Banana bread: Cook Illustrated vs Youtube version

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When life gives you ugly bananas… you make beautiful banana bread!

The above banana bread recipe is from Cooks Illustrated. It may look familiar since they also have an ultimate banana bread recipe requiring you to concentrate the banana flavor by cooking the banana liquid. This recipe calls for melted butter and yogurt to help with the moisture.  However,  I still find it to be dry.  Perhaps I overmix my batter.  Since I had a whole bag of ripe bananas that I purposely bought just to make bananas, I went ahead and make another bread using a recipe I found on youtube.  The result are shown below.  I think a bundt pan works very well for banana bread since it gives a beautiful presentation.  The bread was so moist that it nearly fell apart once out of the oven.  I did took the liberty of addding dark chocolate chips as well as some cinnamon chips (left over from chai snickerdoodle).  However, some people have commented that the bread was slightly too sweet.  So, I may leave out the cinnamon chips and just add a pinch of cinnamon powder next time.

Here is a tip for a flavorful banana bread:  Use ripe bananas.  The darker the better flavor it will yield.  We hardly have enough ripe bananas to make bread but I have learn to toss a few ripe bananas in the freezer until I have enough for a loaf.  I am a firm believer that sour cream is the secret to moist banana bread.  But, you can use yogurt or buttermilk.  My next recipe, I will try using just milk to see if I can use ingredients that I have on hand since I do not always have sour cream.

One thing I also did was add walnuts on top of the bread before baking so that it gets nice and toasted while baking.  But, if you love nuts, then add chopped nuts into the batter.  I wanted my bread to be smooth and easier to slice without having the nuts get in the way.  I also, add dark chocolate in my bread.  Other additions can be raisins or even coconut flakes or crushed pineapple for a tropical version.  Perhaps even some rum for adults.  For a healthier version, try substituting whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose flour.  But, whatever additions you add, it will sure to be tasty like a red cherry on top of a great dessert.

 

  

Moist banana bread (chef Jason Hill)

2 c all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 stick of butter (softened)

1 1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

4 tbs sour cream

4 large bananas or 6 small (mashed)

Walnuts or pecans (optional)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients flour, powder, soda, salt in small bowl.  In large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs then sour cream, mashed bananas.  Add the dry into wet.  Pour into a buttered bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out with moist crumb.



Cookie 3: Chocolate chewie with toffee

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I wanted to bake and give away a variety of cookies to please everyone.  The chocolate chewie cookies has toffee which I love!  But, I think I will leave them out next time since the batter was a gooey mess!  It was a thin liquid batter and was difficult to scoop out prior to baking.  You really have to chill this dough.  They were more of a brownie cookies which would be great with milk!  Maybe I should leave these out for Santa instead of our usual chocolate chip cookies.  Hey, who wants to mess up with tradition.  Either choice would still be delicious.  I can speak on Santa’s behalf!

Other cookies we made included another new cookie recipe that I may not want to repeat: chai snickerdoodle.  I saw the winning recipe from this year Star telegram cookie contest and thought I would give it a try.  However, it did not do anything for me.  I guess I better keep searching for that snickerdoodle that is soft and chewy rather than puffy and crunchy.

Chocolate Chewie Cookie

Total time: 40 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time for the batter
Servings: 1 1/2 dozen
1/4 pound (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon molasses or corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag (12oz) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes (optional)
1. In a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter.
Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
2. In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a fork, combine the
eggs, vanilla, molasses or corn syrup and sugar. Mix just until incorporated and set aside.
3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. Add the melted chocolate to the egg mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in the sifted dry
ingredients and mix just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips, nuts and coconut flakes
if using.
5. Cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill thoroughly. Heat
the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Divide the dough into 18 portions. Grease your hands (to prevent the dough from sticking) and
shape the portions into balls. Place the balls on a greased, parchment-lined sheet pan, leaving 2
to 3 inches between each.
7. Bake until the edges of the cookies are just set and the center is still soft, 10 to 12 minutes

 

 


Christmas Cookie 2: Gingerbread boys cookies

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“It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas” is one of my favorite lyrics as far as Christmas songs go.  I have decided to try making gingerbread boys( with my kiddos or (a.k.a elves) this year.  Although I do not like the taste of ginger, these cookies are not overwhelm with too much spices.  It has a touch of ginger, a dash of cinnamon, etc, all of the goodness that makes up the holiday. After all, the smell of the fresh pine trees and wreaths makes these cookies festive for the holidays.  Next year, I may hang these boys as edible ornaments on my tree.

