Category Archives: Sweets

Banana Bread

Banana bread is wonderfully delicious and easy to whip up, especially if you keep extra ripe bananas frozen in your freezer. This last time, I forgot to take my bananas out early, so I “speed defrosted” them by sticking the frozen bananas on top of the preheating stove. By the time I got everything else together, they were good and soft.

My grandmum always seems to have a loaf around her house. Whenever we’d visit there would be bread sitting on the table, or if we were really lucky, a loaf for each of us to take home. Her bread was always wonderfully moist. She swears her secret is adding a tablespoon of water to the recipe. So, every time I make a loaf, I think of her. I used to make her recipe, but I began to tweak it as it calls for vegetable shortening and three sources of sodium (baking soda, baking powder, salt).

I made one loaf of banana bread about a week ago, with only a few tweaks to my grandmother’s recipe (butter instead of crisco, no water added, less sugar) and it didn’t turn out so hot. It was slightly burnt (even though the recipe said 50-60 minutes) at 50 minutes of cooking and tasted “meh.”  Plus, it was better on the “health” factor but still rather low with all that sodium. Banana bread’s hard to mess up so long as it isn’t brick-quality over burnt so I still ate it, but I figured I could do better. After consulting Simply Recipes banana bread recipe, I came to a happy (and delicious) medium between her recipe and my grandmother’s, which is detailed below.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted or softened to room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt (less than 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cups walnuts (optional, but very yummy)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mash the bananas with the butter and sugar.
  3. Mix in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together separately.
  5. Add the flour mixture into the sugary eggy banana butter mush and stir with a spoon until just combined.
  6. Fold in nuts if you’re including them.
  7. Pour into a loaf pan that you’ve sprayed with vegetable oil. These can also easily be muffins, but baking time will be severely reduced.
  8. Bake the banana bread for 45 to 60 minutes. Test with a toothpick at 45 minutes to see if its done (mine was and looked beautiful!).

Enjoy.

 

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Energy bars

I recently went on a hike and whipped up this batch of energy bars to eat for breakfast while on the trail. This recipe is a riff off of another recipe I found online. They were quite tasty and filling, which is perfect for a hike or go-to snack/pick me up. I took the Whole Grain Gourmet’s specific recipe and pared it down to its essence.

Once you make these, you’ll instantly see modifications you can make to it to suit your taste. Feel free to experiment- more peanut butter, or more honey. I would’ve added chocolate in it or melted on top if I had any on hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup nuts (your choice- walnuts, peanuts, almonds, a mix or one kind)
  • 1 cup dried fruits (I used dried cranberries, strawberries, blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup Bob’s 12 grain cereal (or another variety, or just grind up oats)
  • 2 cup rolled oats (mine was a rye, oats, barley, wheat 4 grain medley)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Toast the oats under the broiler. Be very mindful you don’t end up with burnt oats. Stay close to the stove and begin peeking the second you smell them.
  2. The recipe I based my energy bars off of said to “pulse dried fruits to mine.” I found that trying to pulse my dried fruit lead to my food processor emitting an ear shattering noise with little mincing happening. So, I instead took out my handy chef’s knife and got to hand chopping.
  3. I also chopped my nuts up by hand.
  4. Combine the dried fruits, nuts, and rolled oats together in a bowl (leave out the cereal).
  5. Boil 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan. Add the 12-grain cereal. Let it rest two minutes (I turned off the heat but left the pan on the burner).
  6. Add the peanut butter, honey, salt, and vanilla to the pan with the cereal. Turn on heat to low and stir for a few minutes until thoroughly combined.
  7. Combine the wet mix with the dry mix. I got right in there with my hands as a fork and/or spoon were not doing the job after a while.
  8. Press into an 8×8 pan (no need to grease it first). I first used my hands to press the mix into the pan. Then I used the back of a spoon to press and level it some more. You want to ensure it’s a compacted, solid bar.
  9. Take a sheet of wax paper and use that to press down on the top and even out the energy bar mixture.
  10. Let it firm up for a few hours at room temperature before cutting.
  11. Cut into whatever size bars you’d like. It makes at least 8 really large bars.

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Apple Cake

I’ve made this cake about three or four times in as many weeks. Every time it has come out quite tasty. I’ve used both a bundt pan and a pyrex 9×13 to cook it up. I’ve tossed some of the apples on the bottom of the pan and put the rest in batter, or mixed them all in the batter. Basically, it’s a hard cake to screw up. Cake’s a bit of a misnomer as it’s more like a delicious apple muffin. Slather some frosting on it, either a glaze or some cream cheese frosting if you want a more cake-like experience. I imagine it could also be turned into muffins easily, just adjust the bake time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 1 Cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp flax meal (optional)
  • 2 3/4 Cups flour
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1 Tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 Tsp cloves
  • 1 Cup walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup dried blueberries (optional)
  • 4-6 Apples, diced (any good cooking apples- I’ve used cortlands and crispins before)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop the apples and coat with a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Mix the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.
  4. Combine the flax (optional), flour, salt, and spices together in a separate bowl.
  5. Mix the flour mixture into the egg and sugar mixture until combined.
  6. Stir in the walnuts and dried berries (optional).
  7. Fold in the chopped apples.
  8. Pour into an oiled 9×13 pan or a bundt pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Try not to eat it all in one day, it’s that tasty!

 

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Rum Cake

This cake was a huge hit at my friends’ party last night. Based on its deliciousness, one friend quipped that I should open my own bakery.  I don’t have the wherewithal to do all that noise, but bottom-line, the cake rocks. Make this cake when you’re having a gathering otherwise you’ll want to devour it all yourself.

I based my glaze drizzling process on what was detailed on Pioneer Woman’s blog, but my recipe was a modification of several recipes I found online.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 4 Large eggs
  • 2 Tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 Cups dark rum (I used Sailor Jerry’s)
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 1/2 Tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 Tsp salt
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • Rum glaze

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs, vanilla. Blend to combine.
  4. Add in the rum and blend until combined.
  5. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.
  6. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the batter, alternating between the two (adding about 1/3 each go), beginning and ending with flour. Blend on low after each addition until just combined (a few seconds each).
  7. Pour into greased bundt pan.
  8. Bake for 50-60 minutes. If you insert a toothpick into the cake, it should come out clean.
  9. While the cake is still in the pan, slowly drizzle 1/3 of the rum glaze over the cake, giving it time to seep in. Let it soak for 5 minutes and then invert the cake onto a cake platter or plate. Be sure whatever surface has a sufficient rim to trap in the rum glaze that will spill out! (I did not, and ended up with glaze spilled all over my counter and floor. I ended up sticking the cake in a pyrex pie dish).
  10. Poke all over the cake with the tines of a fork. Then slowly drizzle the glaze all over the cake.
  11. Enjoy!

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Carrot Cake

I made this cake for a friend’s party, but it smelled so good coming out of the oven I wanted to scarf it down immediately, sans frosting.  A lot of carrot cake recipes have nuts or pineapple or applesauce in them.  This recipe is simple and to the point: a delicious cake. It also makes great cupcakes (just begin checking done-ness at around 15 minutes) or can be doubled to make a large 9 x 13 x 2 rectangular cake.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the two eggs.  Add sugars, vanilla, and oil.  Stir to combine.
  3. Add the grated carrots to the wet mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Gently stir in the flour mixture into the wet mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 9 x 2″ pan.
  7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

 

Frost with a mildly sweet cream cheese frosting, like my “Good with Everything” cream cheese frosting and enjoy!

 

 

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Gram’s Apple Pie

A 3 pound bag of Macintosh apples was calling my name late on a Saturday night.  I pulled out my recipe box and realized in a frantic panic that I had “Gram’s stir and roll pie crust” but did not have the recipe for “Gram’s apple pie.”  I’ve watched my grandmother make it nearly every time I’ve gone to visit and I’ve watched my mother make it numerous times.  Despite this extensive firsthand experience with how to make the magic happen, I’d forgotten half the important details.  I couldn’t recall if it was only brown sugar that was used, and how much, and precisely how long and at what temperature the pie should be baked.

Fearful that it may already be too late to salvage my plans to make pie that night, I called my mother.  She sounded groggy (it was midnight after all) but she fortunately had enough wits about her to tell me all the important details.  I’m sure I’ve called for this pie recipe several times before.  This time I’ve written it down.

