Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Banana Bread Hunt

The last time I made banana bread I made four different recipes in one afternoon.  Crazy?  Well, yes I suppose it was.  I'm not a big fan of the stuff, although Hubby likes it.  I had a LOT of bananas in my freezer because I like to have fresh ones in the house, but inevitably a few times a month one or two don't get eaten and I won't throw them away.  Two or three times a year I try to make something with them and that time it was banana bread.  Well, today is my second go at the stuff in a year.  It's not like I dislike banana bread, I just haven't found a recipe that really makes me glad to have it on a plate in my own kitchen.  Until today.

My dear friend Lisa has the most incredible blog of all my friends who are bloggers.  (I'm saying, take her seriously folks and you will have fun and lots of successful recipes.) She was kind to me when I mentioned I needed a banana bread recipe need.  Turns out she has a trick technique for banana bread.  You ready?

She whips the bananas.

Seriously?  Yes, seriously.

You will find her recipe here.

Now I will tell you that I wish I had not been so tired when I was making this bread.  I multiplied the recipe by four and by the time I had whisked my bananas, gotten the fluffy goodness out of the mixing bowl so I could do the next thing I forgot to take a picture of how AMAZING it looked.  If I had not been tired I would be telling you how easily this bread gets made.  Instead, I'm just going to tell you that I'm actually thrilled to have half a loaf leftover from my usual order.  Well, now it's half a loaf with one less slice.  Giggle.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Momma's Carrot Cake Revisited... getting glazed over!

You may already know that carrot cake is my hubby's favorite and that I make mine from Miz Evelyn's recipe.  (If somehow you didn't know this, let me encourage you to check out the recipe for youself, remarkably easy and a carrot cake worth eating.)

I have always used Miz Evelyn's recipe for cream cheese pineapple frosting for this cake but hubby told me about one of his sister's rebellious ways and her talent with baking caught my attention.  She sometimes makes an orange glaze for her carrot cake.  He's been talking about it for about two months, almost like he knew I was going to be making a carrot cake.  Almost like it might be something I would do because it's his birthday!  Happy birthday, dear Hubby.  I am very grateful to have you in my life, that would be true even if I didn't get an awesome recipe for carrot cake from your mom.

This glaze is so easy, it seems silly to write a recipe, and yet, I felt it was important to make a note of it, if not for you sake, for mine.

Smart Sister's Inspired Orange Glaze

1 c. powdered sugar
1 orange

Put powdered sugar in a bowl.

Finely grate the rind off the orange, do not go into the white pith.  Your whole kitchen will smell lovely while you do this.  When finished you should have a pale orange, not a white one.

Into a separate bowl squeeze half of the orange, you can do both but I did not use the full amount of juice from the first half.

Mix grated rind with sugar.  Stir well.  Add 2-3 spoonfuls of juice and stir, from here you keep adding  small amounts and stirring well.  When it looks like you no longer have a larger amount of white stuff and instead have a remarkably small orange puddle you'll know you're getting there.  Check the fluidity, it's glaze-y enough for you?  Some people like it drippy, some just want it to be like frosting on the top.  Hubby liked it dripping down so that's what I chose to do.

This glaze will be used in the future, maybe on pound cake, cookies and scones seem like a strong possibility.

Baker's One Bowl Cream Cheese Brownies

I have had a pile of cream cheese.  I don't really know how.  I think I started buying it Valentine's Day and kept buying it with great prices into the spring.  What was left was going out of date next week so I've been making a lot of things with cream cheese to use it up!

Baker's Chocolate brownies are the best homemade brownies around, in my humble opinion.  Back when my daughter was a bit younger one of her babysitters (and a hero in my heart) used her evening in my kitchen to show my girl how it's done.  Ever since then, that is the recipe I use, thank you Nicole!  I've done a lot of add-ins, chocolate chips, nuts, M&Ms, salted caramel have all happened in my kitchen but this weekend I am making their cream cheese brownies to use up the last few boxes of cream cheese in my fridge.