Gingerbread cookies (source: Joy of Cooking)

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended.
  2. In a large bowl (KitchenAid’s great for this) beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended.
  3. Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to mix until well blended.
  4. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.
  5. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
  6. (Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but in this case it should be refrigerated. Return to room temp before using.) Preheat oven to 375°.
  7. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface.
  9. Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin.
  10. Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick.
  11. Use additional flour to avoid sticking.
  12. Cut out cookies with desired cutter– the ginger bread man is our favorite of course.
  13. Space cookies 1 1/2-inches apart
  14. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes (the lower time will give you softer cookies– very good!).
  15. Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow the cookies to stand until the cookies are firm enough to move to a wire rack.
  16. After cookies are cool you may decorate them any way you like.
  17. I usually brush them with a powdered sugar glaze when I am in a hurry, but they look wonderful decorated with Royal icing.

Cookie 1: White chocolate chip with macadamias and dried cherries

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The holidays are just around the corner and I usually baked some cookies to give away as gifts to my family and friends.  I will be making 6 cookies this year and mailing them to my family or giving them to my friends near and far.

I usually am not a fan of white chocolate since it does not contain any cacao but mainly cocoa butter.  But somehow, the combination of the white chocolate with the salty macadamias was quite satisfying.  Also, the dried cherries offset the sweetness of the white chocolate.

Plus, these are really soft so it it may not packaged very well so you may not consider this one if mailing your baked goods.  I have made 6 different cookies and a brownies for my holiday gifts.    The holiday is a fun time in the kitchen for me and my littles elves.  So stay tune to see what we have been whipping up in our holiday bakeshop this year!

Make these cookies and leave it for Santa along with a glass of milk (I usually eat them on his behalf).  These cookies with dried cherries are the red cherry on top of a great dessert


Perfect yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting

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I had a birthday request from my little guy for a vanilla cupcake.  I knew I wanted a nice texture cake that is buttery and not too sweet.  I compared both this recipe from cheftalk which has some characteristic of a pound cake.  So, this is not a sponge like cake at all.  That type of cake requires more eggs which was not what I was looking for.  I thought this cake has a nice crumb and taste.  However, it was a little more dense than I thought but I did made a mistake in putting one less eggs.  Hey, my daughter wanted to crack the eggs and we only used two intead of three.  So, that could be  why it was not lighter.  I wonder what would the results be if I used cake flour next time or use buttermilk instead of milk?

Next time, I may try Cooks Illustrated fluffy yellow cake since that has similar ingredients of a sponge cake with the exceptions of more ingredients such as butter and either milk or buttermilk.

As for the frosting, I convinced him to pair the yellow cupcake with classic chocolate buttercream frosting.  Doesn’t remind you of cafeteria or afternoon snack with milk?  I remember all I wanted to that smooth chocolately frosting.  I did not use the entire amount of powder sugar as in the recipe.  I wanted just the right amount of sweetness without losing the volume.

Yellow Cake (source: cheftalk)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (do not sift the flour)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
Vegetable oil
1 stick butter (not margarine), softened
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°

Cut wax paper to fit the bottom of (3) 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray, place the wax paper in the pans and spray the paper.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, mixing well.

Measure the 1-1/4 cups of milk in a 2 cup measuring cup….then add enough vegetable oil to bring the liquid up to 1-1/3 cups.

Add the milk/vegetable oil mixture, butter and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed for 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

Add the eggs and continue beating an additional 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center of cake comes out clean, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center.

Cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely.  Frost as desired.

Basic Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

 


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Pumpkin bundt cake

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Ready for another pumpkin dessert?   I made this bundt cake in advance and brought it to my out of town relatives for Thanksgiving.  This cake is very moist and guess what?  No oil!. (shock look).  I finally found a cake that uses butter and stayed moist even after 3 days.  My sister in law and I have been snacking on it the entire Thanksgiving weekend.  You can tell from the texture and crumb that is a moist cake. Surprisingly, it held up very well and would shipped well as gifts for the holidays.  It is the kind of dessert that you can make ahead and taste better the next day after the flavors had time to settle.

If you look closely, I added something extra than what the recipe called for.  I tossed in a handful of shredded carrots I had from my leftover carrot cake I had made the day before.  I also, added a few tablespoonfuls of crushed pineapple that I had leftover as well.  So, it is actually my own recipe of a hybrid carrot cake and pumpkin cake.  Genius!  All you need is a cream cheese glaze on top of this baby.  Actually, I think this combo complement each other well.  What do you think?

If you want to dress up this bundt cake, try a glaze such as cream cheese, salted caramel with pecans sauce, or even brush on a rum syrup.  Anything rum= YUM.

Pumpkin bundt cake (source: whipped)

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan ( I used 1 &1/2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice  ( I used less)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can; not pie filling)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large egg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour bundt pan. Combine together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, then add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

Spoon batter into pan. Shake a few times to be sure to remove any bumps then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.


