Baking

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread

Baking options have been slim lately because my kitchen stock is nearly depleted. I’ve now used up the last of my all purpose flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, powdered sugar, dark cocoa powder, and probably some other ingredients I can’t remember at the moment. I was actually down to my last half a stick of butter, but I broke down and bought some more on my way home from work last night. I’m sorry, but a kitchen without butter is not a kitchen I want to be in.

The last time I went grocery shopping, I thought I was in the mood for bananas, but as it turns out, I wasn’t. Which is how I still had 4 bananas left a week and a half later. Banana bread it is! It took some searching to find a recipe that worked with the supplies I had on hand, but I think I found a good one. It turns out I didn’t even need the butter I bought, so I can keep it for another recipe in the future.

I’m surprised that a recipe that only called for a tablespoon of oil (I used butter because I didn’t have any oil) tasted so good. I’m used to banana breads needing a stick or more, so this one from All Recipes was a nice change. I made a few alterations, so here is my version of the recipe.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread

(Yields 1 9×5 loaf pan)

Wet Ingredients

1/3 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 large bananas

1 tablespoon melted butter

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash of cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 375*F. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Stir the skim milk and lemon juice together in a glass measuring cup; let stand until curdled, about 30 minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar together with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  4. Mix in the mashed bananas, milk mixture, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
  5. Combine the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  6. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until everything is combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
  9. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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Baking

Zucchini Fries!

Cherries, apricots, and zucchinis are EVERYWHERE right now, and they are all tempting me so much! Summer produce is in full bloom and I just want to sample all of it.

I went to visit a friend in Queens, and I demanded to stop by the place where she gets all of her cheap produce. I love TJ’s for the most part, but some of their fresh things are rather pricey and not always of the best quality. Not to mention it’s sometimes impossible to buy just one or two of something. I have to buy 10 plums or no plums.

I walked into this new store optimistic and hopeful. There was a good selection of organic and non-organic things, but my wallet demanded I go for the cheaper option for the moment. I ended up buying 1 zucchini (for fries!), 2 plums, 2 nectarines, 4 limes, and a bag of green beans. All for the super low price of $5.14! The green beans alone were $1.99, so that slightly threw off the price, but I don’t really mind. I’m going to have to go back here whenever I visit my friend, because the selection was good and the price was right.

I made these fries after another friend made them and then had no idea what to do with the rest of her zucchinis. I was looking for recipes to help her, and I guess I spent enough time doing so that I started craving them as well.

There isn’t really a measured recipe, because I just added things as I went along. I coated the fries in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, so it was simple enough.  I also made sure to try to squeeze excess moisture out of the fries before I coated them, since my last foray with zucchini was rather mushy.

The flour mixture was all-purpose flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I cracked an egg and mixed in a little water. And I actually made the breadcrumbs about a week ago from an overly stale baguette, and then added some pepper, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese today.

I sprayed a cookie sheet and baked the fries at 400* for about 15 minutes and then turned it up to 425* for 5 more minutes after I flipped them. I did cut a couple of them a bit too small, and so they were a bit mushy, but for the most part they were crispy and wonderful and worked well with the leftover pizza sauce I dunked them in. I definitely want to make them again in the near future because they were super simple and a nice alternative to other breaded things I’ve been craving lately.

Baking

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

The unfortunate part about not currently having a roommate or many friends in the city is that I haven’t been baking as much as I would like. It doesn’t make sense to bake a cake or cupcakes when I would be the only one eating it, so I haven’t. Instead I’ve just been making doughnuts every so often, since most recipes only yield about six, which is much more acceptable than twenty-four or an entire towering pan.

I’ve been craving cinnamon rolls, lately, but it would be silly to make even a half batch of them just for myself. All of that butter and sugar is just crazy to consume alone. However, I found the next best thing with these Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts from Table for Two. The really nice thing about baked doughnuts is that they rarely call for much butter or oil, so I can make a batch and eat them over a few days for breakfast or dessert without feeling quite as badly as I would if I had made the cinnamon rolls.

These doughnuts are pillowy delights of deliciousness. They rose beautifully in the oven, and I think that’s because they call for a higher baking temperature (450*) than other doughnuts I’ve made. They also stuck to the pan a bit, but  not so much that they fell apart or lost little chunks upon extraction.

I was also a bit heavy-handed with the cinnamon sugar coating, which slightly overshadowed the flavor of the doughnut. I enjoyed it though, because in this instance I wasn’t really looking for a doughnut, but rather a vessel to deliver copious amounts of cinnamon. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite, and I think I might revisit this recipe for future cravings.

Baking

Baked Doughnuts with Caramel Topping

Have I expressed how much I truly love my doughnut pan? It might be one of my favorite kitchen items of all time. I’ve used it so many times that I’ve lost count. I don’t often branch out and post different recipes, though, because the ones I have for plain and chocolate doughnuts are perfect for my taste.

However, I really wanted a doughnut this morning, but I wanted something more than my regular recipes offer. I found these Caramel-Glazed Baked Doughnuts from Namely Marly and loved the premise, so I tweaked the recipe to suit the ingredients I had on hand. I wish I could say they were amazing, but I can’t. While my version baked a lovely doughnut, I still prefer my other recipes.

I encountered some trouble with the caramel glaze because it started to solidify before I could even top the doughnuts. It was more caramel-y than glaze-y or frosting-y, so it didn’t make a very smooth coating like I wanted.

Also, when the doughnut and coating came together, the sweet caramel overwhelmed the doughnut flavor, and even plain it didn’t have that distinctive doughnut taste. The original recipe didn’t call for nutmeg, so I added a little shake of it to see what would happen. Nothing really happened.

