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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

His and Hers Banana Breads

Hers (left) His (right)

Hers (left) His (right)

As anyone in a successful long-term relationship can attest, compromise is the name of the game.  Now, in my eyes, compromise does not mean giving up what either of you want for the benefit of both, it means finding a solution in which BOTH people get what they want.

Enter the mini-loaf pan.

Greg hates nuts in his baked goods.  During my teenage years, I may have agreed with him on this point, but when I had my first slice of warm banana bread with a few tender yet cruchy walnuts tucked into the soft texture of the bread, I was a convert.  Yet, now that I have to factor in my husband’s tastes when I make banana bread, so I am always foregoing my beloved walnuts so he’ll feel as if he can eat the bread.  At the same time, he keeps asking me to put chocolate chips into the banana bread.  Chocolate chips?  Huh uh.  Now I’m not agains chocolate chips in all quick-breads (or pancakes for that matter), I certainly don’t mind them in zucchini bread.  But to me, banana bread is already sweet enough and the chocolate really just doesn’t compliment the flavor.

So after yet another discussion today about how the banana bread would be prepared, we finally came upon the solution.  And why did it take us so darned long to think of this?

All you have to do is take the regular banana bread recipe, which is enough for 4 mini-loafs, and split it in half.  You can do this division weight wise on a kitchen scale, or by eye if you’re good at estimation.  Or you could do like I did and make a terrible estimation, then spend 5 tedious minutes scooping batter out of the chocolate-chip loafs into the walnut loafs, carefully avoiding the multitude of chocolate chips mixed in.

Loaves Pre-Bake

So as I was saying, make a full recipe, divide it in half, then stir in 1/3 cup of your desired add ins.  Chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, chocolate chips, raisins, whatever you want.  Divide each portion into 2 mini-loaves.

Loaves Post-Bake

The baking time is much shorter also than the regular loaf.  These were finished in about 35 minutes at 350F.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Walnut Banana Bread

Walnut Banana Bread

So now we have our own individual mini-loaves.  Aren’t they just the cutest?  Greg was quite scandalized to look over and find me literally tearing chunks off of one of mine and eating it right over the counter without a plate or anything.  Its MY LOAF and I can eat it the way I want to!!

Ah, the things I do for love.

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Banana Bread

Brown Bananas

You know what this means…

Banana BreadBanana Bread!!!  I really think that my husband purposefully allows bananas to get over-ripe just so I’ll make banana bread.  Truth be told, I don’t mind all that much!  It makes for a fabulous dessert or even breakfast treat.  This recipe is slightly altered from the one my mom has always made.  I don’t know exactly where she got it from, I checked Betty Crocker and its definitely not from there.  So if its similar to the one you use or have seen in a cookbook, I’m really not trying to rip anyone off here!  All I know is that this recipe works every time and is simply delicious.

You will need 3 or 4 medium sized over-ripe bananas.  I find that mashing them on a plate works the best.

Mashing Bananas

Mashing Bananas

The batter comes together very easily.  Once its smooth and completely mixed, just dump it into a regular loaf pan and bake.

Banana Bread BatterThe smells the come out of your kitchen while its baking are unbeatable!

Baked BreadThe bread comes out with a delicious crust on the outside and a soft and smooth interior.

Sliced BreadPrep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare (easy prep, an hour to bake)
Tastiness Grade: 10 out of 10

Recipe after the jump.

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Beef with Spinach and Naan

Beef with Spinach and Naan

We are being hit with a pretty random relatively serious Winter storm today.  Its the end of March and there is ice and snow on the ground.  But I’m not complaining, because to me, this is the absolute best kind of day to stay inside and cook warm and comforting food.  I had all the ingredients at the ready to make Indian Beef with Spinach from my new book “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking“.  I love Indian food and I usually make up recipes on my own.  This leads to very mixed results.  So sometimes I like to follow (gasp) and actual recipe.  I picked this Madhur Jaffrey book up in Denver last weekend and have been just itching to try out some of the delicious looking recipes.  My one complaint with the book upon first inspection is that the way she makes the recipes “quick” is by using a pressure cooker for many of them.  Well, that’s fine and dandy if you have a pressure cooker, which I do not…yet.  So since its a cold and dreary day, I decided to go the “Slow and Easy” route and use my slow-cooker instead.

