All You Need is Ripe Bananas

Everyone needs a good basic banana bread recipe that is easy, moist and soft crumbed.  So began my mission to find my ultimate banana bread recipe.

Process

I choose four popular recipes, baked them at the same time, and enlisted over 25 tasters to give feedback on the baked breads.  The recipes listed nuts and chocolate chips as optional, so for a consistent tasting experience of pure banana bread, I omitted all nuts and chocolate.

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Results

After collecting all the data, there was no clear winner.  I think this is because the ideal banana bread is subjective.  Either you like super moist chunky banana bread or you like more cake-like, semi dry tight crumb banana bread.

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What recipe to make summary:

Discussion:  There are three key factors in making a well-balanced fragrant loaf of banana bread.

  1. Use semi- ripe or over ripe bananas. They need to be sweet, soft, and extremely mashed (no big chunks in your baked bread!).
  2. Do not over mix the batter once the flour is added, this prevents dense, gummy  bread.
  3. Do not over bake the banana bread.  No one wants to eat dry banana bread.
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No banana chunks and nice tight crumb.   Perfect.

I have found my go to banana bread recipe that everyone seems to love.  Not too moist, tender and a well-balanced banana taste.

Flour’s Famous Banana (with adaptations)

Ultimate banana bread based off the results of the bake-off.  It is Flour bakery’s recipe but I added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to give it a domed top, used white and brown sugar for taste and moisture, and I sprinkled just a little sugar on top. I love the sprinkling of granulated sugar on top of the loaf before putting it in the oven – it gives the finished bread a little bit of a sweet crunch on top.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3-4  bananas, ripe, very well mashed about ( 1.5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • sugar for top

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil slowly. Add mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients (go easy folding in, do not want to over mix).  This would be the time to add nuts or chocolate chips.
  2. Pour into a lined greased loaf pan.
  3. If desired sprinkle top with sugar.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour in a pre heated 325 oven.IMG_3870.jpeg

Sweet Sunday #19: Peanut Butter Cookie Edition

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Made with Skippy peanut butter.

Ovenly bakery crossed my baking radar when I was looking for a solid shortbread recipe over the holidays, they were fantastic!  Ovenly is located in Brooklyn New York, and is known for their sweet and salty goodies.  For example their vegan Salted Chocolate Chip cookie is very popular.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie (secretly vegan!)

A third very popular cookie from the bakery is a salted peanut butter cookie.  I thought I would give it a try, especially since it is a littler healthier than most cookies,  it is gluten and dairy free.

This 5 ingredient, one bowl recipe, needs no mixer and only took me 5 minutes to whisk and stir together.  Plus you most likely have all the ingredients in your kitchen.   The only time crunch is having the play dough like cookie dough either freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  This keeps them from spreading and holding their shape.  However, they still might spread, depending on what peanut butter you use.  My first two batches used Jif peanut butter, the cookies spread even after spending time in the freezer.  My third batch of cookies used Skippy peanut butter and I was finally successful in creating more of a puffy domed cookie.  Note the cookies taste the same not matter what peanut butter and shaping method you use.

These cookies melt in your mouth and have crisp edges and a creamy center.  They might become your favorite because the flavor, texture and richness will win you over.

I barely adapted the recipe. I added 1/2 teaspoon of rum (seems to be my flavoring of choice lately, really good in banana bread).  I got about 8 large cookies.  One could use a smaller scoop and make closer to 2 dozen cookies.  The recipe suggests Skippy peanut butter to get more of a domed shaped cookie, which held true for me when I switched to this peanut butter brand.

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Result of cookie made with Jif and not put in freezer.

Peanut Butter Cookie

  • 1 3/4 cups, packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2  teaspoon of rum or rum extract
  • 1 3/4 cups smooth peanut butter (Skippy is the recommended brand.  Other brands can cause cookie to spread more.)
  • Coarse-grained sea salt, to finish

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and eggs until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract, rum, then the peanut butter, until smooth and completely incorporated.
  • Chill the dough by freezing it in its bowl for 15 minutes or refrigerate for about 2 hours before you scoop or spoon the dough into balls.  (Ovenly uses about a 1/4-cup scoop). Place on prepared pan. For the tallest final shape, place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
  • Sprinkle the dough balls lightly with coarse-grained sea salt just before baking. Bake smaller cookies for 14 to 15 minutes and larger for 20 to 25. When finished, cookies should be golden at edges. They’ll need to set on the sheet for a minute or two before they can be lifted intact to a cooling sheet.
  • Best eaten when fulled cooled.
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Cookie after its dough was frozen for 15 minutes and Jif was an ingredient

Notes:

  • Do ahead: You can definitely make the dough in advance and refrigerate it for 2 days.
  • Variation:  Sandwich two of the cookie with Nutella or marshmallow cream!IMG_3811.jpeg

Other peanut butter treats:

  • Detroit Cookies Company, Ferndale, MI

https://www.detroitcookieco.com/menu/

PEANUT BUTTER VOLCANO cookie.  Ultimate PB cookies piled w/ creamy peanut butter coated w/ chocolate & dusted w/ graham cracker crumbs

  • Prime and Proper, Detroit MI
PEANUT BUTTER PAVÉ
peanut butter gianduja / caramel / peanut brittle crunch /
dark chocolate glaze
  • Icing on the Cake, Los Gatos CA

https://www.icingonthecakebakery.com

-Classic peanut butter cookie
-Wheat free chocolate chip peanut butter cookie
-2 Chocolate peanut butter cupcakes
Peanut ButterChocolate Peanut Butter

Chrissy Teigen Vs. Joanna Gaines: Banana Bread, Whose is better?