Baker's Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies

Brownie Batter:

4 oz Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate (one small box or 4 blocks of chocolate from a large box)
1.5 sticks of butter
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. flour

Cream Cheese Topping:

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. flour

HEAT oven to 350°F.
LINE 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Grease foil.
MICROWAVE chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add 2 cups sugar; stir until well blended. Add 4 eggs; mix well. Stir in 1 cup flour until well blended; spread into prepared pan.
BEAT cream cheese and remaining sugar, egg and flour in same bowl with whisk until well blended. Spoon over brownie batter; swirl gently with knife.
BAKE 35 to 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

I confess, I use their directions directly from their website, but I listed the ingredients a little differently, splitting them for the two different elements, it's easier for me to follow that way and I hope it helps for you.
I bake my brownies in a sheet pan, rather than the 13x9 described here, and instead of foil lining I use Silpat but I *ABSOLUTELY DO* butter my pan heavily especially on the sides.  I promise you, your brownies will come out beautifully if you line and butter your pan and liner.  One the pan has cooled a bit you just lift out the whole brownie (For a moment you can call the whole pan's worth A brownie!) and set it on a rack or board to allow it to finish cooling if you can bear the waiting!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Truth About Buttermilk... oh, and my personal biscuit recipe

What a strange title for a baking blog entry.  Well, perhaps I should have written that it's MY truth.  Well, I found it out on my own, and then in sharing it with others found out that lots of bakers already practice this and wondered why more don't speak about it.  

Can you see the dates on these bottles?  I used the January 26 bottle just last week and opened the February 11 bottle this morning.  Yes, it is May 13 as I am publishing this post.  I promise you, buttermilk is not really tasting like buttermilk until it has gone past it's sell by date.  Isn't that crazy?  

My memere, who lived in the same town I did when I was growing up, was a great cook and baker, but I don't remember her ever using buttermilk.  Certainly none of the recipes I have from her used it.  On the other hand, my grandma who lived on the rural edge of a suburban town in New York, came from Georgia and she used buttermilk in her recipes.  I remember what it used to taste like and was very surprised when I was a young adult and couldn't find buttermilk that tasted like Grandma's.  Well, I think she might have been getting it from a local dairy that actually made butter and had buttermilk to sell.  That's not what we get to buy in the grocery stores these days even though I now live in Georgia.  What we get is cultured milk.  Oh, it's a little thicker than what sweet milk drinkers are used to but it does not smell or taste like buttermilk, not really.  Well, yes, it will, just not the day you buy it.  Seriously.  Go buy a bottle, put it in your fridge and wait a month.  Then buy another bottle and hold them side by each.  The bottle that has been sitting in your fridge will separate (assuming you have a transparent bottle to observe this change) and when you open it, it will smell like buttermilk should  smell, tastes like it should taste and I promise you, it gives GREAT flavor to your baked goods.  In all the years I've been aging my own buttermilk I have had exactly ONE bottle go bad before I used it in total.  Depending on what I'm doing, I've had buttermilk sit for 3-4 months.  How did I know it went bad?  Um, there was green stuff growing in it and it didn't smell like buttermilk.  Honestly, even an open bottle is good, so if you make my biscuits and have outdated buttermilk leftover, don't worry about it, put the cap on and put it back in the fridge.  On the other hand you might need to make another batch of biscuits tomorrow because these won't last!

Now let me confess, my biscuit recipe is essentially the recipe that is on the bag of White Lily Flour, but I had the recipe in my box, copied from a grandma who also used White Lily until she moved to New York and couldn't get it anymore.  It makes me wonder if White Lily was publishing it's recipe on flour sacks of the 1930's?  Somehow I don't think so.  On the other hand, I will say the grandma recipe was not written as recipes are written today with amounts of ingredients (carefully measured, LOL) and then instructions.  It was more of a technique note written for me.  I'm giving you what works today.  

Pixie's Biscuits (Who knew Pixie was in love with a White Lily?)

