I thought it might be appropriate to note that I am writing this while enjoying a chilled slice of peach crumble pie, a salute, if you will, to the last days of summer.
Idle chatter has shifted from drawling exclamations about the overbearing heat to crisp chirps alerting us to the onset of fall, sometimes even punctuated by an almost imperceptible shiver. With the sun high in the sky, the days are still warm, but now we find ourselves sleepily navigating dark mornings, searching blindly for light switches in rooms that once radiated with sunshine. Our breath, previously invisible, lingers around our lips like we’re all chain smokers, and we reach for the sweaters we so eagerly put away last May. We sense summer will soon utter its yearly last gasp.
For the first time in my life I am craving a cool autumnal day. After a summer of drought, we’ve had few opportunities to experience the pleasure of darting inside to hide from roaring storm clouds and cool summer rain. The sun has been merciless, and I have caught myself shamefully cursing yet another glorious afternoon, a canvas of clear blue sky, wishing more than anything for a melancholy day of relentless rain, the kind that cuts through the sky sideways. Then I could ease the guilt I feel when wanting to tuck down into the couch with a cup of black tea and a good book, boisterous rays of sun chastise me for not being outside and active. And while I don’t suspect I’ll ever covet a snowy winter’s day, I welcome more than ever the shady days of fall.
For those of us who let the seasons dictate our tastes and menus, we are, almost too quickly, entertaining thoughts of pumpkin pie and roasted root vegetables. Prolonging the inevitable, I’ve taken a detour, stopping to linger instead on thoughts of dainty cakes shared with friends over a steaming pot of tea with fresh cream. For me, summer days are for open cafes and people watching over tipsy rod iron tables with little white saucers of rich espresso and maybe, if I’m feeling ecstatic or dreamy, a pain au chocolat. But the coming of shorter days draws me inside; it has me seeking out comforting conversations among friends seated around a table of individually portioned treats. And while we might never realize or admit it, these evenings of cake and tea help us cope with the retreating summer and ease us into the cooler months ahead.
With the first drop in temperature, I find myself instinctively pre-heating the oven, my body craving the earthy caramelized sugars of roasted fall vegetables instead of the bright and crisp varieties abundant throughout spring and summer. Which is why the bananas browning on my counter (purchased prior to a weekend filled with too much wedding cake and too many birthday sweets, and therefore made momentarily undesirable due to my self-inflicted sugar overload) made their way into the oven. Skins intact, the bananas swell until they resemble black, over-fed slugs just waiting to burst. Slicing them open, the banana flesh tumbles out whole along with a splash of liquid banana syrup. A half-empty container of sour cream in the fridge, leftover from the birthday spice cake I made during the aforementioned sugar-filled weekend, proved convenient—it would offer the perfect tangy complement to the more subdued flavours of the roasted bananas.
As you can imagine, these petits gâteaux de banane (small confections always seem to warrant a French name, don’t you find?) are spongy and moist. They are sweet but still fare well (if not better) with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I made them in a variety of small tart tins, because for whatever reason I have found myself charmed by small and variously-shaped cakes. Yet, they did not fulfill the idea I initially had for them. I have sat here now, after the fact, trying to verbally massage them to fit my original vision, but it has proved to be a square peg, round hole situation and it simply will not do. So I present them as they are: delightful little banana cakes to be shared with friends.
Delightful Little Banana Cakes to Be Shared With Friends
To roast the bananas, simply preheat the oven to 400F, place them on a baking tray, and roast for 20 minutes. Once cool, remove them from their skins and purée in a blender or food processor. I intended these cakes to be made in an assortment of shapes and sizes, however, by weight the recipe makes 1240g worth of cake.
193g butter, unsalted and softened
177g fine sugar
113g eggs (approx. 2 large)
113g sour cream
322g bananas, roasted and puréed (approx. 4 large)
322g pastry flour, sifted
5g sea salt
2g baking soda
10g baking powder
Preheat the oven to 375F. In a bowl, sift together the pastry flour, sea salt, baking soda and baking powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix using the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides if necessary. Add the sour cream and bananas. When combined add the pastry flour, being careful not to over-mix, otherwise you might see “tunnelling” (or airy pockets) throughout your cakes. Portion into baking vessels of your choice. Fill about 1/2 – 3/4 full. Bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar with friends gathered around the table on a chilly evening.