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Sitting in my kitchen with both the Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia cookbook and Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings in front of me and the smell of over ripe bananas floating through the air I began to wonder which contained the superior banana bread recipe.  Bake-off time.
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The two recipes vary greatly in ingredients.  The biggest differences:

  • Joanna Gaines uses a 9 inch square pan, butter, and brown sugar.
  • Chrissy Teigen uses a bundt cake pan, coconut, white sugar, oil, and instant pudding.

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It was unanimous among all my tasters, Teigen’s recipe is the winner!  

Describtion of the two breads:

  • Teigen: cake-like, moist, studded with chocolate and coconut, non traditional.
  • Gaines: basic, dry, most traditional. (Note I used chocolate chips instead of pecans).

Although there was a clear winner, neither recipe produced the most amazing bread.  Another banana bread bake-off will be needed! In the mean time start freezing your over ripe banana until the ultimate banana bake-off takes place.  Stay tuned.

Here are links to the two recipes.   If you decide to bake one, let me know what you think!  Also if you have a good banana recipe, please share.

Gaines

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Teigen:

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two of the taste testers

Sweet Sunday: #18 Bread Pudding Edition

IMG_3690.jpegThere is something so comforting about eating warm bread pudding. Growing up my father would request it often.  I used the recipe from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook and it used raisins and an Irish whisky sauce. My father reminded me over the holidays how good bread pudding is and we ordered it one night when we were out for dinner.  Super yum, I knew I needed to make it asap.

For this bread pudding recipe, I wanted vanilla to be the star ingredient, which meant adding double the vanilla extract.  I also knew my kids wouldn’t eat anything with raisins, so I substituted in chocolate chips.

The recipe is easy to put together and a great use of left over bread. For this bread pudding I used croissants, challah and brioche, however you can use any mixture of bread you have laying around- french bread, cinnamon raisin, etc. The breads can be cubed or hand torn and should be few days old to be able to soak up as much of the luxurious vanilla cream base as possible. The bread pudding is then slowly baked in a hot water bath to ensure gentle even cooking, and that the custard stays creamy.  If you are using a muffin pan, skip the water bath.

Served with creme anglaise, which is a thick, pourable custard.  Made of eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla bean, basically the ingredients for ice cream.  For a quick, fast sauce, high quality vanilla ice cream is melted it to make the most indulgent yummy sauce.

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Vanilla Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

This is the perfect winter dish for breakfast or dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (can also use vanilla bean paste)
  • 1 tablespoon of bourbon, optional
  • 1 cup sugar plus 1/3 cup sugar, for dusting the pan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 11-12 cups (1-inch) pieces of croissant, brioche, challah bread (1 lb total)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup pecan pieces, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • 2 pints vanilla ice cream

Directions:

  1. Lightly butter a 9 inch springform pan, 9 inch cake pan, a 9 inch square pan, or a 12 cup muffin pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of sugar.
  2. To make pudding: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, vanilla, bourbon, 1 cups sugar, eggs and egg yolks. Continue whisking until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the sugar dissolves completely (this is important).
  3. Place the torn up breads in a large mixing bowl and pour the egg mixture over them. Use your hands or a large spoon to toss the breads until they are thoroughly moistened. Let the mixture sit at room temperature about 20 minutes until the bread is completely saturated.
  4. Meanwhile, take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it melt.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and pecans, if using, mixing thoroughly but gently. Scoop mixture into prepared pan.
  7. Set the baking dish in a large, shallow roasting pan. Add very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Cover the two pans with  tinfoil, cut a few holes to let the steam escape.
  8. Bake the pudding until a knife inserted near the center comes out almost clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm. Generously dust the top of each slice with confectioners’ sugar.
  9. Serve with the ice cream creme anglaise dessert sauce.

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Notes:
  • The bread pudding muffins are a perfect breakfast treat.  All ages love.
  • Bread pudding reheats very well.  Store in refrigerator and when ready to serve heat up in microwave to take chill off.
  • One could add/ substitute any nut (think almonds, walnuts), add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, add orange zest.  Countless possibilities.
  • For breakfast the pudding is delicious served with maple syrup.
    Recipe based on Ina Garten’s vanilla brioche bread pudding and Grand Central Bakery bread pudding muffins.

