Sunday, May 16, 2010

Banana-Cacao Heavy Mushipan Torte with Okinawan Black Sugar Glaze

Doesn't it sound totally exquisite when I call it that? Actually what it was was something I made up because I bought too many bananas and they were ripening faster than I could use them. The title is just to be pretentious.

Friday morning I made crêpes for Clark and Claudie (with chopsticks! They don't have a whisk so I used chopsticks! I'm rather proud of myself) and brought some to school for Demi to repay all three of them for various kindnesses. Demi had taken me shopping the night before to buy the stuff and we were in downtown Zhubei where there is a giant Carrefour grocery store. Imagine a huge, extravagant grocery store, as big or bigger as any you'll find in America, but this one is full of Asian food. I know. Be still my soul, right? Anyway - the problem with the Carrefour is that they had all kinds of delicious fresh Taiwanese fruit, but it was all in very large quantities. But I bought the bananas thinking "I can eat a lot of bananas, right?" Well, I can, but they were sneaky and had progeny overnight when I wasn't looking.

I also bought three Ghana chocolate bars.

The Japanese don't mess around with their candy. It's not just dark chocolate, it's black chocolate. This makes me exceedingly happy. Finding Japanese chocolate in Taiwan also makes me exceedingly happy. So far, I haven't seen as much Taiwanese candy as I have imported stuff from Japan, but I see no reason to complain about this.

Anyway, this side note is getting way too long. Suffice it to say that I ended up with leftover melted chocolate in a double boiler I had cobbled together and knew I had to wash before Clark and Claudie got home from Gaoxiong this evening, and that and the three remaining bananas were pricking at my heart.

"Use me! Be frugal! Don't be a food waster! Where are your principles?" I hate it when your food talks to you.

So, the leftover chocolate was probably one bar's worth, and I had one remaining bar in the fridge, so two bars of chocolate. How big are those bars? 75 grams? OK, you do the math. So I melted them again and added the three bananas, mashed up but still with some big chunks. I then stirred in two eggs.

Then, remember how we don't have ovens here? So I decided to make a mushipan. Mushipan means "steamed bread," but it sounds really pretentious if I don't translate it. You can cook cakes with steam too. They're lovely and moist. This was going to be a lovely moist steamed cake. Except remember how no one bakes here? So I scoured the kitchen and didn't find a trace of baking powder or baking soda. (Do you know the difference between baking powder and baking soda? Baking powder is 25% baking soda, 25% cream of tartar and 50% corn starch. The Baking soda is a base and the cream of tartar is an acid and the corn starch is to keep them from reacting with each other until they get wet. If you use baking soda, then you should add something acidic. The fruit would have probably been sufficient. OK, that's your kitchen lesson for the day.) So that's why this became a heavy mushipan torte - because I didn't have any leavening, so I pretended the denseness was on purpose. Like a cooked custard, sort of. See how being gourmet works? You just make up titles for your failures.

Anyway, I used this little bowl - hopefully you can tell the scale by looking at this dainty little stick of New Zealand butter next to it.

I then added some flour but I forgot to take a picture of how much. Maybe... 2 cups? At the most. Somewhere between 1 and 2 cups. Until it's this consistency:

(I had buttered the little bowl but it turned out to be a little hard to get out, so if I were doing it again I would butter and flour it.) Then I put it on this rack in the wok with water up to right below the rack. Then I turned it on to as low as the stoves here go, which isn't very low. I put the lid on it and let it boil its little heart out.

I added some more water a couple times and I cooked it for probably 20 minutes total - until I stuck a fork in its firm little belly and it came out clean.

This is what the finished cake looked like:

I was actually surprised at how pretty it looked when I took it out.

The chocolate and bananas were all the sweetening I added, and it was the subtle sweet that Asians (and I) love, but I decided it could use just a tad more sweetness. Which is where I thought of the Okinawan Black Sugar glaze.

I can't figure out what's the difference between black sugar and our brown sugar except that black sugar is probably more molassesy - more raw. I wonder if you can get anything like it in the States. It's exquisite.

So I just took this much black sugar and quickly melted it in the bottom of a saucepan:

I added a little pat of butter and a splash of milk, but you gotta work really fast, just until the sugar is dissolved. It actually made a little crunchy hunk of candy on the back of the spoon.

It was just enough to pour on the top of the little cake. Lovely! And then Demi came and picked me up and took me to Zhang Jiemei's house where she cooked unearthly Chinese food for dinner and the three of us sat around and chatted while their little boys played in the living room. The two of them told me stories of boyfriends and marriage and both told me how to decide who to marry but they disagreed with each other. And at the end we ate a little slice of Banana-Cacao Heavy Mushipan Torte with Okinawan Black Sugar Glaze and they really liked it. A lovely end to a lovely Sabbath day.


  1. You are a kitchen wizard. That torte looks wonderful. Glad you're having so much fun out there!

  2. Wow, I can't believe you made that! (In a good way, of course). Impressive.