy we are doing the sister thing as adults. Her birthday is in a few weeks and I’m creating a cookie especially for her, which you’ll see here soon.

When I got home from Seattle last year, I wanted to create and post something chocolaty and almondy—a sort of homage to the chocolatine. I wound up with this breakfast cake and posted it to the old Stuff to Eat (RIP) last June. I suggest making it some rainy morning when you’re missing someone you love and only the smell of something  sweet baking in the oven will make you feel better.

Banana-Chocolate Chip-Almond Breakfast Cake
Makes 9 servings

The riper your bananas, the better. Mottled bananas rule! I love the 365 brand vegan semisweet chocolate chips at Whole Foods, but feel free to use whichever chips float your boat. I also used whole wheat pastry flour, because that’s all I had, but you can sub any kind you like. You don’t need a lot of fat here, so don’t be worried that there’s only 1 tablespoon of canola oil. That’s the beauty of baking with bananas: moisture and richness without fat.

Canola oil spray
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 small or 3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed well
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips
½ cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray 8x8 baking pan with canola oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, sugar, applesauce, canola oil and vanilla extract. Pour dry ingredients into wet and stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and make sure it’s evenly distributed. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on rack and slice when still warm or at room temperature. You can store the cake, covered, in the baking pan for about 3 days.

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