Saturday, May 23, 2015

Brown Butter Fruit & Nut Banana Bread

This morning, it looked like banana bread would be on my baking list with four very ripe bananas left on their hanger by my hubby.  Along with some new ingredients I bought through King Arthur Flour catalogue; Strawberry & Apricot Jammie Bits and I would create a bread full of flavor, but very healthy too.
This is a two-loaf recipe, however for ease of freezing, I baked eight mini loaves and one regular loaf.  Also, I boost the flavor by browning the butter and roasting the nuts, pecans, but you could use walnuts or even macadamia.

A few facts about Banana Bread (since I've made about a thousand loaves and found interesting):

~First appeared in American cookbooks in the 1930s.  Pillsbury entered it in their cookbooks in 1933 and Chiquita Banana's Recipe Book in 1950.

~National Banana Day is February 23rd.

~Some people believe that banana bread was the by product of The Great Depression--resourceful homemakers didn't want to throw away overly ripened bananas.  Others believe it was to promote the discovery of baking soda and powder for leavening.

Whatever!  Banana bread sure has become a never ending delight in our about yours?

Brown Butter Fruit & Nut Banana Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted to a golden brown
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 bananas, peeled and mashed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
4 cups KAF all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup Strawberry & Apricot Jammie Bits (or you can use dried fruit, finely chopped)
1 cup pecans, walnuts or macadamia (rough chopped or in the case of pecans, I broke them with my hands.

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Lightly spray two loaf pans, mini loaf pan, or muffin pan with baking spray.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together sugars and bananas.  Add the oil and vanilla extract to the melted browned butter, then with mixer on low, add to the sugar/banana mixer.
Allow the mixture to set for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, lightly toast pecans in the oven.  Remove from the oven and cool a few minutes.

 Add two cups of flour, the nuts and fruit and mix on low just until combined.  Add the sour cream and the remaining 3 cups of flour and mix on low again.
Use a rubber spatula to turn the batter over a few times to make sure all the flour has been incorporated, being careful not to over mix.  Scoop into prepared  muffin, mini or loaf pans.

Bake:  Muffins--20-22 minutes; Mini Loaves--25 minutes; Loaf pans--55-60 minutes. 

Memorial Day is very special to me.  We always had a picnic at my grandparents and remembered all our family members who served in the military; both grandfathers, father, brothers, nephews and uncles. I hope your day is filled with wonderful memories too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Biscoff Biscotti & May's Give-Away-Apron

This beautiful dish was a gift from my dear friend in Japan and her staff!
I love flying on Delta Airlines; the personal service from reservation to gate staff to flight attendants (& pilot) and of course, Biscoff cookies. My experience with Delta started when I was flying back and forth between Seattle and Lexington, Kentucky as Kelly was under going surgery and later, chemo.  When the cart service came around, I always asked for an extra package of Biscoff to take to my grandson and Kelly and they happily obliged.  Now, seven years later, I still prefer to fly Delta...and Biscoff cookies!

In addition to the cookies, I've discovered a Biscoff spread that I usually have on my toast in the morning or add it to my favorite recipes.

Today, I thought I'd give it a go in one of my favorites--Biscotti; another morning treat I love to eat on the go while I start my day.  I definitely credit my mother for giving me the gift of making up recipes and I know she'd love this one with her morning coffee.

Biscoff Biscotti
8T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Biscoff European Spread
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 1/4 cups King Arthur All-purpose Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
2/3 cup chopped sliced almonds
 Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugars, Biscoff spread and vanilla extract together until fluffy.  While the mixer is running, add the eggs, one at a time.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.  
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until combined.  Remove the bowl from the stand and use the rubber spatula to make sure the dough is fully incorporated--DON'T OVER MIX!

