Tag Archives: baking

Best Banana Bread

Over the past few months, I have promised several people that I would share my favorite banana bread recipe. It is not my own recipe, it is just my favorite. I mean, it’s hard to improve on a Betty Crocker recipe (but I think I managed, just because of my own special touches). The original recipe is here, which I found in a magazine-style recipe collection titled “Brunch”. I love brunch. Not because I’m pretentious and like to say things like “Let’s do brunch.” No, it’s because mornings come too early and I don’t like to cook in the early mornings, so if I’m cooking in the morning, it’s more likely to be a late breakfast/early lunch kinda thing, which is typically referred to as “Brunch”. (It’s laziness, not pretentiousness…lol)

Yesterday was a day off from my “day job”, so we had dinner early, which gave me time to make banana bread for dessert. The pictures and recipe, along with my commentary follow below:

Gather your ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

You’ll see in the picture that I am using the vanilla sugar and vanilla extract I made back in April. I also had the girl child make some butter while I was gathering all my ingredients, and this produced just a bit of buttermilk, so I included that in the recipe so it didn’t go to waste. I love getting all the use out of our food as we possibly can!

Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches.
Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. 

 

Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

I know you’re “supposed to” mash the bananas before adding them. But I hate taking the extra step and dirtying an extra bowl (that I’ll have to argue with the kids about getting washed. Too much effort…). I use very brown bananas, smash them a little while they’re in the skin, and then you can use either a strong whisk or a potato masher to mix them into the batter.

Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened.

Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.

If it is ever said that I’m an evil mother who doesn’t care what her children like/want, let this serve as proof to the contrary. Banana bread needs walnuts. The girl child doesn’t like them. So, I mix nuts into just half the batter, and divide the batter in the pan so we get a half loaf with and a half loaf without walnuts. Then I sprinkle extra nuts on top for easy identification of which side is which.

Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

If you’re patient, you’ll let it cool completely like the recipe says. But if you’re me (or anything like me), you’ll wait just until it’s cool enough to touch and slice into it so it’s still nice and warm and the freshly made butter melts right into it! YUM!

 

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Vanilla Beans

How to cut open a vanilla bean: lay bean(s) on cutting board, holding one end with your fingers, use a sharp knife to cut bean lengthwise, exposing seeds

Not too long ago I bought a few vanilla beans for a good price. (I don’t recall what the price was, but I remember not wanting to pass up the good deal.) I finally have gotten around to doing something with them, and I am pleased to say that my first experience in working with vanilla beans has been a good one. They are simple to work with, despite their size, and now my hands smell like vanilla and that makes me smile.

So, what did I do with these fragrant, flavorful little pods of goodness? I made more goodness, of course. It will be ready in about 2 months.

First, I made Vanilla Extract. In my cupboard I had some vodka that I will, in all honesty, never drink. (Sorry, sis. I’ll buy more for your dirty Martinis when you come visit. I promise.) This is the perfect liquor for making vanilla extract. And I am almost out of vanilla extract in my baking supplies, so it seemed a perfect use to me. The process is so simple you’ll question why you’ve never made it yourself, and then you’ll want to rush out and buy some vodka and vanilla beans.

You will need:

— 1 cup vodka, bourbon, or rum (Vodka is my #1 choice here because of its neutral flavor.)

— 2-4 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place liquor into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. I was finishing off a bottle of vodka for this, so I just used that bottle and saved myself the trouble of finding another appropriately sized jar/bottle. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to liquor, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about 2-3 months, you will have beautiful vanilla extract for all your baking needs. It will become a little darker as it ages, and you can use it as you would any other vanilla, only it will taste way better. To keep it going forever, you can add more vanilla beans and liquor to the bottle.

I couldn’t stop with just Vanilla Extract, though.  I wanted a treat that could be used more frequently, and enjoyed by my awesome kiddos, too. So, now we’re on to Vanilla Sugar.

You will need:

— 1.5 cups white sugar

— 2 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place sugar into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to sugar, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about a month, you will have a flavorful sugar that can be used in baking, in your coffee, or sprinkled on some buttered toast for a sweet treat.

Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar! So easy, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before now.

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So there we have it. A quick trip into the kitchen this morning, and the results are sweet. 😉

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Happy New Year 2012

I am finally feeling settled in our new home. Just in time for the New Year! I have spent New Year’s Eve baking and cleaning and preparing for what is going to be an amazing 2012. How do I know it’s going to be amazing? Well, because I said so! Someone once told me that having a great day is a choice, and I think the same is true of the entire year, so I’m making a choice right now to have an amazing 2012. I hope you’ll join me in that choice.

