Over the past year or two, I’ve often caught myself gasping at some of the recipes my younger self shared on this blog. I went through a phase when I took a devil-may-care attitude towards the amount of yummy fat, sugar and assorted calories that went into my food. In fact, there might have been a part of me that secretly felt that the more there was, the merrier things would be.
Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy well turned out high calorie foods, but have come to realize that all good things come to an end. Balance is key. Instinctively, I’ve been adapting some of the recipes we use on a regular basis, reducing the fat a little where it was truly over the top (200g pancetta plus 115g butter and 4 tablespoons olive oil for 800g of meat in a ragu is a bit much, doncha think?) and sneaking in wholegrain wherever I can.
My mom-in-law’s banana cake recipe has been an all-time favourite on the blog. Readers frequently tell me how this recipe has become part of their own core repertoires. I’ve since tweaked it to include some milk, and adjusted the way I incorporate the ingredients in order to ensure that we always end up with moist and tender-crumbed.
Earlier this year, when I decided to try convincing my son to eat more than just vanilla cupcakes, I made him mini banana cupcakes using my version of his grandmother’s recipe. I was thrilled that he loved them. They’ve since become a school snack box standard for him. So, I couldn’t resist making a whole wheat version of them.
There’s something about banana cake that just makes it a great comfort food. Mrs Koh’s version isn’t overly sweet, but it has a delicious depth of flavour that makes it a perfect candidate for the addition of whole wheat flour. Because whole wheat flour retains wheat bran and wheat germ, it adds more flavour to a baked good than all-purpose does. This means that it is better suited to recipes that are receptive to its nuttier, fuller flavour – the sort of cakes, cookies and breads that pair well with brown sugar, molasses and chocolate.
I’ve found that whole wheat pastry flour milled from soft white wheat (the regular stuff is usually milled from hard red wheat) or superfine wholegrain flour (which is finely milled to give you fluffier cakes and steamed buns, as well as smoother wholegrain noodles) is easier to incorporate into regular recipes. I generally start by replacing a third of the all-purpose flour with this whole wheat alternative and gradually increase it. I also find that recipes that utilise baking powder and baking soda manage to retain their tenderness of crumb better than say a cake that solely depends on whisked egg white as a leavener.
I have to confess that while I believe in trying to incorporate as much wholegrain into my family’s diet as possible, I’d only do it if overall taste and texture isn’t dramatically compromised. I don’t believe in serving scones that taste like hockey pucks. Or cookies that feel like cardboard in your mouth. These take the joy out of cooking and eating. So, I go 100 per cent whole grain where I can without compromising on what I’ll describe as our domestic happy food quotient. But if that isn’t possible, I’m not pedantic about it.
For these cupcakes, I’ve used a mixture of regular all purpose flour and whole wheat pastry flour. They remain light and fluffy; and are great everyday treats (if you prefer to omit whole wheat flour, simply replace it with more all-purpose). This is what I bake for field trips, play dates and picnics. My son prefers to eat them unadorned. But Aun likes to drizzle caramel over them or slathers Nutella on them. I haven’t as yet mustered the courage to make a full whole wheat version. Please let me know how they turn out if you do.
Whole Wheat Banana Cupcakes
Makes 32-34 cupcakes using a No.30 ice cream scoop
200g all-purpose flour
95g whole wheat pastry flour or superfine whole grain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 peeled ripe bananas, pureed or mash (about 375g)
5 tbs milk/buttermilk
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
240g unsalted butter, cut into 2.5cm cubes and softened
210g castor sugar
4 large eggs
Set two racks in the lower two-thirds of the oven. Pre-heat to 170 degrees Celsius/340 degrees Fahrenheit using the convection setting (raise to 180 degrees Celsius/360 degrees Fahrenheit if your oven does not have a convection option). Line cupcake pans with paper liners (you will need approximately 34 liners).
Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Combine the banana, milk/buttermilk and vanilla extract in a jug. Stir to combine and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the sugar, increasing the speed to medium-high. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Keeping the speed low, incorporate the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the banana mixture in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Using a No.30 ice cream scoop, place a level portion of cake batter in each cupcake liner. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cupcake centre comes out clean. Serve warm.
These cupcakes freeze well and just need to be defrosted in the refrigerator. Warm gently in the oven before serving.
Also makes one 25cm Bundt cake. Grease pan and dust with flour before pouring in the cake batter. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cupcake centre comes out clean.