Baked Doughnuts with Caramel Topping

Yields 6-7 doughnuts

6 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1 teaspoon white vinegar)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon yeast
½ teaspoon baking powder

Caramel Topping:

¼ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

——————————————

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Grease or spray a doughnut pan.
  2. Mix together the sugar and butter in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the egg and mix together to incorporate.
  4.  Add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix to combine.
  5. Add the flour, yeast, and baking powder to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Try to get rid of the lumps that form, but a few remaining is fine.
  6. Spoon into the wells of the doughnut pan and bake for 10 minutes. The tops will still be very pale, so be careful to not over bake.
Caramel Topping:
  1. Over medium to medium-high heat, bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Let boil for 1 minute and then take it off the heat.
  3. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Let the mixture cool slightly.
  5. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix until combined.
Baking

Black and White Cookies

Everyone has that special thing they do when life gets hard or overwhelming or sad. In my case, I bake. And this week I needed to bake more than ever before. I received some tragic news on Monday, and I couldn’t even make it through the afternoon before making these cookies. Even now I’m still trying to process what happened, but taking the time to keep my hands busy and to concentrate my mind on something else helped me immensely.

I have a confession: I’ve been in New York for nearly four years, but I have yet to try an authentic Black and White cookie. I know, bad me. However, after making this recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, I will make a concerted effort to find and sample a real one. I thought these were pretty good, even though I didn’t have any lemon extract, so I can only imagine how tasty the genuine article must be.

The cookie component came together easily, and I’m impressed with how long they have remained fresh. I heard that black and white cookies dry out quickly, but that’s not the case for mine. The last one is still going strong three days later, but I can safely say it’s not going to have the opportunity to become stale.

As for the icings, I prefer the plain over the chocolate. The chocolate is wanting for something, perhaps some salt to round out the flavors? I liked to combine the two sides when I ate the cookies, though, saving for last a big bite in the middle with both icings. It took me a couple of cookies to work out this strategy, but it’s a keeper, just like this recipe.

Baking

Mini Ice Cream “Cake” Pies

It was my roommate’s birthday recently, and all she wanted was to eat the garlic pizza crust I make and to go sing karaoke. She’s not one for desserts or sweets, with the exception of Oreos, ice cream, and Snickers. I figured I would just make the pizza crust and call it a day . . . until fate took over and I found this: Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream “Cake” Pie. Omit the peanut butter cups, and it’s the perfect birthday dessert for my roommate. The concept is so simple I don’t know why this didn’t come to mind before.

Rather than use Oreos, which can cost an arm and a leg in the city, I used Trader Joe’s Joe-Joes. I can definitely tell a difference between the two cookies–Oreo cookies are crunchier–but they still passed the roommate test. I also halved and miniaturized the recipe, because a giant ice cream cake is just too much for two girls to consume by themselves. Four girls, no, two, yes. I ended up making six mini pies in a muffin tin, which was perfect for three nights of portion-controlled dessert.

The pies looked so sad with just crust and ice cream, so we broke out the caramel sauce and then topped them with an additional Joe-Joe. These little treats hit the spot, so much so that my roommate was thinking about them all day until she could eat another the next night. I’d say they were a success!

Baking

Peter and the Piecatcher

After watching the Tony Awards, I found myself with a desire to go to  a show and a Broadway Buddy to go with. My friend had been dying to see Christian Borle in Peter and the Starcatcher, so she suggested we try entering the lottery for tickets. We got to the theater a bit before the lottery began, entered our names, and watched as more and more people came during the half hour that sign-ups were open. I wasn’t sure how much of a chance we stood with so many entries, but we remained optimistic and didn’t even think about what we would do if we didn’t get tickets. I definitely need to keep in that mindset whenever I enter these drawings, because it seems to be working. I won tickets for Wicked last summer, and then my friend’s name got called for Peter and the Starcatcher!

Tickets in hand, we had some time to kill before the show started. We headed over to Pie Face to grab some food to go. Pie Face is an Australian chain, and their NYC location is currently the only one in the US. After this first time, I absolutely want to go back and try more of their delicious pies. Aussies certainly know how to sell pies, don’t you think? Doesn’t it just scream adorable? And it’s all so delicious, too!

I got the chunky steak pie and the mini lemon pie, and the two were the perfect amount to keep me full for the rest of the night. It’s a good thing, too, because the two together set me back about $10. Despite the price, the taste has ensured that I won’t hesitate to open my wallet for them again. I didn’t snap a picture of my steak pie because I somehow managed to get the one pie with a gigantic bubble on it, which marred the look of the pie. However, isn’t the packaging cute?

Oh my goodness, the mini lemon pie was to die for! It was a perfect blend of tart and sweet, with a bit more tart than sweet. The lemon filling towered over the little cup crust, and I was in heaven with every single bite. If only I could get the recipe to replicate at home, I would be one happy camper.

After dinner we headed back to the theater. The play was wonderfully hilarious, and Christian Borle was fantastic as the pirate  Black Stash. I think the beginning of the second act sealed the deal for my love of the show, but I won’t spoil it for anyone that wants to see it. Once the show was over, the two of us dashed over to the stage door and lined up to meet the cast and get autographs/pictures. My friend succeeded in meeting and getting a photo with Christian Borle, so her night was made. She was hyped up and going a mile a minute once we parted ways at the end of the night.

With school over, I hope I can finally get to more shows in the future. I keep forgetting how much I enjoy the whole experience. Seeing shows may or may not also serve as an excuse to hit up Pie Face again. The lemon pie is calling my name, as are the cherry and chocolate ones!