2 cups of White Lily Self-Rising Flour (or see the note below)
1/4 cup of Crisco (grandma used lard, bacon grease or butter, I use butter flavored Crisco)
2/3 to 3/4 cup of buttermilk

Heat your oven to 500 F
Measure the flour into a bowl, cut up your shortening (yes I buy the sticks) and toss it in the flour, then using your hands began working it in, you could use what is called a pastry knife but I promise, this goes easier with your hand and if you work quickly the shortening will not melt and if you're at all nervous about it when you're done, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Now here comes the difficult part, add 2/3 cup of buttermilk and stir.  I like to use a spoon for this stirring, but grandma continued to use her hands.  If it seems stiff add more milk.  This will vary day to day based on things like humidity and the thickness of your buttermilk.  (The older it is, the thicker the buttermilk gets.)  You just want to be able to get this all together and then lightly dust your counter with flour, turn out the dough and pat it out.  Some recipes I read say you should go to 1/2" thick but I like thick biscuits. I pat mine out to 3/4"-1" unless I'm making mini-biscuits.  There are some truths to be considered here.  If you want to separate your biscuits and let them get crispy on the sides as well as the top and bottom you'd better use a circle cutter.  It could be a glass from your cabinet if you don't have a biscuit cutter.  On the other hand, if you want to lay them close together so they will rise higher you could do a square and cut once and be done.  This time I made very large circles, almost 3".  You gather up the scraps when you're done cutting, and push them together as gently as possible making them another batch to be cut through.  You'll find the more you handle your dough the difference in how the biscuit turns out.  I can tell biscuits from the first cut and those from the third cut after baking.   

Places these on a baking sheet, either separated or almost touching together depending on how you want them to rise.  Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, perhaps a little more if you're baking them together.  When they are done they should be lightly brown on the top.  Yes, really, that's all you have to see.  

NOTE:  If for some reason you don't have self-rising flour simply make your own.  Use the softest flour you can find but I promise you I have made biscuits with King Arthur flour and they get eaten up, too.  

Self-Rising Flour

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder

Whisk these together and you're ready to make biscuits! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Orange Poppy Seed Poundcake

This recipe caught my attention and I jumped right into it.  I often find recipes online and think "I will make this someday.  I save it or Pinterest it for a day when I need inspiration.  This recipe came across my desk this week and I said "Oh, yes, I'm making this for Mother's Day"  Funny how something can grab you.  Now that I've typed it in I can tell you I'm glad to have it in my computer for future use.

Making it was easy, last night I quadrupled the recipe, I didn't have any trouble with it AND I wound up with five loaves, not four!  Bonus bread is always a good thing.  Ordinarily I would wrap up the extra loaf and freeze it.  Every once in a while I have a reason I don't want to or can't cook for my weekend commitment and I take out the "extras" in the freezer and make some mixed plates of goodies.  Not everything freezes well, but I have a feeling the olive oil in this recipe would rescue it.  On the other hand, I have a neighbor who was very sweet to me last week and I think I will wrap it up and bring it to her in gratitude.  Thanks, Hannah, I am blessed to have you next door!

I hope you all have a wonderful Mother's Day.

Orange Poppy Seed Poundcake
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup full-fat greek yogurt
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large orange, zested and juiced (see note in recipe about how to do these)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). 
  • Generously grease a large loaf pan.  

  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt.

  • In another bowl measure the sugar and grate the orange zest right over the sugar.  (Yes, it does make a difference.)  When you are done rub the zest into the sugar.  This helps to make your whole kitchen smell good and it changes your sugar from white to a soft orange color. Juice the orange and strain it.  You will need half the juice that remains for this recipe.  See a note about what to do with the rest below. 

  • In a large bowl whisk together the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. Add 1/2 of the orange juice, and stir to combine. Add the sugar mixture and stir. 

  • Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones.  Start by adding half the flour mixture and whisking it in.  Add the second half and when it is almost all mixed in, use a rubber spatula and add the olive oil.  Mix it only until you are sure it is combined.  

  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and tap it on the counter to be sure any air bubbles come to the top.  

  • Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top is golden and you don't get crumbs on a toothpick.  I highly recommend you take the cake to a cooling rack and let is set for at least 15 minutes.  When you can handle the "ears" of the pan without a pot holder, run a knife around the edges of the pan.  To release this cake you may need to flip it over, the cake in your hand and use the knife to pry it from one of the short sides.  (I made five of these last night in very well buttered pans, so I am speaking from experience, every one of them came out whole but each of them needed a little encouragement just as described.)  Place the cake back on the rack and let it cool completely.  

  • NOTE:  What to do with the leftover orange juice?  Well, if you're a drinker you might just add some ice and a little vodka, especially if like me you don't need every baked good to be sweeter than it already is.  On the other hand, you could take some confectioner's sugar, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and use it to glaze the loaf.  Either way, enjoy!