Carrot cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I have been on a baking extravanganza but have not had the chance to post on the blog.  I also have watching a lot of netflix.  I know I am wasting valuable time but I cannot help it.

Anyhow, I made this carrot cake for a friends birthday.  I am been browsing so many recipes but I settled with this one from Bon Appetit.  Why?  I wanted moist cake that combines shredded coconut, crushed pineapples, and raisins.  Also, I have learned that using organic or good carrots will give better moist results.  So do not use baby carrots since it does not have enough juice in them.  I also wanted the tangy taste of buttermik so this recipe uses it.

I will be trying various carrot cake recipe to find my ultimate carrot cake.  My old stand by recipe calls for 3 sticks of butter but I think that when it comes to carrot cake , oil will keep the cake moist.

I wanted to try a different take on cream cheese frosting that is a traditional frosting for a southern carrot cake.  But, I am not fond of using so much powdered sugar.  So, I melted a handful of white chocolate chips in the microwave and used it to sweetened the frosting.  That way, I did not use as much of the powder sugar.

Another important element to consider is not to use nuts in the cake itself to make slicing the cake a lot of easier.  The ground nuts are pressed onto the sides of the cake so nut lovers woud not stand up in protest!

 

Carrot cake (source: Bon Appetit)

2c AP flour 2t baking soda

2t ground cinnamon

1/2t salt

1.5c  sugar

3 large eggs

3/4c buttermilk

3/4c vegetable oil

1t vanilla extract

2c coarsely grated peeled carrots

1/5c sweetened flaked  coconut

1 8oz can crushed pinapple in juice

1c coarsely chopped pecans

 


pumpkin pullapart bread

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Nothing says fall more than pumpkins!  Autumn is my favorite season since there are so many desserts with pumpkins!  I mainly like my pumpkins in desserts rather than soups.

Those who are not much of a fan of pumpkins will be surprise when they try this pullapart sweet bread.  It has a subtle hint of pumpkin balance with the tangy sweet cream cheese frosting.  I try my best to use ingredients in proportions amount of pumpkin and cinnamon, and  other spices.  It is important not to go overboard when using spices in desserts.

Even though I do not drink coffee, I do enjoy dropping in coffee shops around this season since they often carry pumpkin bread or muffins.  In fact, Starbucks has a pretty decent pumpkin bread.  I find it to be more moist than their muffins.  Although, the muffins does have a cream cheese filling.

Stay tune for more pumpkins recipes such as pumpkin bread and pumpkin buttermilk bundt cake!

Pumpkin pullapart bread

Ingredients

  • 3 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ c granulated sugar
  • 2¼ t instant yeast or one package
  • ½ t salt
  • 4 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ c whole milk
  • ½ c pumpkin puree
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 T unsalted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1½ t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  • ¼ t ground ginger
  • ⅛ t ground clove
Instructions
  1. Make the dough by combining the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Heat the milk in the microwave for one minute. Add the butter to the milk and stir until melted.
  3. Add the milk, pumpkin, vanilla and eggs to the dry ingredients. Mix on low until dough starts to come together, then turn up the speed to medium high and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Add more flour (by the tablespoon) as needed until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. The dough will be tacky and will stick to the bottom of the bowl, this is okay. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, roll the dough in oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a warm spot and allow dough to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
  4. While the dough rises, combine the sugar and spices and mix well. Melt the butter in the microwave, about 45 seconds on high.
  5. Once the dough has risen, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a ball. Cover with a dry, clean towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 12 by 20 inches. Brush the dough with butter and cover with sugar, the whole cup full. Cut the dough into 6 – 2 inch wide strips. Stack the strips on one another and cut them into 6 sections. Stack each section into a buttered 9 by 5 inch loaf pan, sprinkle any leftover sugar onto the layers of dough. Cover the pan with a towel and let the dough rise a second time in a warm spot for 30 to 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow the bread to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan.

Lemon blueberry pull apart bread

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I have gotten the itch for yeast.. okay that did not sound very pleasant.  So to clarify: I want my kitchen to smell of yummy bread.  There is something about watching and punching your dough as it rises.  The smell of the yeast doing its magic is unbeatable.  Here is the how the pull apart looks when stacked in the loaf pan.  You want to stack them tightly and snuggly all together and let it rise for the second time before sticking them in the oven.  I like the idea of making a sweet bread that you can pull apart and share.   The blueberry gave the bread a burst of color and the specks of lemon zest brightens the entire sweet bread.  The best part is the cream cheese frosting to bind all of the goodness together.  Fresh out of the oven sweet bread with lemon zest is a red cherry on top.

Lemon blueberry pull apart sweet bread (adapted from flo braker)

Sweet Yeast Dough
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten

Blueberry Lemon Sugar Filling
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh blueberries

Tangy Cream Cheese Icing
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice