Monday, August 27, 2012

Honey Walnut Banana Bread


After another warm sunny week, it cooled off and rained. It was a perfect Sunday to lay around, read a book, do laundry, watch mindless TV and bake banana bread.

I had wanted to go to a yoga class, or Target or something, but instead I enjoyed Sunday Funday. Or no makeup Sunday. Another favorite day. My Husband was out of the house all day. My Stepson was out of town. I had the house to myself. I owned a remote control. The Cats were still there to occasionally grace me with their presence.

I started looking through my recipes for some inspiration, I knew it was going to be a bread or bars. No cookies today, to much work. There are always bananas in the frig, so they won out. I have made this banana bread recipe before. It is a moist earthy bread. Just perfect for Sunday Funday. I toasted the walnuts to deepen the flavor. I also added 1 teaspoon of Walnut oil. The flavored oil add another layer of flavor. Sometime, I will experiment with more flavored oil and less butter. Depending on the type of honey that you use, that would also slightly change the flavor.

Honey Walnut Banana Bread
adapted from

3 or 4 Ripe (black) bananas
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of Walnut oil (optional)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup oats
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon turbindo sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a loaf pan. Set aside.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, add the bananas and mixed. Add butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, walnut oil, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are well combined. There will be lumps of bananas and butter. They just add to the flavor. See picture below.

Add the flour, oats and 3/4 cup of toasted walnuts. Mix slightly, until just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts. Sprinkle also with the turbindo sugar.  Bake at 350 for 50 - 55 minutes. Check with a tooth pick. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.

Let sit in pan until cooled. Place on a plate and dig in.

These are the lumps. Bits and pieces of delicious flavors that add a punch to this banana bread.

Since the honey and butter are mixed into the bread, I did not add anything to my piece of bread.
 Perfect and sooooo moist. Yummy.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brown Butter Crinkle Cookies

What a wonderful weekend. After all of the super hot weather in June and July, August around here is feeling more like September. We are back to sleeping with our windows open at night. My electric meter has stopped spinning out of control. Dinner outside Friday, Easy Catering job and the rest of the weekend was spent hanging with Friends and riding the Motorcycle. This is what beautiful weekends are made of. Over the weekend, I decided to whip up a batch of cookies. I had come across this recipe last week. I LOVE brown butter anything and these cookies were PERFECT.

Oh my ~~ The melding of sugars and browned butter make the world a light heavenly crinkle cookie. These cookies just melt in your mouth. Perfect for summer, light and delightful, but they would also be great with a cup of tea or coffee on a cold afternoon. Drinking tea and playing cards....

The recipe called to frost the cookies with a Salted Caramel Frosting. That would probably send these cookies over the top, but for today just sugar.

Brown Butter Crinkle Cookies
slightly adapted from
3 dozen cookies

1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoom baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
addtional sugar for dusting

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter has browned and developed specs. Swirling occasionally to keep the butter moving and browning evenly. Pour butter into your mixing bowl. Scape pan with spatula to remove all specs.  Add both sugars to the mixing bowl containing the brown butter. Mix together. This will intensify the nuttiness of the butter and sugar. I actually let mine sit for 2 hours.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Wisk together. Set aside

Attached bowl to mixer and start mixing. I mixed for about 2 minutes. The sugared butter was light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla and mix until just incorporated. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scoop dough out with cookie scoop or two spoons, form ball and place on Silpat or greased cookie sheet.
Sprinkle each cookie with granulated sugar. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until ever so slightly browning on sides.

Allow cookies to cool before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for freshness. If they last that long.

These cookies were so easy to put together. I am really glad I tried this recipe. I will need to make another batch, because I promised people some cookies, and this morning there were only 4 or 5 cookies left.



Friday, August 17, 2012

Upside down

After the last two weekends of family parties, I am taking it easy this weekend. I have an easy catering event to work on Saturday during the day. Small picnic. Last weekend my youngest sister graduated with her MBA. Wow, she worked very hard and completed her program in one year. It was an enormous amount of work for her, but she did it. She is very smart person. Sometimes when I think about my sister, I remember her doing headstands in the velvet chair. We always got a kick out her being upside down

Why my Mother let us do gymnastics in the LIVING Room really surprises me now. The Velvet Chair was a very comphy chair. And the arm sleeves always need to be pulled up.

So for my sister's party, we had it at my Mom's house on her patio. An absolutely gorgeous evening with some great friends. Beautiful flowers.(another Sister did a Knock Off Decor for the Flower Containers-Will Post Pics Later)  Tasty appetizers, Mexican pork and make your own tacos for dinner. (Fun party food) Delicious Tiramisu and Cannolis for dessert. And I made three types of cookies. There was more than one cookie monster their that night. Chunky Chocolate Chips with Sea Salt, Peanut Butter with Peanuts and Cinnadoodles (prior post). There are no pictures of the cookies. Not even the trays. Sometimes, things just happen that way.

I will post the Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanuts another day. This was a new recipe and very delicious. I forgot how much I like Peanut Butter Cookies. So when life turns you upside down, grab a cookie, take a moment and enjoy life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Chunk Bars

As I was getting things made for my stepson's birthday party, I decided that Cake and Ice Cream were just not enough for this party. I had found another FABulous Bar recipe that just needed to be made. These are absolutely delicious.

Heaven. Chocolate, caramel, sea salt and a blondie. What more could a Cookie Monster ask for. But with name calling, he did not get any to take home.

These bars are not hard to make. I had homemade caramel sauce from one of my sisters, in the fridge. So that is how I cut some time on this recipe. I would not recommend some sub par caramel sauce just to save time. It would not do your Bars any favors. Make the sauce. I will next time.

