Banana is my go to fruit when I want to bake, and but I don’t know what.  I’ll pick up a bunch of bananas some point in the week–have some for breakfast or a snack for a few days…and by the end of the week I have some awesomely ripe and black bananas. Perfect!  Michael knows that by the time the bananas are spotted, he knows they’re off limits to him.

I already have a go to banana nut bread recipe, but found one that was more cinnamon intensive and knew it would be perfect for my niece and nephews!  I was heading to San Francisco for MLK weekend, and wanted to bring them something a tad healthier than the Chocolate S’more Cookies (Plus I was getting over a terribly nasty cold I had been fighting for 2 weeks, so I didn’t have too much energy for anything more labor intensive).

I think that I still love my default banana nut bread recipe–but this recipe was also very, very good.  Major differences?  This recipe is much lighter on the banana flavor.  The next time I make this recipe, I may add an additional banana.  The flavors were much more subtle overall.  The saving grace to this recipe?  It’s also much a lot less sweet than my default recipe–which I actually really enjoyed.  I will be reducing the sugar in my original banana nut bread recipe the next I make it.

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

good for one 9×5 loaf

  • 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed up
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the swirl:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. Mix bananas, butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla together. Sprinkle top of mixture with baking soda and salt. Gently stir in flour. Mix just enough to combine.
  3. In a small dish, mix together the 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbs cinnamon.
  4. Add 1/2 of the batter to the loaf pan and then a little more than sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture all over the batter in the pan. Add the rest of the batter, and then sprinkle the leftover cinnamon-sugar on top.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow bread to rest in pan for 20 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.
Adapted from Lovin’ From the Oven

Happy New Year!  I can hardly believe it’s already 2011.  I hope everyone enjoyed themselves…I know I did!  3 day weekends are just heavenly–and I would have loved mine a bit more if I hadn’t woken up to a cold the other day.  That aside!  I’m sure we all have general ideas of goals we’d like to achieve this year.  I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been all too serious about any resolution I’ve ever made, but this year seems rather important.  I’m getting married in the fall of 2012–which doesn’t give me a whole lot of time to get into the physical shape I want to get in (well, considering the fact that I’d like to keep this blog up and running with baked goods). I guess that means I’ll just have to give away more.  I guess, I could also try to make a handful of healthy items. Ehh, we’ll see.

Okay, onward to all things yummy.  I know that the holidays are over and people tend to ignore pumpkin for the October rolls around again…BUT I adore pumpkin. Not only is it scrumptious–it’s also very, very forgiving.  Cut a little bit of sugar here and there, accidentally leave the dessert in the oven for a few minutes longer than expected and you know what?  It’s nearly perfect anyway.

This year for Christmas, I decided to give all of Mike’s aunts and uncles some baked goods–something loafy that would package well.   They’re not huge of anything overly sweet (although I think they secretly like cream cheese frosting), so I ruled out anything that would need glaze.  After taking a look in my pantry and fridge, decided on the Elvis Presley Pound cake I made earlier in the month and this pumpkin walnut bread.

This pumpkin walnut bread–it’s amazing.  It’s perfect.  Not too pumpkin-y, but wonderfully spiced.  The bread is wonderfully moist and keeps well for days.  Mike’s aunt called me a few days later just to tell me how much she liked it and asked me for the recipe.  This bread got rave reviews across the board.  I will make this again and soon.  Pumpkin should be seasonless.

Oh–and here’s a note when you’re testing for doneness:  If you insert a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out slightly damp—it’s okay as long as the rest of the bread is cooked.  You don’t want to burn the bread waiting for the center to cook.  Since you are leaving the bread in the hot pans for 15-30 minutes, the bread will continue to cook.  And it will be perfect.

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Ingredients

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1 cup of walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour two loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Add nuts and stir in well.  Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 40-50 minutes.  Bread is done, when toothpick inserted in middle of the loaf comes out relatively clean (remember note above).
  4. Remove from oven. Allow bread to rest in pans for 15-30 minutes.  Remove and place on cooling rack.

Enjoy! Tastes even better the next day!

I found the recipe in an old binder I had in college.  Where this came from…I have no idea!

 

We’ve all ordered it–that hot, soft centered individual sized chocolate cake.  Its decadent and amazing. Served with confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream, and a few scoops of vanilla ice cream–and is there really anything better?

