Thursday, September 29, 2011


Last spring I had a weekly meeting with a particular group.  Nearly every week I would bring in a different treat to share with the group.  In fact, the one week I didn't have time to bake anything, I was shocked at the level of disappointment in the room.  I will meet with that same group on a weekly basis again this spring, but since a few members of the group have changed and there will be changes to what we accomplish in the spring, we had a planning meeting this fall.  I arrived to the meeting room early a couple weeks ago, placed a container of these blondies by the coffee and sodas and started setting up for the meeting.  A few moments later, one of the group members came in and the first thing he said was, "Where are your baked goods?"  I'm so glad I decided to keep the tradition going!

These are a very easy, very fast and very tasty treat.  It's a simple recipe but delivers a sweet, soft, cookie-like bar.  And the recipe is super-versatile. You can throw in whatever mix-ins you have on hand.  I used mini-chocolate chips, but M&Ms, nuts, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, dried fruit, just about anything will work with this recipe as a base.  As I struggled with what to make for the meeting, Beantown Baker rescued me with this recipe, since I already had all the ingredients.  Plus they were so easy--only one bowl, no mixer needed!  Whip these up the next time you need a last minute dessert--you'll have everything you need and no one needs to know this deliciousness was created at a moment's notice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banana Whoopie Pies

Bananapalooza seems to have ceased with the completion of these tasty treats.  Besides using the last of the freezer bananas (I know now that I've said that somehow more will appear), the result was a delicious whoopie pie with a great texture, the right density and a yummy icing.  I'm very picky about my whoopie pies and I like the cake part to have some oomph to it.  These are perfect.  The banana flavor isn't overwhelming and the cream cheese filling, while sweet, isn't sugary and dominant.  There was some concern about this tasting like banana bread with icing, but that was quickly dismissed after biting in to the thick cakes.

This recipe comes from Baking Bites and I'm thrilled to have stumbled upon it.  My love for whoopie pies and the plethora of bananas in my kitchen made this a no brainer.  One slight change to the recipe included dividing the sugar into part brown sugar and part white sugar.  I like the way brown sugar enhances the banana flavor and thought this would be a good idea. (Guess what?  I was right!)  I used a medium cookie scoop to size the cookies but I probably could have overfilled the scoop a bit more since I ended up with a few extra cakes, and therefore a couple extra whoopie pies.  Dave wasn't complaining when he polished off three of them for dessert. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zucchini Bread

It didn't occur to me until I found myself at the farmer's market faced with a bunch of beautiful zucchinis that I have never 1) made zucchini bread, or 2) eaten zucchini bread.  And this from the girl who used to eat the overabundance of squash from her grandfather's garden raw all throughout the harvest.  So I was determined and bought a nice two pound squash hoping that would be enough.  Turns out I got enough to make two of these delicious breads. I was surprised by the sweetness and enjoyed the toasted nuts scattered throughout.  It just looks like the perfect loaf right out of the oven and smelled heavenly while baking.  The moisture from the zucchini kept the bread from drying out and preserved the softness inside the crunchy edges.

Since I didn't have a go-to recipe, I turned to one of my favorite bloggers, Brown Eyed Baker.  She didn't fail me on this one, providing a simple and delicious recipe for a first timer like me.  I'd considered adding cranberries but stopped myself, wanting to appreciate the pure taste of a classic zucchini bread.  This recipe could easily be adapted for muffins or mini loaves, and you probably could throw in some additional mix-ins.  But the beauty and flavor of this recipe rests in the simplicity, so I actually think I may leave well enough alone. For once.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chunky Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's been a while since I've made cookies.  And since bananapalooza continued in my freezer, I thought these would be a nice treat to use some of them.  Dave, Cindy and I had a hard time describing these cookies.  They are delicious and soft, but the texture is unlike any other cookie I've made.  Moist and chewy aren't even the right words to describe them. They aren't cakey or airy.  They're supple and have a very nice mouthfeel (besides awesome flavor).  They're almost like a denser muffin top.  Ok, so since I can't describe them, you'll just have to make them yourself to figure out what I'm talking about!

The combination of banana, chocolate and walnuts isn't new but the delivery of these fine friends in a wonderful cookie is enjoyable.  Perhaps the texture came from the mixing method--I threw caution to the wind and followed the recipe by mixing all the "wet" ingredients (butter, sugar, bananas, eggs, vanilla) together without creaming the butter and sugar first.  It went against all my instincts but I had to try it out.  The original recipe, from Better Crocker, also called for vanilla frosting, but I don't think they need it.  I also didn't have it.  I did have a smattering of chocolate frosting and used it up on a few cookies, but they were fine without the extra decorations.  Even though I used my medium cookie scoop, I still got more cookies than the recipe called, so you could probably go bigger.  These would be a fun back to school treat, perfect for a bake sale, or tuck the recipe away for holiday baking.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

S'mores Brownies

Even though I cheated a little bit and used a prepackaged brownie mix, these were still awesome.  S'mores are always amazing (hello, have you tried the S'mores Cookies?) and I'd been eying this recipe for a while.  The circumstances by which this recipe came to be made in my kitchen are a little foggy but I do remember that friends were over when they were made and then more friends were invited to consume these gems.  And then I think I sent people home with them.  Because otherwise Dave and I would have eaten the entire pan for breakfast the next day.  If there were any left when we went to bed.