Drop dough, making two lines approximately 3-inches x 15-inches--smooth to make two long logs, then gently pat the tops to flatten slightly.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, lowering the temperature to 350F-degrees after 10 minutes.  The tops will be slightly cracked, dry and firm to the touch.
Cool about 10 minutes, then, transfer the logs, one at a time to a cutting board and use a serrated to slice in 3/4-inch wide biscotti. Lower the oven temperature to 325F-degrees to give the biscotti a second bake (Biscotti actually translates to twice-baked!)
You will need to line a second tray for the second log of cookies.  Place both trays in the oven and bake 7 minutes.  Remove and turn the biscotti over.  Return to the oven, changing the tray that was on the bottom to the top and the top tray to the bottom.  Bake another 7 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before storage.  These cookies are great with coffee, tea, diet Coke and of course, a glass of wine--your choice.  Enjoy!

Now, for May's apron.  This fabric, of course, has a story like most of my aprons, but even more special.  As many of you know, our Kelly passed away five years ago on May 14, 2010.  While she was undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer, friends (and family) sent her lots of gifts reflecting the familiar pink ribbon.  She said to me one day, "Mom, I love the sentiment, but I really hate pink!"  So, each May, I have done an apron featuring her favorite color, orange.  This fabric also reflects her love of vintage-looking fabrics from the 40s.  I made her a quilt when she went off to Colorado State University for her masters with 40s fabrics and her son, Ari has on his bed now.  

If you would like to win this apron, please comment on any of my posts and you will have a chance.  Double-winners are accepted!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Good Morning Crumb Coffee Cake & April's Apron Winner

Yes, I'm back...April flew by just like me.  My work schedule has become very busy and I was in Massachusetts for an event, then home a week before heading to Tokyo, Japan for their Hobby & Craft Show.  I've been there previously for the show, but it had been over 6 years ago and I can honestly say, it's gotten twice as busy; if that's possible!
7 year old Gwen is creating a tulip from my Garden Notes!
Just missed Cherry Blossoms in full bloom
Aren't the Kimonos beautiful!
Once back, and very jet lagged, I made a trip to see our grandson and be a part of "Grandparent's Day at the Montessori school he attends.  Home now for a few weeks before heading to our granddaughter's dance recital, so I thought I better get this post in before everyone thinks I've disappeared off the face of the Earth!

Crumb Coffee Cake is one of my favorites for breakfast.  Crumb topping differs from  streusel mainly because the ratio of flour to sugar...crumb requires more flour and the result are pea-sized pieces that sit perfectly on top of a delicious golden cake.  This cake is not too sweet, but very satisfying.

Crumb Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 2 pieces of aluminum foil, joined and making sure you get the corners tight.  Fold extra foil over to use later to lift crumb cake out of the pan.
Crumb Topping:
8 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cardamon
1/8 tsp. Kosher salt
1 3/4 cup cake flour ( I use Queen Guinevere Cake Flour by King Arthur Flour)

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  While the butter is cooling, in a medium bowl, mix together the all ingredients except the flour, use your fingers or rubber spatula to mix.  Pour the butter over the sugar and spices and stir together.  Finally, add the flour until mixture resembles a thick, cohesive dough.  

Set aside while making the cake.

6T unsalted butter, softened 
I cut the butter into small cubes to soften quicker
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

 Using a stand mixer, with a paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients. Add the softened butter, 1 cube at a time on low speed.  Continue mixing until mixture resembles moist crumbs--1-2 minutes.   Add the butter, egg, egg yolk and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  

Using a rubber spatula, spread the cake batter into the prepared pan.
Using both hands, roll pieces of topping dough (crumb) between your thumb and forefinger into large pea-sized pieces.  Top the batter with these crumbs, beginning around the edges and continuing towards the middle  Bake until crumbs are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes.  Lift the cake out onto a serving board, dust with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares.  Enjoy!

Now, the winner of April's Apron is Miss Jane of .  Please email me your address and the apron will be sent to you with love.

I will have May's apron up tomorrow; it's a special one in honor of our daughter, Kelly.  The anniversary of her passing was on May 14th (another reason for not blogging lately) and I really feel like the colors of the apron speak volumes of her life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Incredible Chocolate Crinkles

The first time I made Chocolate Crinkles it was in the 70s; the recipe called for oil, not butter and although everyone liked them, I knew one day I'd discover a way to make this cookie even more perfect.  Cookies are really one of the hardest confections to really get right--in fact, it's where knowledge of science really comes in handy. Knowing what purpose baking soda and powder does, the ratio and sugar to the other ingredients and of course how to mix the ingredients.  Thanks to an episode of America Test Kitchens on PBS, all these were explained and their diligence in testing gave me an incredible Chocolate Crinkle!

