Sunday, May 11, 2008

Barley Baking

Although the banana cake I'm about to share with you is quite delicious, it worries me. Or rather, the amount of kitchen cabinet space that I have been dedicating to alternative flours is worrying me. At this point, what was once the appropriately-sized home of a tub of all-purpose flour and a sack of whole wheat has become the dangerously small hideaway for white whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, barley, cornmeal, vital wheat gluten, get the idea.

Every time I open the cabinet, I invite the risk of being overwhelmed by an avalanche of tenuously-positioned flours. I don't even want to think about what the clean-up for that disaster would be like. Unfortunately, though, as long as I continue to find new and exciting ways to use them, the flours are here to stay. Maybe we'll have to figure out a better storage solution.

The flour du jour today is whole barley flour, which is slightly less caloric than whole wheat, contains a decent amount of soluble fiber, and has a slightly sweet, oatmeal-like flavor. It is similar to rye (ooh, another denizen of the flour cabinet!) in that it contains gluten, but not quite as much as wheat. This makes it an appropriate choice for quick breads and other baked goods with a crumbly or cake-like texture, but won't work so well for yeasted breads.

So back to that cake. I've made this quite a few times now, mostly because it is easy and tasty, but also because it provides the perfect opportunity to use up past-their-prime bananas. We had two such specimens on the counter this morning, and the rest is history.

This cake is inspired by a traditional coffee cake, and is made with an oat-y, chocolate-y, walnut-y streusel layer that lends a lovely texture and medley of flavors. Unlike most coffee cakes, though, the cake itself is very light, low in fat, and sweetened primarily by the bananas. That's why I call it a "snack" cake - not exactly a decadent dessert (although it does make a nice dessert), but perfect for breakfast, brunch, or general all-purpose snacking. I challenge you to bake it and make it last for more than a day.

I've made the cake with 100% barley flour, although I like the texture that a bit of wheat imparts. I suppose you could also make the cake with 100% wheat, but barley is so fun, and goes quite well with banana (and not just because of the alliteration). The streusel is also flexible; you can leave out the chocolate or walnuts if you are so inclined (note that I am in no way endorsing this inclination). So go crazy - buy some barley flour, let some bananas languish on your counter, and treat yourself to this tasty snack.

Banana Barley Snack Cake

For Cake:
1 c. barley flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 mashed ripe bananas
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbs. melted butter

For Topping:
1/4 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1-2 tbs. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbs. melted butter
handful chocolate chips

Mix flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, and then add the melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and egg. Mix well. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and stir until combined. Batter will be thick. Prepare topping: melt butter, and then add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour about 3/4 of the cake batter into a greased 8x8 square pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over the batter. Drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over the oat topping. Bake cake at 375 F for 20-25 minutes, until tester comes out fairly clean (a few bits of topping may stick).


Lis said...

I found your recipe via Tastespotting and I've made it twice. Thanks so much for sharing - it's fabulous.

Mia said...

Lis - so glad you've enjoyed the recipe!

sray619 said...

We had a bunch of people over for lunch at my parents' house and I made this for dessert--it was a tremendous hit!

Looking forward to seeing you this fall.

Leonie said...

I love your recipes, Mia. Whole wheat, low on additives like sugar, no overdose on fat, high on flavour... love your approach & your zucchini bread ( & the way you wrote it) was awesome! :)

I do wish you would post more savoury stuff... am not so high on too much sweet or baked stuff....