Tomorrow I will re-enter civilization with the installation of internet at home. We also have cable being installed, but ssshhhh… that’s a surprise for the kiddos. 😉

Happy New Year! It's going to be amazing! xoxo

A toast to you in this New Year. Happy New Year! My wish for you is to always remember that you deserve to be happy. xoxo

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Bagel Day

Making bagels is one of those things people just don’t expect to be so easy. A bit time-consuming, but easy and worth the effort! I have made these bagels many times, and the last time I made them was Memorial Day weekend while my sister was in town. She went for a quick run one morning, (I say “quick”, but it wasn’t. It was 13 miles- a half marathon! She’s AWESOME!) and I thought she’d enjoy some fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels. (And she did.) My niece came by that afternoon also. Just to hang out with my kids and my sister’s foster daughter. They hung out, played some games and she marvelled at me actually making bagels from scratch. She called me an awesome cook. Yeah, my head got a little bigger that day.

On this particular day, I created blueberry bagels (using a bag of dried blueberries) and cheese bagels (using a mixture of asiago and parmesan cheeses). There are still a few sitting in the freezer. I think my kids have forgotten that they are there. But my niece remembered. She was over a few nights ago and asked if she could steal a couple bagels before she left for work. Of course I said yes. Because what good is making the food if I’m not gonna share it, right?

In the past I have made bagels to bring to work, and even sent a few along on a hunting trip for a friend. And do you know what’s funny? I don’t really love bagels all that much. But I really enjoy making them! And sharing them, of course! 🙂

The bagel recipe follows… it uses a mix (that I also included the recipe for) and someday I’ll post other recipes that use this same mix. Enjoy!

Bagels
· 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 (1/4-oz.) package
· 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water 110F (45C)
· 5 cups HOT ROLL MIX **
· Cornmeal
· 3 qt. water
· 1 Tablespoon sugar
· 1 egg yolk, beaten
· 1 Tablespoon water
· Poppy seens, sesame seeds or coarse salt
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water. Beat in 4-1/2 cups HOT ROLL MIX. Let rest 2 minutes. Add enough mix to make a very stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface knead dough until smooth, 5-10 minutes. Add more mix to surface as needed. Dough will be quite firm. Lightly butter bowl. Put dough in bowl and turn to butter top. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes.

Punch down dough; knead 4-5 times. Divide in half. Divide each half into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten each ball with palm of hand. Holding a ball with both hands, force one thumb through center. Place bagel on lightly floured surface. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover lightly; let rise in a warm place 2-30 minutes.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with cornmeal; set aside. In a 5-qart pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add sugar. Lower hear to keep water boling gently.

Use slotted spoon to carefully lower bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. Turning often, cook until slightly puffed, about 5 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Drain bagels briefly on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Arrange bagels, not touching, on prepared baking sheets. Combine egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon water. Brush bagels with egg yolk mixture. Leave plain, or sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes in oven until browned. Cool on a rack. Makes 16 bagels.

—-Make-A-Mix cookbook

My notes: Add more flavor! You are limited only by your imagination!
· Mix in chives and garlic to the dough. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
· Mix in cinnamon and craisins or raisins
· Mix in dried minced onion and top with additional onion

** Hot Roll Mix
· 5 lb. (20 cups) all-purpose flour
· 1-1/4 cups sugar
· 4 teaspoons salt
· 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Stir together to distribute evenly. Put in a large airtight container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6-8 months. Makes about 22 cups Hot Roll Mix.

Variation
Use 9 cups whole-wheat flour and 8 cups all-purpose flour instead of 20 cups all-purpose flour. Decrease sugar to 1 cup.

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I’m a Flake

Yes, you read that right. I’m a flake! Finally, after years of practice and being taught many times by self-proclaimed “flake experts”, I have finally, yes, FINALLY made a perfectly flaky pie crust!

Yup, 45% of you voters got it right! My surprising kitchen success was a flaky pie crust. Many people are often surprised to learn that I use “cheater” pie crust most of the time, simply because the frustration of pie crust was too much for me and since I didn’t enjoy making it, it just was never worth the frustration.

So, why the change of heart? Why make my own pie crust after deciding to give up on it years ago (with a few failed attempts after making that decision, helping me stick by that choice!)? Funny story.

I have a friend, I’ll call him Dean, who in a matter of just a few weeks heard me talk excitedly about cooking. Everything from homemade bagels (for which I’ve just realized I still owe you a recipe and pictures! Must see what I can do about that soon, huh?) to roasts, cookies and basic dinners (yes, even my corn dog dinner and kitchen “mishaps”!). Well, one night in December, he invited me and my kids over for a game night and dinner with his daughter. Upon our arrival, he proudly announced that I was going to make pie crust. This was, obviously, laughable to me. But he insisted that it is easy and that I could do it. He patiently talked me through every step (though he really did much more of the work than I did!) and there it was… perfect pie crust. (Which I secretly decided I would probably never make, but was glad at his attempt to teach me.)

Fast forward a few months. It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I have decided that for my Mother’s Day dinner (that I would be cooking for myself) I wanted to have a Quiche, made with goose eggs from Triton’s Farm. So I contacted them and arranged for delivery of 3 goose eggs, along with a dozen duck eggs (for my breakfast that my awesome kiddos would serve me in bed. 😉 ). And then my kids asked me if I remembered how to make the pie crust like D taught me. Um, maybe? Kinda? I think? I’ll give it a shot! With the boy reminding me to add salt (I rarely add it to anything, so I know I would have forgotten!) and the girl asking me if I remembered the measurements, and both by my side, anxious to see if it would flake or flop, I got to work and was pleased to end up with an amazingly flaky, buttery pie crust for my Quiche. Below is the measurements, kinda… but I can’t explain the technique… so I hope you know what you’re doing! 🙂

PIE CRUST INGREDIENTS:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • salt (1 tsp?)
  • 1 cup butter (put in freezer to make sure it’s super cold)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ice water (this is a technique thing… I don’t know how much, several tablespoons, I guess?)

The egg yolk I think was the trick! Oh, and NOT working the dough too much! And keeping it cold. Sorry I’m not more helpful on how to actually make it, but, as you know, I’m a FLAKE! (Who can now make flaky pie crust! THANKS D!!!)

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Kitchen Success

I’m back! And well, I thought it would be so much more fun if you had to GUESS what my latest kitchen success might be! So here’s a poll. It’s open for only 1 day. Cast your vote by tomorrow night and I will reveal the details of my kitchen success once voting closes. Share with all your friends and get them in on the fun, too!

 

 

 

 

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Bagels, Bagels, Bagels

I was talking to a friend about food yesterday. (Is that surprising? Yeah, I didn’t think so…) In this conversation, I commented that I love to make bagels in many different flavors and continued on about something else, while he was interrupting me with “Wait! What? You make bagels? Like you toast them and put cream cheese on them, not like actually make bagels, boiling and all that”…. I laughed, and replied that of course I mean I mix the dough, shape it, boil it, bake it… how silly to assume I meant anything else, right? 😉

So, making bagels has been on my mind for quite awhile now, but always gets set aside. It is time to stop putting that task aside. I have asked my friends what their favorite bagel flavors are and I received several responses. “Blueberry” “Cheese” “Onion” “Garlic” “Dried Cherries with Honey” (let me add my YUM! to that request!!! Sounds great!) “Pumpkin Spice” “Sun Dried Tomato with Italian Spices”

Well, that’s a lot of flavors! And I am not ambitious enough to try to do them all in one bagel making session, but I will make bagels this weekend! (Please, would someone remind me to pick up some more flour, cheese, onion, garlic and I guess some blueberries…) I will mix, shape, boil and bake… and then I will wrap and freeze for easy breakfasts and snacks. And yes, I will share! Of course I will share. It’s what I do. 🙂

You can find my recipe HERE! Happy boiling. 🙂

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Cinnamon Roll Filling & Icing

Grandma’s Sweet Foundation Dough recipe didn’t come to me with good directions on fillings or toppings. So for several years, I’ve experimented with different fillings and icings. I have finally found the “winning” recipes in cookbooks I have had for many years.
Filling:
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 packed brown sugar
2 Tbl cinnamon
1 Tbl light corn syrup
In order to use this filling for the entire sweet dough recipe, I quadruple the ingredients.
Frosting:
2 oz softened cream cheese
2 Tbl softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbl milk
Double, triple, quadruple, as necessary
I also like making my own sticky rolls or caramel rolls….
Glaze for sticky rolls:
Mix together in bottom of round baking pan:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbl melted butter
1 Tbl corn syrup
Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Place shaped rolls on top and continue as usual

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Filed under Breads & Rolls, Breakfast, Recipes, Sauces/Dressings