As usual, I assembled all of my spices first.  Here we have (in powdered form on the right) cayenne, garam masala, coriander and cumin.  The whole spices on the left are cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods.  Some bay leaves and salt round out the seasonings.

The Spices

The Spices

The next step was to assemble and very finely chop (in the food processor) the aromatics – garlic, ginger and onion.

The Aromatics

The Aromatics

Next, heat up the oil in a frying pan, add the whole spices and warm through in the oil.  Then add the finely chopped (almost a paste) aromatics.  Cook in the oil over high heat for about 5 minutes.

Cook the Aromatics

Cook the Aromatics

Now here’s the point I start to diverge from the recipe in cooking methods.  I placed a pound and a quarter of stew beef in the slow cooker along with a box of thawed and drained spinach.  I added water (2 cups) and the spices and stirred together.  Then I added the cooked aromatic mixture on top.  Stir through to combine, place the lid on the slow cooker and allow to cook over low for about 6 hours.

Assembled in the Slow Cooker

Assembled in the Slow Cooker

Then it was onto the bread.  Fresh Naan.  Why not try this out on a cold-snuggle-inside-kind of day?  Also in Denver, I had picked up the book “Bread” which looked to me to be the perfect beginner’s book for baking bread from scratch.  The book has several types and categories of bread, including flat-breads which is where I found the Naan.  I assembled and mixed the ingredients using my Kitchen-Aide mixer with the dough-hook attachment.  It appears to have worked perfectly and saved me 10 minutes of kneading by hand.  When most of the ingredients have mixed together, stop the machine and work the dough with your hands in the mixing bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients/crumbs that have accumulted at the bottom.  Once the dough has come together completely, turn the machine on low and allow it to “knead” with the dough hook for 9-10 minutes.  Now you can’t walk away from it during these 10 minutes because it occasionally needs assistance if the dough starts “riding up” the dough hook or if the dough seems to be stuck in the same position for a while.

Bread Dough in Mixing Bowl

Bread Dough in Mixing Bowl

I used the full cup of milk that the recipe called for and ended up with a beautifully tight and elastic dough.  Let this rise for 3-4 hours in a bowl covered with a towel, until about doubled in size.

Naan dough, pre-rise

Naan dough, pre-rise

After allowing the dough to rise for 4 hours, it was divided into 4 segments and rolled into 1/4″ X 6″ X 10″ flat breads.  I did take pictures of this process, but due to some very frustrating technical difficulties, many of my photos were erased.  Boo.  The naan was then baked under the broiler for about 2 min per side on a baking sheet.  Do NOT turn your back on the broiler…EVER.  Or else, you will end up throwing away your first bread like I did.  But the attention is worth the effort.  Nothing beats fresh bread, hot out of the oven!

Fresh Naan

Fresh Naan

This bread is slightly crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  It also soaked up the brothy portion of the Beef and Spinach beautifully.

naan

This dish was tasty but not perfect.  The naan was a perfect accompaniment because of the soupiness of it.  Also, it was a bit oily for my taste.  If I make this recipe in the future, I will omit about 1/3rd of the oil and reduce the volume of water.

Problems aside, it was a wonderfully warm and filling meal on this icy and snowy Kansas day.  Our home smells of Indian spices and fresh bread, and that alone is priceless!

Spicy Comfort Food

Spicy Comfort Food

Prep Ranking #5: Got all Day??
Tastiness Ranking: 6 out of 10

Recipes (along with my suggested alterations) after the jump.

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Pi Day

My Kind of Pi!

My Kind of Pi!

As my wonderfully geeky husband pointed out to me, today is Pi Day.  And for all of you non-geeks out there, the date is 3-14.  Still don’t get it?  You need to review your 4th grade notes on geometry.  As I have mentioned before, I come from a family of pie makers. My mom especially makes what I consider to be perfect pies.  Good ingredients, flaky crusts and a lot of love and time go into perfect pies.