Apple pie is one of those recipes that takes longer to type out the break down 0f the steps involved in assembly than it takes to make.  My recipe says: “cinnamon, br sug 1/2c-1c, let sit a while, lil flour if soupy, 400 degrees, 45m-1h, pan under for drippings.” This was the boiled down essence of my conversation with my mother and I know precisely what this means.  Unfortunately it does not translate well to others.  D would chide the fact that “apples” are not listed.  I’d argue it’s an apple pie, of course there are apples so there’s no need to write it in (just like my hummus recipe does not list chick peas).  How many apples? It’s also irrelevant to list exactly since it is as many as you need to over stuff your pie shell, which is equal to an eyeballed guess while filling a bowl as to how many you think you can squeeze in there before you’ll have problems.

Ingredients:

  • pie crust (See previous post for easy stir and roll crust recipe)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of apples (equal to roughly 8-10 apples)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 tbsp flour

Directions:

  1. Peel the apples and slice into bite size chunks into a large bowl.
  2. Add the brown sugar to the apples and stir well.
  3. Add the cinnamon to the apples and stir well.
  4. Let the apples sit for at least half an hour and up to several hours, stewing in the cinnamon, sugar, and their own juices.  This is what makes the pie extra yum!
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Prepare your pie crust (this will depend on the type of crust you’re using).  Frozen crusts work in a pinch, but nothing beats the taste of homemade.  A decadent butter crust would be awesome, but the easy stir and roll recipe from my previous post is a good standby, no frills, “I want pie now” type crust.
  7. With the stir and roll: mix all the ingredients together. Use your hands to press the dough together and ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed and incorporated.  Squish it into a ball and cut it in half with a knife.
  8. Flatten 1/2 the dough into a hockey puck disk between two sheets of wax paper. Roll out the dough until it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pie dish.
  9. Remove the wax paper from one side of the dough, slide your hand underneath the other sheet of wax paper and plop the rolled dough into the pie dish.  Remove the other sheet of wax paper from the top of the dough.
  10. Using the tines of a fork, poke holes around the bottom and sides of the bottom pie crust.
  11. Check the apple mixture.  Give it a good stir to see how much soupy liquid has accumulated.  Stir a tablespoon or two of flour into the apple mixture if it’s soupy.
  12. Pour the apples into the waiting pie crust, mounding them towards the center.
  13. Roll out the other half of the pie crust as before.  Plop it on top of the pie. Cut off any excess that overhangs the sides. Use your hands to pinch the top crust to the bottom crust, then go around the perimeter with a fork, pressing the crusts together.  Cut some air vents in the top of the pie.
  14. Place in the oven, with an empty baking pan underneath to catch any drippings.
  15. Cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes to 1 hour until the top is beautifully browned, the mixture is good and bubbly and the apples are tender.

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Pumpkin Bread

My CSA is over, but I still have a coffee table piled high with squash and root vegetables in my fridge.  Fall in Boston settled in while I was vacationing the past week in Peru.  Inspired by the sudden crisp air and mounds of dried leaves that signal a New England fall, the first curcubita to fall under my knife was my cute little sugar pumpkin.  I turned him into two loaves of bread and am roasting his seeds as I type.

Pumpkin bread is in the same bread family as banana bread and zucchini bread.  The pumpkin adds moisture and a little bit of flavor to a loaf that is endlessly customizable.  I wanted an intensely spiced bread, easy on the sugar, with no nuts this time.  My results were not as spicy as I would have liked, so I upped the amount of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger listed in the recipe (I used tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, and 1/2 tsp cloves). D thought the bread needed to be sweeter, and one of the recipes I based this upon did use 3 cups for two loaves, but I think it was sweet enough.  Slather it in butter or devour it plain, this bread is always a good snack.

Sugar pumpkins are almost to dear to hack open

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 3 tsp ginger
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)

Directions:

One sugar pumpkin will yield 2-3 cups of puree.  Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp (set aside if saving the seeds). Place cut side down on a baking sheet and cook for 30-50 minutes at 350 degrees until tender.  Scoop out the cooked flesh and puree in a blender or food processor. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and all the spices.
  3. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.  Add the oil, water, and pumpkin.  Stir to combine.
  4. Pour the bowl of dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the batter equally into two lightly greased bread pans.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy warm or cold!

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