I know we’re all busy with holiday whatnot, so I’ll get right down to it:
I recently ate my weight in banana fritters and I feel great about it.
I don’t often deep fry, but when I do, it’s because a terrific recipe sucks me in and won’t let go until I bust out a heavy pot and thermometer and get down to business.
All this hot oil flinging started because I’ve loved Samantha Seneviratne’s work on her site Love, Cake for a while and couldn’t have been more thrilled when her first book was finally born into the world. HOORAY. The girl knows how to take just about any baked good up a few notches and does it all with such a lovely ease and great style. I mentioned The New Sugar & Spice a couple posts back, because it gave me life at a time when I was covered in paint and cardboard box cuts during our big move. I kept it on my nightstand for a few weeks, flipping through it before collapsing into sleep, mentally bookmarking things to make once I had a functional kitchen.
Well, that time has arrived, and yesterday I spent several hours tooling about the kitchen, the first time I’ve really been able to do that in many, many weeks. Because not only have we unpacked to the point that there’s no visible boxes (just don’t open the Storage Room of Death downstairs), my baby boy is turning three (!!) in just a couple months, and we finally found a great little preschool for him and just completed our first real week in the new routine. On the checklist of what to do with my newfound freedom were things like:
-Have lunch with best friend
-Take leisurely shower during which I wash and condition my hair, thoroughly exfoliate, and shave, without having to shout-converse with a small person through the shower curtain
-Complete three thoughts in a row
-Make banana fritters from Samantha’s new book
…I suppose from the photos here you can tell where my priorities lie.
As someone who’s written a couple of single subject cookbooks, I will say that it’s not an easy feat. When you only have so many pages to dedicate to a particular baking niche, it can be crazy-making to decide what to include and what direction to take. You can drive yourself into a spiral of self-doubt as you try and please invisible critics and expectations, even as you slap yourself Cher-style and shout “It’s just cake!”.
But therapy fodder aside, when it comes to choosing recipes to include in a cookbook with a certain focus, it’s a challenge—you need a few classics of course, but it’s always nice to shake things up a little and give readers a fresh look on how to work with a specific set of ingredients or techniques and still make them accessible for the home cook. The New Sugar & Spice really nails this balance; there’s so much to inspire here, all year long. The chapters are divided by spice (including peppercorns and chile, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, vanilla, et al), which I love. And since we’re right in the middle of holiday shopping season, there really isn’t a better book for the baker on your list, especially the baker who hoards speciality cookbooks (ahem, me, and maybe you?).
Some of the recipes here take some treasure hunting to find a special ingredient, but for me, that’s part of the fun. There’s a bazillion general baking books which use supermarket ingredients. But when I pick up a cookbook that has a more narrow focus, I fully expect to have to keep my eyes peeled for a few ingredients and have my repertoire expanded a bit. I just placed my online order for some pistachio paste to make the cover recipe from this book, and I’m pumped. Don’t ever say I’m not a party animal, you guys.
But one recipe I could make straight out of the gate with no special ingredients gathering required was the banana fritters, and since I’ve already spent the past two weeks carbo loading for a non-existent athletic competition and have recently relegated myself to stretchy pants anyway (December, and all of that), it only seemed natural to go the way of the homemade doughnut or similar. LET’S ALL GO.
Since the dawn of this site, I’ve prattled on about one of the easiest ways to enliven your sweet treat making: get thy hands on the best spices available—like spicy-sweet Vietnamese cinnamon, high-quality vanilla products, and freshly grated whole spices like nutmeg. One simple swap for not a whole lot more money makes all the difference in blowing minds and taking names with your baked goods. Samantha is my soul sister in spreading this gospel. Amen, girl. Amen.
These banana fritters are somewhere between banana bread and doughnut, springy and crisp, heady with fresh nutmeg. If you’ve experienced the potency of freshly grated nutmeg, the amount called for in the recipe is borderline alarming, but when you let it happen, you’re rewarded with a parade of flavors and textures, all in one warm, sugary, completely intoxicating bite. Gather the troops when you make these–you want them served hot and to a crowd, with the size of the crowd depending on how stretchy your stretchy pants are. Because these little gems are completely irresistible.
from Samantha Seneviratne’s The New Sugar & Spice
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen fritters
You can buy whole nutmeg in just about any supermarket these days. It’s a smart buy–whole nutmeg stored in a little airtight jar keeps forever. I use a Microplane grater like this one for nutmeg, but there are a bunch of other options out there, too. This one even has a handy compartment to store the nutmeg! Totes adorrrbbbzzz.
Please use a candy/deep fat thermometer for frying–it makes life so much easier and less complicated. Let the oil heat completely to 350°F before dropping in your batter, and adjust the heat as necessary to keep it as close to 350 degrees as you can throughout the frying process.
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces/100 grams) granulated sugar, divided
4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 very ripe small bananas, mince (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 grams)buttermilk
1 3/4 (8 ounces/224 grams) cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Vegetable oil, for frying
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Line a plate with paper toweling. In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with 1 teaspoon of nutmeg and set aside.
Add enough oil to a heavy-bottomed pot to create a depth of 3/4 inch. Set the pot over medium-high heat. Clip a thermometer to the side of the pot, submerged in the oil but not touching the bottom of the pot. Heat the oil to 350°F.
Meanwhile, prepare the batter. In a large bowl, stir together the bananas, buttermilk, 1/4 cup sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon of nutmeg. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl, and fold gently to combine, trying not to mash the banana bits.
In a small bowl using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff (but not dry) peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter (it will be a bit tricky at first, but keep folding–it will eventually blend).
Using a small scoop with a capacity of 1 tablespoon, or two spoons, drop rounded tablespoonfuls of batter into the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan (I use a smaller, 2 1/2 quart pot, and cook 3-4 fritters at a time). Fry about 2 minutes on each side, until deeply golden. Remove the fritters from the pot with a slotted spoon and let drain briefly before dredging in nutmeg sugar. Allow the oil temperature to come back to 350°F, and continue frying and dredging the remaining fritters in small batches. Serve hot.
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