Okay–so i’ll stop short of calling these Godiva cakes or Molten Lava Cakes as you’ve all become accustomed to ordering at your everyday American Restaurant.  This version isn’t quite as liquid-y with the chocolate center.  The filling in these Individual Soft Centered Cakes may not be quite as runny–but rest assured, the center is delicious.  Cut into the cake, and you’ll find a warm, chocolate syrup filling.  This cake is no consolation prize!

So it pains me a little bit to share this recipe–not because it’s not AMAZING–but I like basking in the “ooohing” and “ahhing” I get every time I serve this dessert.  People naturally assumed I meticulously crafted the dessert or exerted myself doing so.  Ummm…not so much.

This is soooooooooooooooooooo easy!  It barely takes anytime and in my opinion?  It’s almost fool proof.  Try it.  Your guests will be left stunned at how amazing these are…and you’ll be left with energy to actually enjoy their company.

As a side note, I did make some Chocolate Lava/Godiva Cakes this Christmas for my boss (it was his Secret Santa Gift!) that were out of this world.  Recipe will come soon!

Individual Soft Centered Chocolate Cake (Molten Chocolate Cake)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
  • 8 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks only
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cake flour

Directions

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler. Preheat oven to 450°F.  Whip eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer for 10 minutes on high speed.
  2. Fold melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture. Fold in flour just until combined.
  3. Butter and sugar four 6-ounce ramekins, then spoon mixture into ramekins.
  4. Bake for about 9–10 min or just until the top and sides are set.   The center will be quite soft.
  5. Let cake sit out of the oven for about 2 minutes, then unmold onto a plate.
  6. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, fruit–or whatever you please.
  7. Enjoy!
Original Recipe from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

I really tried to do that marathon of cookie baking that bloggers are all about during the holidays.  It started out ahead of pace–making two cookies in the first week.  And well, that was it until the week of Christmas.  What can I say other than it was a lot of poor planning and procrastination on my part. Next year! Next year, I’ll have a whole menu of cookies set up and I too will be one of the awesome bloggers who offer up a handful of cookies for you try BEFORE the holidays end. Well, it’s a good thing these cookies are scrumptious and can be eaten anywhere, anytime, and anyplace.

I will say this first–I’ve never been a fan of chocolate on chocolate cookies such as this one.  It’s always been a death-by-chocolate issue to me. I love chocolate, but a good cookie/dessert has to offer more than just chocolate decadence.  And well, these cookies definitely do.  They’re chewy and soft.  They have an incredibly smooth chocolate flavor.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that this cookie is deliciously versatile.  Ice cream cookie sandwich, anyone? I know, what cookie wouldn’t pair wonderfully with vanilla ice cream.  I’m just gonna have to ask you to trust me on this one. It’s amazing!  The slight bitterness of chocolate with vanilla ice cream is simple, yes, but still one of the most comforting desserts to serve up on a cold, rainy day.

Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes ~20 cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa (I used Dutch-processed chocolate. I’ve also used Hershey’s special dark)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening, sugar, water and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time, blend until combined.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and beat just until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake at for 6-9 minutes taking care not to overbake them.  Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the pan before transferring to wire rack to cool.
–This is an old recipe I printed off while in college…I have no idea where it originally came from!

 

First things first–Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  I sure did!  Lots of friends and family–and I’m officially tired!  My kitchen is a mess after a week’s worth of baking–but I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas treats!  I wish I could show you how many boxes of butter I went through this Christmas.

Prebaked cookies

 

I love these cookies with a passion.  They’re amazing–and they don’t even have a hint of chocolate in them.  Says something, doesn’t it?  My sister in law first introduced them to me when I was just a kid–a good 15-16 years ago.  (Oh my gosh! That makes me sound/feel so old!  Bygones.)  To this day, they are still one of my favorite wintertime treats.  Call it nostalgia if you want–because it’s certainly 15% of why I love these things so much–but the bulk of it certainly rests on the fact that these are just pure sweet butter balls of goodness.

After rolling in sugar...you can see the warmth turns the sugar into a light shell.

 

I made three batches of this for my coworkers this year for Christmas.  Time consuming? You bet.  Getting to taste test a few cookies while dusting in powdered sugar? Sooo worth it.  And well, I love watching Mike giddily eating cookies with his coffee while flying his modified indoor helicopter.  Oh, and Mike is my fiance–not my son.