When deciding what pie to make today, I tried to weigh ease of prep with seasonal availability of ingredients.  Throw in the likes/dislikes of my husband, and there are precious few options.  The easy prep choice would clearly be pumpkin.  Nothing is easier to make than pumpkin pie filling, unless of course if you use freshly roasted pumpkin (which is more work than its worth, and not seasonally available right now).  However, to me, pumpkin pie itself is very seasonal and should only be consumed between Halloween and Christmas.  Since we are fast approaching St. Patrick’s Day, that choice is out.  Fruit pies were my next logical choice and again, must be chosen seasonally.  Berry pies are out due to their mid-winter expense and general ickiness of out-of-season berries.  Lemon Meringue is always a good choice, but a bit too high on the difficulty scale.  What does that leave us with??  Apple of course!  Apples are nearly always available, my husband loves it, and its about mid-range on the difficulty scale.  Sounds like a winner to me.  So after finding the recipe in Betty Crocker and calling my mom for her top-secret tips, I was off to the races.

I am super lucky to be married to a man who doesn’t mind peeling apples.  So I set him to work.

The Pro Peeler

The Pro Peeler

He even got to use his apple coring/slicing toy.  Gadgets make him so happy!

The apple gadget

The apple gadget

And by the way, these apple slices were then cut in half, so 16 slices per apple yields about the proper thickness.

Meanwhile, I was working on the pie crust.  I used my mom’s super simple and easy recipe.  Of course the key is REAL BUTTER.  No substitutions please.

Pi dough

Pi dough

The use of the food processor is key here.  You can of course use a pastry cutter, if you’re masichistic.  This recipe (below) makes enough for 2 crusts.  This is fine for a two crust apple pie, but that’s now how I roll.  So I froze the other half to use later.  Wrap in plastic first, then seal in a heavy-duty bag.

Yummy Extras

Yummy Extras

I rolled out the rest, with liberal use of flour both on the work-surface as well as the rolling pin.  Roll out to about 2 inches larger than the outer circumference of your pie dish.

Rolled out Dough

Rolled out Dough

Then, to make your life easier, gently roll the dough over your rolling pin to transfer it to the pie dish.

Dough Transfer

Dough Transfer

Now just push the crust into place along the sides of the dish, crimp the sides (easier said than done, I know), and you’re done with the crust!  Stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to fill and bake it.

Finished Crust

Finished Crust

Now on to the filling.  I use the Betty Crocker recipe with a slight cooking alteration, as per my mom’s instructions.  I believe she learned this trick from the Pie and Pastry Bible.  The trick is to slightly cook the filling on the stove top before putting it in the crust and baking it.  Just combine the apples and filling ingredients in a large NON-STICK (seriously, non-stick only) sauce pan.  Stir very frequently, otherwise it’ll stick like crazy to the bottom.  Cook only until the apples are slightly soft.  As my mom told me 3 times, you do not want applesauce pie.  I used my candy-thermometer as I was told not to let the temperature go above 130.  I do as I’m told.

Cooking the Filling

Cooking the Filling

Once the filling is slightly cooked, fill the pie crust with it.  Then move on to the topping.  I am a huge fan of the crumb topping in lieu of the second crust on top.  Again, just blitz up the ingredients in the food processor, or use a fork as I did for my mom growing up.  Once its at a fine-crumb consistency, pile it onto the apple filling.  Pour it into the center of the pie, then just use your fingers to distribute it to the outer edges.  Fill in the gaps and edges completely with the topping.

The Unbaked Pie

The Unbaked Pi

Now just bake it according to the recipe!  And be sure to follow the tip of covering with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.  Unless you like the taste of burning, you’ll really regret not doing it!

Finished Pie

Finished Pi

So that’s how you celebrate Pi Day, at least where I’m from.

Prep Ranking: #5 – Got all day?
Tastiness Grade: 10 out of 10

Recipes after the jump. Enjoy!!

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