The recipe stated that once the bars had cooled, to refrigerate them before cutting. It was SO Easy to cut these bars. I plated them and keep them at room temperature.

Salty Caramel and Chocolate Chunk Bars
adapted from

for the Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in six pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water

In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, lemon juice and water. Pat the sugar into the water as much as possible. Without stirring, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Occasionally, use the hanlde of the pan to gently swirl everything together and prevent caramel from cooking too fast in one spot. Cook until the caramel turns medium amber (about 8-10 minutes). Keep a close watch on the caramel as soon as the bubbles begin to change colour. When it turns medium amber, remove pan from heat, and slowly and carefully add the heavy cream. (it will sputter and hiss, step back) Keep stirring until the caramel smooths out. Gradually add the pieces of butter, about 2 bits at a time. Once the butter is added and melted into the caramel, whisk in vanilla extract.

Immediately pour the hot caramel into a medium heat proof bowl and set aside.

for the Bars
2 1/8 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) melted & cooled unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces chopped dark chocolate (or roughly 2 cups dark chocolate chips)
Caramel Sauce (see recipe above)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray or butter an 11x7 Pyrex dish
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the melted butter, and both sugars until well combined. About 5 minutes at medium speed. At this point, the mixture will look a bit greasy. Add one egg at a time, beating after each addition for one minute. Add vanilla and beat for one more minute.
Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until all flour is incorporated. Using a large wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chunks until they are throughout the batter.
Press half of the batter into the pan. Try to make smooth as possible.  Pour the caramel sauce over the dough. Try to have a smooth layer of caramel sauce.
Drop chunks of remaining dough over the caramel sauce. Flatten with your hands, resembling little shingles. It will not look perfect, but they will bake up fabulous.
Bake the bars for 30-40 minutes, or until edges start to pull away from the pan. You want the bars a light golden brown. Remove pan from the oven and cool completely on a rack. Once the bars are room temperature, stick pan in the fridge for a few hours. This made the cutting process easy.

Heaven in a bar. OMG. Delicious.

These would also be great with a scoop of ice cream.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chocolate Cake and Banana Ice Cream

My youngest stepson is now 20. No longer a teenager. When he first came into my life, he was only 7. Just a young boy with glasses. His palate was quite basic, and I had to learn to adapt to that. But this little boy has grown into a twenty year old. I cannot believe it. So, for his birthday cake, he asked for a chocolate cake with banana filling. It was not quite what I had in mind. He was open to Banana Cream Pie. The problem with that, was that we were celebrating his birthday at the beach. Pie would not hold up. Way to HOT. So I thought, how about a Chocolate cake, Chocolate ganache frosting and Banana Ice Cream. He thought that sounded great.

So I went to my favorite recipe source, I found at least 20 different recipes for Banana Ice Cream. I settled on two and went to work. I combined two recipes for this ice cream. I truly believe what sends banana ice cream over the top is carmelizing the bananas. Holy Crap. I could have eaten them out of the pan.

What makes ice cream so easy is the few ingredients. Bananas, sugars, cream, milk and vanilla extract. Life is SO good.

Banana Ice Cream
6 ripe bananas peeled and sliced
4 Tablespoons (1/4 Cup) butter
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup white sugar
2 Cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 Cup of milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven for 400 degrees. In a small fry pan, melt butter over meduim heat on the stove. Continue to cook until the butter begins to foam. Swirl the pan around. The butter will start to have this nutty aroma. Heavenly. Brown bits will form and the color of the butter will change from yellow to brown. Remove from heat. Add the brown sugar and let dissolve. When there are no visable lumps, add the chopped bananas. Gently cover the bananas with butter and brown sugar mixture. Place pan in to oven for 20-25 minutes. Your bananas will begin to caramelize. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Move into a bowl and refrigerate for a least one hour or overnight.

In a seperate bowl, add white sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract and mix until sugar dissolves. In a blender, slowly start pouring in banana mixture and heavy cream/sugar mixture.

This will be Very thick. Add the milk to liquify it. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to directions.

I could have started eating here. I  made this Thursday night so that it could freeze completely.

For the Chocolate Cake. I have found the most wonderful recipe that comes together so perfectly. It is from Cooks Illustrated magazine. All Time Best Recipes for 2009. I have made this cake several times. The frosting that comes with this book is also very good. I will provide that another day. I appreciated the people at Cooks for testing out so many recipes. If you follow the recipe, it will be perfect everytime.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) soft unsalted butter
1 3/4 Cups all purpose flour
4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate - chopped
1/4 Cup dutch processed cocoa
1/2 Cup hot water
1 3/4 Cup sugar
1 Cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 large eggs

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch round pans or one 9x13 cake pan. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder and hot water in a meduim heatproof bowl; set over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2  cup of sugar to chocolate and stir until glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl. In bowl with a stand mixer fitted with the  WHISK attachment whisk eggs on medium low speed until combined for 10 seconds. Add remaining 1 1/4 cup of sugar, increase speed to high and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color for 2 or 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated 30 to 45 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula as needed. Add softened butter 1 Tablespoon at a time mixing 10 seconds after each addition. Add 1/3 of four mixture followed by half of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat adding flour and buttermilk until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into pan or pans.

Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center come out with few crumbs. 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans and then invert onto wire rack.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
for a 9 x 13 cake
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 Cup heavy cream

Place chocolate and cream in a microwave bowl. Place in microwave and heat in 30 second burst and then stir. Repeat 2 or 3 times. Once the chocolate starts to melt, continue stirring until it becomes glossy. Place in refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes. To cool completely. Stir and notice how smooth and glossy the frosting is. Pour over cake and spread with an offset spatula. You will see how shiny and perfect it looks.

I am not posting the picture of the decorated cake. My skills definitely need work, but it was very good.