Snowball Cookies

makes approximately 12-16 cookies

Ingredients

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 milk
3/4  cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cups finely chopped nuts (I like almonds)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (or enough for rolling)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat (I LOVE my silpat!).
  2. In a stand mixer (or hand mixer if you don’t have one), cream butter and sugar until mixture becomes a pale yellow (about 5 minutes)
  3. Add milk and vanilla. Mix well.
  4. Blend in flour, cornstarch and nuts.
  5. Chill dough in fridge for about an hour.  This will make the dough firm enough for you to roll into balls.
  6. Once chilled, you can roll dough in bite-sized balls.
  7. Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes.  Cookie bottoms should be golden and cookies will be firm (though still fragile) to the touch.
  8. Carefully remove cookies and transfer to cooling rack. Allow cookies to cool slightly.
  9. Now, roll each cookie in powdered sugar. Make sure cookies are covered well.

When done correctly, once cookie is cooled, the slightly melted powdered sugar will have formed a wonderfully tasty shell.

Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Pound cake, pound cake, pound cake. I bet most of you immediately thought of good ole Sara Lee.  I know I do, because up until a few years ago, it was the only pound cake I’ve ever had.  I know…weird.  Pound cake is delicious but we all know that it’s one of life’s indulgences you can often live without.  Pound cake= pound of butter.   Yeah, work that off your gut!  But alas, this is a baking blog, the heck with fitness.  And well…ahem…I’m the last person in the world to tell anyone what’s healthy and what not. Have you seen the amount of butter in my fridge?

Well, pound cake just happens to be my mom’s favorite.  She’s not much for sweets, but pound cake has always been her weakness.  And of course, when she’s in the mood, it’s off to Albertson’s for a box of Sara Lee’s scrumptious frozen pound cake.  We were having a few friends over to admire our Christmas tree (it’s the first real tree I’ve ever had and it’s amazing!)  and I don’t know how or why, but I decided pound cake would make for a great tree-loving dessert.  Mike’s reaction?  “Ooohhh pound cake. I’ll pick up Sara Lee’s on the way home.”  In the second of madness, he must have forgotten who he was talking too.

So off to my computer to go through the hundreds of recipes I have bookmarked for a rainy day–and lo and behold–found one in the first 10 minutes.   Met with rave reviews by Gourmet magazine and Epicurious.com subscribers, Elvis Presley’s Favorite Pound Cake on the surface was everything I wanted.

And Elvis Presley, you did not fail me.  This oh-so-delicious recipe has an amazing tight crumb.  Tender, buttery, and rich–everything you’d come to expect in a pound cake.   Simply some of the best pound cake I’ve ever had–and if you read anything I’ve written here, I know it’s not much to go on.  I may not have had too much pound cake, but I know my baked goods 🙂  I really wish I had some berries and simple whipped cream on hand.  What a wonderful pairing that would be!  But I served it at the end of the night with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sauce.

However you decide to serve this, this is a great dessert that keeps extraordinarily well.   I gave 2/3’s of what was left away and have a few slices left at home. Dangerous, I know. We’re on day 4, and it’s still wonderfully moist.  Just keep in an air-tight container and you will be able to enjoy this dessert for up to 5 days.  And for you Sara Lee fanatics, I’ve read that the cake is wonderful frozen.

Elvis Presley’s Favorite Pound Cake

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for buttering pan
3 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) plus additional for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

Directions
Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven.

Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess flour. I used a 10 inch tube (bundt) pan.

Sift together sifted flour (3 cups) and salt into a bowl. Repeat sifting into another bowl (flour will have been sifted 3 times total).

Beat together butter (2 sticks) and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny.

Spoon batter into pan and rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles. Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely.

Original recipe from Epicurious (originally found in Gourmet Magazine)

Alton Brown, you can do now wrong. I love all the scientific explanations you provide for almost every step in a recipe.   I think you’re awesome.  That said, I really liked, but didn’t LOVE, your chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe.  This awkward moment will pass…and I still love you and will not hesitate to try one of your recipes, but your recipe just wasn’t THE chocolate chip cookie recipe for me.  Don’t get me wrong…it was delicious…but it just didn’t have the elements that I LOVE in a chocolate chip cookie.  I like my cookies a little thinner and softer.  I don’t know if I’d classify this as a “chewy” cookie, but it had a lovely bite–slight crunch on the outside and softer on the inside.

Alton’s recipe calls for the cookie dough to be chilled before baking–a method that will definitely produce much thicker cookie.  Michael liked this.  He enjoyed the denser and heartier cookie.  He loved the way it softened in the milk.   My friends inhaled them, and I sent the remaining six cookies with them.

These cookies are pretty awesome and were ideal for ice cream sandwiches.  I just happen to have a recipe I love and will turn to 90% of the time ( FYI, that recipe will come soon!)

Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Original Recipe from Alton Brown