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Bread Pudding Links:

  • Guide to the best bread pudding in New Orleans. The white chocolate puddings look fantastic.

http://www.neworleansrestaurants.com/guides/bread-pudding

  • Great Harvest Bread sells bread pudding daily using their own bread.
  • Nick’s Next Door Restaurant in Los Gatos, CA

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  • The Morie Restaurant in Royal Oak, MI

Popovers- Pop Goes the New Year!

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The champagne cork wasn’t the only thing popping at my house on New Year’s Day!

A long time fan of popovers began when I was a little girl.  Around Christmas time I would enjoy shopping at Union Square, in San Francisco, with my grandmother and parents and we would always stop by The Rotunda in Neiman Marcus for lunch.  One is served these puffy delights instead of bread.  They are almost the size of baseballs and have the most yummy crackly crisp golden brown shell and soft, custard like inner lining.   IMG_3650.jpg

A popover is best described as a puffy bread product that looks like an over-sized muffin, with very thin, moist walls, somewhat hollow interior and a crispy brown crust. They can be served either as a sweet with butter and jam for breakfast or with meats at lunch and dinner

The basic ingredients of flour, milk, eggs, salt, and butter are combined using a blender and, ready in just about 40 minutes.  You can use a regular muffin pan but a popover pan will produce fluffier, puffier, and taller popovers.  Best served straight from the oven.

Over the years I have discovered a few secrets to baking great popovers: Try to make the batter ahead of time to allow the gluten to relax, use room temperature ingredients and no peeking while they’re in the oven!

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Popovers

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Position a rack on a lower shelf. The top of the fully risen popovers should be about midway up the oven. 
  2. Use a standard 12-cup metal muffin tin or a popover pan. Grease the pan thoroughly, covering the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you begin to make the popover batter.
  3. Blend all together in a blender for 20 seconds until frothy.
  4. Pour the batter into the cups, filling them about 1/2-3/4 full.
  5. Place the pan on a lower shelf of the oven .
  6. Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door) and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown.
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Soft custardy middle!

Notes:

  • When you remove the popovers from the oven, puncture each on the top and/or the side with a sharp paring knife to release some of the steam inside. Serve the popovers warm, immediately.
  • Leftover popovers should be stored in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days, and re-warmed in the oven for the best effect.
  • Vary recipe by making a sugar coating perfect for breakfast.

For the sugar coating:

2/3 cup  sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup  melted butter

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each popover all over with the 1/4 cup of melted butter, then dredge each puff generously in the sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat them completely. Let cool on the wire rack.

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Cinnamon Sugar Coating

Resources:

Dulce De Leche Pot De Crème

IMG_3568.jpegTime to celebrate 2019! Here is a dessert for your countdown party!  This great French dessert is heavenly to serve to any crowd.

The best way to describe pots de crème is a cross between pudding and crème brûlée. The name means “pot of custard” or “pot of cream.”

Pot de crème is made with eggs, cream, milk, and a flavor, often vanilla or chocolate.  I decided to switched it up and go for the latin caramel taste.

Pot de crème is the perfect make ahead dessert, prepare it the day before you plan to serve it, so when it’s time for dessert, all you have to do is pull the chilled custards out of the refrigerator.  Perfect for your New Year’s Eve.

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Dulce De Leche Pots de crème

Velvety and creamy, perfect sweet combination to start the new year.
Ingredients

  •  1 cup dulce de leche (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1.5 cups of heavy cream
  •  5 egg yolks, at room temperature

Optional Topping:

  • Dollop of whipping cream

Directions

Heat cream and dulce de leche over medium heat until dulce de leche is no longer thick and mixture is warm, but not boiling.

Whisk egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl, then add a small amount of the hot dulce de leche and cream and whisk vigorously, then add a little more until you have about half mixed in with the yolks.

Then put the yolk mixture back into the pot and heat on medium/medium low, while stirring.

It will be done when it has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon without running.

Pour into ramekins or serving dishes of choice and chill in fridge for at least two hours.

Top with a dollop of whipping cream.

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Gift Giving: Cookie Butter Edition

Oreo Cookie Butter, the photos alone makes you want to just grab a spoon and dig in. 
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The biggest decision you will have is are you going to spread it on a graham cracker, dip a pretzel, or just dig in a spoon and eat out of container.
All cookie butter is yummy, but the Oreo is the favorite in my house.
Spooning the cookie butter into jars and adding a simple paper label makes a great homemade gift.  Especially if you make it from their particularly favorite cookie.
Cookie Butter
Ingredients
  • 1 package of Oreos, Milanos, crisp chocolate chip cookies, etc (need to make 2 cups of crumbs)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk

Instructions

  1. First make your cookie crumbs. Place your cookies into the food processor and blend until it forms a very fine powder.

  2. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over low heat until melted, and then stir in your sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk until it’s all melted together. Starting with 1/2 cup of the liquid, pour it into your cookie crumbs and mix together with a spoon. Keep adding small amounts of the liquid until the cookie butter is just wet enough to stay together. Depending on how dry the cookie is to begin with, you’ll need more or less liquid.

  3. Once your cookie butter is blended, allow it to cool in the fridge for an hour or two.

  4. Store your cookie butter in the fridge.

 

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His preference is eating it off the spoon.