Sunday, November 27, 2011

ultimate banana bread

I've been wanting to make this bread for a while. I love America's Test Kitchen more than most things. Baking Illustrated is practically my cooking/baking Bible (in addition to my family recipe book). So, needless to say, I follow their blog and collect as many recipes as I can. (Maybe one day I'll beg and beg and beg and they'll let me work in their Test Kitchen?) This was entitled Ultimate Banana Bread and uses SIX, count them, SIX extra ripe bananas. And you use the juices from the bananas for extra flavor. It's full-on. Full-on delicious!

Ultimate Banana Bread

Makes one 9-inch loaf

Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled (see note)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

2. Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

family foods

I was just in Southern California to see family for a last minute, much needed getaway. I really wanted to hang out with this girl (and the rest of my family, too).

I'm sure it goes without saying, that when I'm around my family, the food is always in delicious abundance. Here are a few things we ate/made.

My sister made homemade chicken noodle soup (homemade noodles, too!), and My sister-in-law made this amazing sourdough artisan bread, which she's been working on perfecting for a bit. I'd say she hit the mark. My goodness, it was fantastic! I will see if she'll do a guest post and give us all her secrets.

Sis-in-law, will heretofore be known as 2.0 (that's my nickname as her, seeing as how we have the exact same name, but she's more awesome than me, hence the v.2.0). Anywho, 2.0 made some awesome sourdough pancakes and put shredded apples in them. They were a delight.

 Here is a photo of the start. I'll share the sourdough recipe at the end of the post. You're welcome. (You'll need a sourdough starter to make this)

And one of my favorites, and 2.0's as well, Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cake.

Now for the Sourdough Pancakes recipe:

1 egg
2 T. oil
¼ c. milk
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 T. sugar

Add 2 cups warm water and 2 ½ cup flour to 1 cup start. Mix together and let sit overnight. In morning, put one cup in with starter again, leaving you with 4 ½ cup batter. Add any fruit or other lil' nuggets you like to the pancakes. For shredded apples, you add it to the whole batter, if you add chocolate chips or blueberries, add them to freshly poured batter. Griddle or pan should be at medium heat, flip when doughy side bubbles. When pancakes are cooked as golden as you like, EAT THEM UP.
***For Sourdough Waffles, add 2 more tablespoons of oil.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oatmeal Cake with Pears

It's comfort food season, and pear season—which, in my opinion—go hand in hand. I had some pears that I wanted to use up and I was trying to think of the best way to do so. I remembered my sister-in-law's (and her mom's) famous and amazing Oatmeal Cake. They have always done it in a bundt pan, but I figured I'd try this cake with pears on the bottom, in a 9x13 pan. It was magical! Seriously, this is one of my favorite cakes ever. It has so many of my favorite elements, cinnamon, oatmeal, coconut, pecans, caramelized goodness, and now pears. Make this cake! Your everything will thank you!

Oatmeal Cake with Pears (slightly adapted from my sis-in-law's recipe)
1/2 c. butter
1 1/4 c. oatmeal
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
4 Pears, peeled and sliced thin 

Butter a 9X13 cake pan. Line bottom of the pan with prepared pears; set aside. In a bowl melt butter and combine with oatmeal, add boiling water, let sit for 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour batter over pears and bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until golden and cake springs back at your touch.

3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. coconut
1/3 c. butter
1 cup pecans (chopped well)

Heat the butter, sugar, and heavy cream until the mixture begins to bubble on the sides, making sure that the butter is completely melted (do not bring to a boil). Fold in pecans and coconut and pour over hot cake. Place under the broiler (lo broiler) for 1-3 minutes and watch carefully so that the coconut doesn’t burn. The topping should bubble and become somewhat caramelized. Put this in your face as soon as humanly possible.