But I digress.  Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker knew what she was doing when she layered a wonderful graham crust with a brownie filling topped with gooey marshmallows and sprinkled with extra graham crackers to recreate the perfect version of a baked S'more.  The chocolate fudgy brownie far surpasses the milk chocolate bar and even when cooled the gooey marshmallow still reminds you of this campfire favorite.  Despite not making my brownies from scratch, I think they turned out awesome.  Feel free to try the recipe with a shortcut or as a real from-scratch treat.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chocolate Banana Bread

There's so much more than plain old banana nut bread.  Don't get me wrong, there is a place for it in this delicious world, but when I've got upwards of a dozen bananas to make into tasty treats, the last thing I want to do is make the same recipe over and over again.  Having such success with Peanut Butter Banana Bread, I wondered if I could come up with a recipe matching another great flavor with the bread, chocolate.  Turns out I was right and this tasty bread delivering a subtle sweet banana note in a soft chocolate loaf was definitely the way to go.

Using my new found knowledge of ratios, I was inspired by a recipe from Sandra Lee in the April 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine.  I like Sandra Lee's "semi-homemade" style, so her take on this bread made from a prepared muffin mix was interesting.  But her recipe didn't use any fresh bananas so it wasn't very useful for my banana conundrum.  So I broke down the elements and came up with this version, including a very light glaze (almost like a thin donut glaze).  The results a homemade version of Sandra's treat both adorable and more importantly, yummy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And the winner is...

Beth! (120and4thirds) Who clearly needs the Metric Wonder Cup since she's scraping by in the tools department with her comment:

Ooh I've always wanted one of those. I think we have two semi-complete sets of measuring spoons. Kind of pathetic though since five of us moved in together.

Beth, I'll be in touch with you by Monday to coordinate getting you your prize. 

Thanks everyone for commenting and reading!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This is so yummy, I had to make it twice in a week because Dave and I ate the first loaf so fast.  I found myself with an overabundance of bananas in the freezer (again) and although I did make a batch of my Banana Nut Bread, I wanted to try something different.  To the internet I went and stumbled upon another peanut butter and banana combo. This bread is moist, full of peanut butter flavor and the banana actually plays a supporting role.  The chopped peanuts are a great little surprise and the glaze brings it all together.

This recipe comes from Sweet Pea's Kitchen and I'm so glad I found it.  I altered the recipe slightly because I didn't have any ground flaxseed.  Since the flaxseed was used as a fat in this recipe, I replaced it with an additional 2 Tablespoons of butter.  The other thing I changed was to double the amount of chopped peanuts--2 Tablespoons just seemed like too few.  When I asked Dave if I should include the glaze, he gave me a resounding yes.  And later we both agreed that the bread just wouldn't be the same without the chopped peanuts and the glaze.  Since we ate the full loaf so quickly, I decided to make mini loaves, in the hope that I might be able to share some with friends.  One has made it out of the house so far.  We'll see about the rest.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tools of the Cookie Princess: Weights and Measures

Yes, I use all of the toys tools pictured above.

Baking is fun and yes in theory anyone can do it and the basic supplies will get you through a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But if you're serious and challenge yourself to make the perfect treat every time, then you probably are like me and have seemingly duplicate tools.  Why do I have so many measuring devices?  Well, because I bake a lot!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strawberry Margarita Mini Muffins

You know how for the past week you've been wondering what to do with the rest of that strawberry drink mix you bought for the Strawberry Margarita Cake (by the way, the definitive answer is add tequila and ice)?  Well you're in luck because I used up some of that mix to develop this tasty recipe for a wonderful batch of mini muffins that are the perfect size for this intensely flavored batter.

Why, yes, I did say I developed this recipe.  Earlier this year I picked up a copy of Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman.  This is a great book for bakers and cooks in general.  Ruhlman breaks down standard foods into their basic structures (i.e., muffins are just a combination of flour, liquid, egg and fat) and provides you with the ratio of each ingredient for a particular item. Then he tells you how to use those basic ratios to come up with your own recipes, using your own flavors. It's actually less of a recipe and more of an equation.  And for geeky bakers like me, it explains why I can add flour, milk, eggs and butter one way and get bread and then add those same ingredients another way and get pancakes.