What was achieved to make these incredible was a soft, but not gooey center with a firm outer layer, but just to touch, not hard.  What I had been doing wrong was my ratio of sugar to chocolate.  Most Crinkles call for semi-sweet with cocoa, but these call for unsweetened with added cocoa; this gives the soft center instead of wet!  Also, and this is important, you are going to mix the ingredients by hand.  No stand or hand mixer needed, but I did end up using three bowls to mix the dry, wet, and melted chocolate and butter.  Another step was to let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes to firm up instead of chilling in the refrigerator.  Finally, the balls are rolled in granulated sugar, then the confectioners' sugar so the confectioners' sugar doesn't melt away and become a Jackson Pollock look-alike:-D

Incredible Chocolate Crinkles 
Makes 22 cookies
1 cup KAF  (King Arthur Flour) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. espresso powder (optional, but really brings out the flavor of the chocolate)
In a medium bowl, whisk these ingredients together and set aside.

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
4 T unsalted butter
In a small bowl, microwave, at 50% power until melted--about 1-2 minutes, at 35-40 seconds at a time.

1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
In a large bowl, stir the wet ingredients with the brown sugar until smooth.

Mix the melted chocolate/butter mixture into the wet ingredients, then, add the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  Allow to set on the counter for 10-15 minutes for the batter to firm up. While the dough is setting, Preheat oven to 325F-degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Place 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar into two bowls.

Use a #30 scoop (I just found out that it gets this number because a gallon of ice cream would produce 30 scoops with this size.) to measure the dough.  Place the mound, first in the granulated sugar, covering it entirely with it, then, move it to the confectioners' sugar to coat completely.  Place the ball of dough on the lines cookie sheet--spacing 11 cookies on each sheet.

Bake one sheet at a time for 12 minutes--don't over bake!  The cookie is done when the sides of the cookies feel firm, but the center still looks somewhat moist.  Remove the pan from the oven and cool cookies on the baking sheet.  Repeat with the second baking sheet.
Meanwhile, the cookies are cooling and my little darlings are sleeping during this rainy Spring day...

This is an excellent recipe and doesn't something chocolate sound good right about now.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Secret Ingredient Spice Cookies & April's Give-Away Apron

The month of April symbolizes showers, trees and flowers bursting forth,  Easter, and my Dad's birthday on April 12th (he would have been 95 years old).  So, it wasn't by accident that I chose (or it chose me) a fabric with Sailboats on it; besides being retired from US Navy, he was an avid sailor on his twin keel sailboat,  Rhiannon (Irish witch).
Dad bringing Rhiannon up the Chesapeake Bay  
If you would like a chance to win this apron, please leave a comment on any one of my posts this month!

Now, for these unusual spice cookies...I love a good mystery and in fact, if you haven't already read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins I highly recommend it.  However, we're talking cookies and the mystery ingredient.
wait for it...........
Yes, it's ketchup!  Before you say yuck (and I know my daughter, Erin will because she hates ketchup) I must say these reminded me of a spice cake my mother baked made with tomato soup in the 60s.  How many of you have made that cake?  Well, it's delicious too and I know if you told your family what was in it, they probably wouldn't even try it:-D  These cookies are unique and heading straight to my sister's house today for an Easter surprise.

Secret Ingredient Spice Cookies
3 1/2 cups KAF all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup granulated sugar
4T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup ketchup (I used Heinz)
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a glass bowl, mix the butter, oil, molasses and ketchup and microwave 30 seconds on high, repeating until the butter has melted.
In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, place all the dry ingredients in and mix on low to combine.  While mixer is running, slowly add the melted butter mixture.  Next, add the egg and vanilla and continue mixing until thorough combined.

Place Sparkling Sugar or granulated sugar in a small bowl.  Scoop tablespoon size pieces of dough, roll in a ball and dip the tops in the sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then, transfer to a rack to cool completely.  

Secret ingredient and all, these are wonderful cookies...just don't tell the family. Enjoy!

Happy Easter to All!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Best Chocolate Baked April Fools! and March's Apron Winner

Easter, to me is all about the chocolate...not the treble:-D  And, these baked doughnuts deliver that and then some!  Wouldn't these be scrumptious for your Easter brunch table?  Easy to make and I can guarantee they stay moist for 3-5 days in an air-tight container, so making them the night before is, as they say, "a piece of cake!"

Baking with my mother was always fun at holidays--making our own chocolate Easter eggs, Hot Cross Buns, cookies and pies.  Even as life gets hectic, I try to hold to tradition as much as I can, coming up with quicker versions of our family's favorites.

Chocolate Baked Doughnuts
2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups KAF all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (not skim)
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two doughnut pans with a baking spray and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl and use a hand mixer) using the paddle attachment, place all the dry ingredients in and mix on low to combined.  Mix in the eggs, one a time, then, add the milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.  Mix until well combined.  Finally, while the mixer is running, add the melted butter and continue to mix until the dough is smooth. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.
Spoon the dough into the prepared pans, filling them a bit over 3/4 full.  Smooth the tops.
Bake in the preheated oven about 12-15 minutes, checking after 12 minutes.  Test with a toothpick inserted in the middle; should come out clean.
The recipe makes easily 12-15 doughnuts, so you may have to repeat with baking a third pan.
Invert the doughnuts on a rack.  While slightly warm, dip into the Glaze or you can coat the doughnuts with~

In a bag, combine:
Sugar/Cocoa/Cinnamon Coating:
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Place warm doughnuts into the bag and shake to coat.

Make while the doughnuts are baking.
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 T Light Karo Syrup
Pinch of Salt

Heat the heavy cream, Karo syrup and salt in a small sauce pan until "bubbles" appear around the edges.  Pour the heated cream mixture over the chips in a small glass bowl.  Allow to sit a few minutes, then stir until smooth.  Dip the tops of the doughnuts and place on a parchment lined rack. 
I added a sprinkling of chopped peanuts...I live in the South, but you could also add Sprinkles to remind you of those processed doughnuts at your favorite shop.  Enjoy!

Now, the winner of March's sweet cherry apron is Nancy C from NancyCreative blog!  Just email me your address and I'll get this pretty apron off to you ASAP!

Tomorrow, I'll have an unusual cookie with April's Give-Away fooling!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Apple Cheesecake Bread

I thought I'd come up with a bread that would be perfect for those days when the sun is shining, temperatures are in the 70s, you've worked in the garden most of the day and now just want to sit back, enjoy a glass of wine on your porch or deck. Tall order...maybe not! That day was yesterday and an assortment of cheeses and fruit seemed like the way to end it.

My grandpa Frank loved a slice of cheese with apple pie, so this combination seemed very natural to me. I used, Manchego, Tipsy Goat, Harvati, Smoked Gouda, and an Irish cheese called Dubliner; Honey Crisp apples were the perfect choice for fruit.

Apple Cheesecake Bread
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature*
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Natural applesauce (I used Motts, but you could make your own)
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Apple Pie Spice
1 cup pecans (or walnuts) chopped

*If you cut your butter into 1/2-inch cubes, it will soften quicker!

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  I used my tea loaf pan + a mini bundt, but this will easily make a 12-cup Bundt cake, or 2- 9"x 4" loaves.  Grease and flour (I use a baking spray that combines both) the pan(s) of your choice, filling them about two-thirds high.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together.  While the mixer is running on low, slowly add the sugar, then push the speed up to med/high and mix until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, then, add the applesauce and vanilla and mix and scrape down the sides again.

Add the dry ingredients and nuts and mix on low just until combined.  
Spoon batter into the prepared pans. Bake tea loaf pan about 40-45 minutes, small bundts about 30- 35 minutes, loaf pans 40-45 minutes, and 12-cup bundt about 45-50 minutes, but check using a wooden skewer when the center is done just in case.
That's it!  Warm, wonderful apple bread and cheese was the best way to end a perfect day. Enjoy!