Banana Bread

Posted by: on Jul 28, 2009 | 55 Comments

This banana bread recipe was one of the first things I learned to bake on my own way back in high school.  My mom kept a yellowed handwritten recipe of my grandmother’s tacked to her bulletin board in the kitchen.  I was instructed not to lose it.  Only later did I realize it was one of the few things she had left in my grandmother’s handwriting.  The original recipe was actually my great grandmother’s.  She wasn’t known for her skills in the kitchen, and this is the only recipe that seems to have been passed down.  It is a simple recipe that just works reliably well. More than a decade later , I still make this it all the time (with my additions of vanilla and cinnamon).  I like that there is no butter in it making it reasonably healthy. This also allows me to justify slathering a slice with butter when it is still warm from the oven.

Banana Bread
3 (over) ripe bananas
1/2- 3/4 cups sugar (the less ripe the bananas, the more sugar you will need)
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour (I often replace one of the cups with whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mash the bananas in a large bowl and add the sugar. The sugar will help liquefy the mixture.  Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and then sift in the dry ingredients. Still until evenly combined. Bake in a greased a floured loaf pan at 325 for about 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to stand and cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.


Daring Bakers: Milano Cookies

Posted by: on Jul 27, 2009 | 20 Comments


The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I chose to do just one of the two cookie recipes for this month’s challenge.  I have always wanted to play around with making homemade marshmallow, but it wasn’t meant to be this month.  I did enjoy making the Milans.  They came together very quickly.  These are really my kind of cookies-light and crisp with a hint of lemon.  I found the batches that browned quite a bit around the edges had the best flavor.  I made some bite-sized mini round cookies and a few modeled after the Pepperidge Farm version.

Hopefully, I will get around to making some homemade marshmallow for s’mores before the end of the summer.  All the other Mallows and Milans can be seen here.  Thanks to Nicole for hosting this challenge!

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network.

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows
Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested
1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.


Plum Cake Tatin

Posted by: on Jul 26, 2009 | 4 Comments

When I saw Ina Garten on Barefoot Contessa pour molten hot sugar syrup over bubbling plums for this cake, I knew I was going to have to make it.  Keeping a vigilant watch on my candy thermometer while a pot of sugar syrup boils always makes me feel a little like a mad scientist.  I think it helps that I almost always bake late at night.  I did make some changes to the recipe as this is a more sugar heavy dessert that I usually make.  I imagine this would be really good with the traditional apple base.  I used the most tart plums I could find to balance the sweetness of the caramelized sugar.  This cake is best served warm, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream doesn’t hurt.

Plum Cake “Tatin”
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten
6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish
3 plums sliced into ½ inch slices
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the slices of plums in a circle covering the whole bottom of the dish
Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Pour evenly over the plums.
Cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.
Pour the cake batter evenly over the plums and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If a plum sticks, ease it out and replace it in the design on top of the cake. Serve warm.


Peaches and Cream Cake

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2009 | 19 Comments

When I was growing up, my mom would make us peach cakes with whipped cream for our birthdays.  They were my favorite cakes (that weren’t made out of ice cream).  My brothers and I would wait patiently to lick the beaters from the whipped cream and steal slices of when she wasn’t looking.  I think that was always the best part.  I recently made this cake for J’s birthday.  I had some really great fresh peaches to use…and I had some that were just okay.  I decided to chopped up the sub par peaches and heat them with a bit of sugar, water and peach schnapps.  I used the puree between the layers of the cake and on top under the whipped cream.  It really bumped up the peach flavor, and was pretty good on its own.  The yellow cake is sturdy enough to not get mushy with the peach puree and fresh peach slices.  I covered it with a thin layer of whipped cream.  I really liked how you can see the outlines of each layer.  I only had a few minutes to chill this cake before we served it, but it held together really nicely.

Happy Birthday J!

Two 9 inch Basic Yellow Cakes
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 peaches
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp peach schnapps

Chop three of the peaches and combine with water and sugar over low heat.  Bring to a simmer and blend until smooth with an immersion blender, stir in the schnapps and allow to cool slightly.  Slice the very top off each cake leaving an even and flat layer.  Spoon a generous amount of the mixture over each cake.  The peach puree will soak into the cake.  Slice the remaining three peaches and place a layer on top of one of the cakes.  Put the other layer on top and chill while the whipped cream is prepared.  Whip the cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla.  Top the cake with an even layer and use reserved peaches for the top of the cake.  Keep the cake in the refrigerated prior to serving.


Cherry Almond Crisp

Posted by: on Jul 13, 2009 | 5 Comments

Cherries and almonds go together so well when baked.  This simple dessert only takes a few minutes to make… if you have a cherry pitter.  I made this just for the two of us, but the ratios of this could easily be increased to serve more.  This doesn’t need to bake for too long.  The cherries keep their shape while the top gets crisp and toasty. We had this after homemade pizza on Sunday while we watched True Blood, and it was such a nice way to end the weekend.

1 cup of cherries
2 tbsp oatmeal
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sliced almonds
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp salted butter
1/4 tsp almond extract

Pit the cherries and divide into ramekins, they should fit snugly.  In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients.  Crumble in the butter with the almond extract.  Top each ramekin with half of the mixture. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the top is lightly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with additional almonds.


Open-Faced Blueberry Pie

Posted by: on Jul 5, 2009 | 15 Comments

This pie is a really nice combination between a fruit tart and a traditional pie.  When I saw the photo of this on Chemist in the Kitchen, I knew I had to make it for the Fourth of July.  Part of the fruit is cooked down, and mixed with the fresh blueberries giving this a great texture.  My husband is a berry pie aficionado and often complains that most blueberry pie are too sweet.  Keeping most of the berries whole allowed them to keep some of their natural tartness.  This was a great recipe, and would be perfect for any summer weekend, especially served with vanilla ice cream.

Open-Faced Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Chemist in the Kitchen and Epicurious

1 9 inch pie crust, I used a basic pate brisee
1 tbsp egg white
4 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup water and two tablespoons water, divided
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and roll out the pie crust. Shape to fit pie plate and chill for 5 minutes before baking. Bake for 20 minutes lined with foil and filled with pie weights or dried beans. Remove the foil and poke wholes in the bottom with a form. Bake additional 5-10 minutes until golden. When slightly cooled brush the bottom with egg white.

For the filling: boil 1 cup of the blueberries and 1/2 cup of water until the blueberries burst. Add the lemon zest, sugar and simmer. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and stir in along with the lemon juice. Return to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and fold in the additional 3 1/2 cups of blueberries coating them in the mixture. Pour into the pie crust and allow to set for a few hours before serving.


Strawberry Kiwi Tarts

Posted by: on Jul 1, 2009 | 5 Comments

The pickings at our farmers market haven’t been  too impressive yet.  It is still early in the season in the northeast, and we have had almost daily heavy thunderstorms.   However, there has been no shortage of strawberries.  Locally grown strawberries are usually super sweet, fragrant and reliably good.  That’s why  I can’t stop writing about them.  It has been all strawberries all the time around here.

This is a simple tart made with the shortcrust pastry from this month’s Daring Bakers Bakewell Tarts.  This pastry definitely will not replace my ususal pate brisee.  It was nice for a change and is really easy to roll out.  I baked the strawberries in the tarts so the flavors would get even sweeter and the juices would provide a base.  I added only about a 1/4 tsp of sugar to the top of the berries and dusted the base of the tart with flour.  The slight tartness of the fresh kiwi went really well with the baked strawberries.  I would normally brush the tops with some apricot jam or marmalade.  We ate these right away while they were still slightly warm, and it finally felt like summer.