Thursday, January 27, 2011

Banana Nut Bread

My winning banana bread

So I'm a bit delayed.

I will have you know that I did not delay the Bake-Off results because I was licking my wounds.  In fact, I rocked it (like you suspected any different).  After travelling, catching up on work and never having my recipes and my photos in the same place, I just lost track of time.  But here I am and I've got yummies.

The Banana Bread round of the Bake-Off was actually round 3, but I decided to start here.  It was a decisive victory in my favor, but that's not to say Amy's bread was bad.  My recipe, from a free set of recipe cards titled "Grandma's Kitchen: Treasured Family Recipes" is a standard Banana Bread recipe, including nuts and lots of flavor.  I added the leftover streusel topping from the Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins, for little extra texture and interest.  The recipe calls for heavy cream, but I use light and never noticed a difference.  I also add cinnamon.  The recipe calls for walnuts, but I've also used pecans.  If you like a soft banana bread with lots of banana flavor, this is the one.  My friend Keith begs for it--to the point he now gets it for Christmas. 

Amy's bread

Amy's bread, while delicious, just wasn't what I would classify as banana bread.  I would call it a breakfast bread to start, but I've been trying to come up with a better name for her.  It's a very healthy recipe, with flax seed, bran, zucchini, dried cranberries and of course, banana.  The bread is moist and delicious, but the other flavors meld with the banana in such a way, that it no longer fits the category.  You find yourself thinking, "this is a yummy bread, I even think I taste bananas in there."  I'll certainly get the recipe from her and share, but bottom line: I win.

Banana Nut Bread


5 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup light cream
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add sugars and beat well.  Scrape sides of bowl and add egg, egg whites, and vanilla.  Beat until well blended, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.  Add mashed banana and beat on high speed for 30 seconds.

I collect ripe bananas from our kitchen and put them in paper bag and then in the freezer until I have enough to make a few loaves of banana bread.  When I'm ready to use them, I put them in the microwave, peel and all, for 30 seconds.  Then I peel them into a bowl and mash them up a little bit (they are pretty much mashed after the microwave, but I mix in the liquid a little bit).  I haven't wasted an overripe banana in years.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.  Add flour mixture to banana mixture alternately with cream, ending with the flour mixture.  Add walnuts to batter and mix well.

Pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pan. 

At this point, you can sprinkle more nuts on top or some sort of streusel topping, or just let it be. 

Bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes.  I usually test the bread at the one hour mark, and then keep an eye on it.  The top of the loaf will crust and crack well before it's fully cooked on the inside, so don't be fooled.

Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

I use this same recipe for mini loaves, baking them a half dozen at a time for 20-25 minutes.  And for muffins, baking them for 15-18 minutes.

Makes 1 loaf, 6 mini loaves, or 18 muffins.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bake Off

I'm entering a Bake Off this weekend.

Don't get too excited.  It's a show down between my sister and I.  My brother instigated the battle, so we're obliging.  It should be fun and I am cautiously optimistic about my chances.

It's a three round competition.  Round one is a cookie, round two is banana bread and round three is the baker's choice dessert.  I have a feeling I could be screwed if she goes with a cake (I just can't live up to those decorating standards).  But hopefully my cookies and bread will save me.  And of course, I'll have to test her recipes myself, too.

I had a hard time deciding on my cookie, but I finally chose Peanutbutter Bombs, which I know you'll enjoy.  I also made Chocolate Chip Surprises, but Dave didn't think they were competition worthy.  And for my dessert of choice, I've committed to Whoopie Pies.

So I'm off for the weekend, travelling to the competition (and to see my family). I'll be back next week with the results and winning (hopefully) recipes!

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Monday, January 10, 2011

Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins

Well, you spoke and I answered.  It seems a lot of you are interested in muffins and breads.  So I'll start there, but I also have some cake, brownie and sweet treat recipes in mind.  I spent much of my Saturday afternoon scouring my dessert recipes for things I love to make and some I haven't even tried yet.

Like these.  I was flipping through my go-to muffin cookbook (Jean Childress' Country Kitchen Muffin Cookbook) to find a different recipe and these caught my eye.  So I pulled out the muffin tin (er, muffin stone?) and here we are.  These aren't very sweet and will get a lot of flavor from the jam you use.  I chose strawberry preserves, but you could make these with anything--raspberry jam, apricot preserves, orange marmalade.  I don't see why you couldn't use grape jelly if you were so inclined.  The one change I would make to the ingredients would be to add a teaspoon of extract to punch up the flavor.  The muffin looks light and airy, but is deceivingly dense, which was a surprise since I sifted the ingredients.

Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins

2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup strawberry jam (or jam/preserves of your choice)

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and sour cream and mix together.  In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) together.  Add to butter/sour cream mixture and gently combine. 

Divide half the batter among a greased 12 cup muffin tin.  I used a medium cookie scoop, putting about one scoop of batter into each muffin cup.  Shake the muffin tin gently to spread the batter into the pan--it's a stiff dough, so you may want to use a spatula to encourage the dough to fill each cup.

Drop 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of jam into each muffin cup. 

Top with remaining batter (another medium cookie scoopful).  Sprinkle with struesel topping (below) and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Muffins are done with a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or they are firm, but spring back when touched and are gently browned. 

Allow to cool for a few minutes in muffin tin (this give you crunchy edges), then remove to cooling racks.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze.

Struesel Topping

1/3 cup butter, softened
13 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and using a pastry blender, mix together by cutting in the butter.  the result will be a crumbly mixture of butter bits.  Sorry I don't have a picture--I spaced on this one.  Which is unfortunate because I actually thought this made way too much topping, so I saved the remaining and used in on my banana bread recipe (yes, I'll share it with you!).  So that means I forgot to take a picture of the bowl twice.

Makes 12 muffins.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tell Me What You Want To See

In an effort to expand the blog into recipes you actually want to see, I came up with a little survey for you to give me your feedback.  Let me know what you want me to make!  And if you have something specific in mind that you want me to try or find a recipe for, put it in the comments section.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Expansion Decision

Hello again and Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays were filled with happiness and of course cookies.  As the flour has settled in my kitchen for the past few weeks, I've taken a bit of a hiatus in the baking department.  Not to say that I haven't baked at all, but I now that the cookie season has ended and my freezer space returns to normal, no new cookies have been tested in my house.  Since being home for two weeks gave me ample opportunity to cook, I tried my hand at cooking some actual meals, and healthy ones at that.  But for the most part, when it comes to cooking "real" food, I'm not incredibly adventurous at concocting my own recipes and pretty much just follow what someone else tells me to do. Pairing flavors or making sure the whole dish is cooked through is something I leave to someone else.  And when it comes to doing exactly what I'm told--I do a pretty good job.

Don't think you'll be able to come here and find recipes for dinner--I really don't want this to be a meal-centered cooking blog.  Instead, I want to expand my baking focus and share with you some of the other things I enjoy making--muffins, breads, brownies, and cupcakes.  Having been accused of being a one-trick pony when it comes to making sweet stuff, this may even inspire me to branch out into other desserts and treats.  I promise you won't find beautifully (and painstakingly) decorated cakes--remember how I don't have the patience for that with the Gingerbread cookies?--but you'll probably find a few yummy treats to share at your next bake sale, pot luck, or to just savor after a great dinner (or lunch or breakfast--I don't judge).

Since making you wait 10 months until the cookie process starts again would just be torture, this will be a way to explore new ideas.  And of course, we'll have to test new cookie recipes (my husband might kill me if he had to wait that long for another fresh baked cookie) and perhaps even be inspired by a dessert to figure out how to make it into a cookie.

I have a few ideas already and hope to get started this weekend with some Banana Nut Bread and maybe some Oatmeal Raspberry-Filled Muffins.  And I'm pulling together a list of some of my favorite tools and utensils, so for those of you with gift cards and Christmas cash--stay tuned!

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess