just plain banana bread

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I’ve been playing around with my favorite recipe for banana bread. I like this recipe because it’s not over-sweet. I’ve added dried cranberries to it and sprinkled toasted almonds and demerara sugar on top. It’s a sturdy recipe. What I changed up this time was instead of shortening I used a third cup of rice bran oil.  The result was a banana bread with a tender moist crumb.

Banana Bread

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup rice bran oil or vegetable oil
2/3 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 medium bananas)

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Grease one 8.5×4.5 loaf pan.

Sift together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Cream the oil and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well-blended. Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add half the mashed ripe banana and beat until just moistened. Add half of the remaining flour and beat until just combined. Add the rest of the mashed ripe banana and beat until just moistened. Add the rest of the flour and beat until just combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top. Tap pan lightly on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles. Bake 50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool banana bread 10 minutes in the pan. Then unmold onto a wire rack and cool completely.

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banana tea bread

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This classic recipe has been in my collection since the 1970s when I got Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook  from The Book of the Month Club.  Is it possible there was a time before amazon.com became ubiquitous?! Now the cookbook is called “Essential” but it is the same recipe. I’m glad some things have continuity.

219g all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
126g  white superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Grease two 7-inch loaf pans and set aside. You can also use one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

Baker’s Note: My oven is fast so I reduce the heat to 325/170 as soon as the pan goes in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the shortening with the sugar, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides. Add the eggs one at a time until just combined.Scrape down the sides.

Add the flour mixture alternating with the bananas, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides, and be sure to give the bottom of the bowl a sweep as well. Pour into the two pans, evenly dividing the batter between the two. Smooth the tops with a spatula. Both pans will be half full. Tap the pans lightly on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then turn out to cool thoroughly on the wire rack.

Variation

  • Use sifted and packed brown sugar instead of white sugar.
  • Add 1 cup dried cranberries to the batter.
  • Sprinkle the top of the batter with demerara sugar and sliced almonds then bake as usual.

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banana-coconut bread

DSC03474Today we ate lunch at Miyazaki, a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant in Seacon Square, where the meal is cooked hot and fresh in front of you on a griddle. There are two cooks for each customer: one to cook the vegetables the other to cook the meat. Each new order is announced by the cook, and that announcement is greeted with a loud chorus of “Hai!” Amen. Yes. The precision of lunch was quirky and earnestly militaristic,  but the meal still managed to be delicious. And reasonably so. Less than Baht 600 (about US$19.00) for two.

The nice thing about Bangkok is we have no shortage of food to please every foodie’s palate. Soi Thong Lo is our equivalent of Restaurant Row in New York (46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues). Thong Lo offers Korean, Japanese, Australian (burgers and steaks), Mexican, Chinese, American, and Thai food from Sukhumvit to Petchburi.

The rainy season is previewing in Bangkok. We have started to get the odd shower, which cools the heat to a dull steam that threatens to overwhelm the senses and makes everyone retreat to the coolness of air conditioned malls and restaurants. Before the heat had reached its apogee I bought some young coconut jelly in coconut juice at the market outside Suan Luang. I decided to tinker with a sturdy favorite, Banana Tea Bread, and came up with this Banana-Coconut Bread. It has a crunchy coating because of the turbinado sugar baked on top, and the coconut is chewy; it held its texture and flavor. I doubled the recipe to give me 4 mini-loaves. I gave away two to my sisters-in-law, and I will leave one in Bangkok for Andy and take the other with me to Salaya.

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Banana-Coconut Bread
Here I have given the measurements for 1 loaf of banana-coconut bread. I doubled the recipe to make four mini-loaves.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup chopped fresh young coconut jelly
1 teaspoon rum, vanilla, or coconut extract
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup superfine sugar or 1/3 cup superfine sugar and 1/3 cup sifted brown sugar
2 large eggs

Topping
1/4 cup demerara or turbinado sugar (I used turbinado)
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

Heat the oven to 350˚F. Spray the inside of 2×7 inch mini loaf pans or 1×8″1/2 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, put the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir with a whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, mash the banana. Add the chopped coconut jelly, and the extract. Blend well.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine. Add half the banana mixture. Add half of the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Add the remaining banana mixture and combine. Add the remaining flour. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Tap the pan(s) gently on the counter-top to eliminate any air bubbles. Sprinkle the top of the loaf/loaves with the demerara or turbinado sugar. Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top.

Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven to wire cooling racks. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan before unmolding. Run a knife blade around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread. Gently remove from the pan. Cool thoroughly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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spicy apple bread

spicy apple bread

Spicy Apple Bread

Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 60 minutes
Servings: 6-8 slices per loaf

3 small tart apples peeled, cored, and chopped (e.g. Granny Smith)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups superfine sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1/4 cup sliced raw almonds

Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Spray two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pans with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Whisk until blended.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oil and sugar. Beat on medium speed until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is yellow and glossy.

Add the flour mixture to the oil-sugar-egg mixture all at once. Beat on low speed until just combined, with streaks of flour remaining. Stir in the apples by hand.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Make sure the batter gets into the corners. Tap the pans lightly on the countertop to settle the batter.

Between your thumb and forefingers, sprinkle half the turbinado sugar and half the almonds on top of the batter in one pan. Repeat with the second pan.

Bake the two loaves 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven. Cool in the pans 15 minutes on wire racks, then remove the loaves from the pans. Let the loaves cool completely on the wire racks before serving, about 1 hour.

black and white bean chili

black and white chili with low fat scallion chili cornbread

I’m so sad. Winter is hanging on stubbornly, refusing to go. I can’t believe it’s March and I’m making chili. This recipe is surprisingly hearty and filling with just the right amount of herbs and seasonings. I did not have to add extra salt to this recipe. And I strongly recommend using fresh oregano as it made all the difference in the flavors of this chili. I chopped up two scallions and put them in the cornbread, for after all, what is a chili cornbread without a little green in it? Next time, I will chop up a couple of chilies or maybe add some corn niblets to the cornbread.

Black and White Bean Chili (adapted from Vegan on the Cheap)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bell pepper, minced fine (use green pepper for contrast)
1x28oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
2×15.5 oz cans black beans rinsed and drained
1×15.5 oz can white beans or cannellini, rinsed and drained
2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 cup veggie broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus 1 tablespoon water (optional)

Preparation:
In a large Dutch pot, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil shimmers add the onions and cook, covered, until softened and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the tomatoes, beans, chili peppers, chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, and broth or water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 45 minutes to develop flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings. The mixture should thicken after 45 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture if a thicker chili is desired. Serve with low fat chili-scallion cornbread.

Low Fat Scallion Chili Cornbread (adapted from a recipe by Fiona Haynes)

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 16 squares

Ingredients:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup clabbered nonfat milk
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 scallions, chopped fine

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Generously spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To clabber milk, put 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a glass one-cup measure. Top up with non-fat milk and let rest for about 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, clabbered milk, yogurt, and oil. Add wet mixture to dry and stir with a fork until just moistened. Do not over mix.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Tap pan lightly on the countertop to displace any air bubbles. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly golden or until the top springs back slightly when pressed. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, slice, then serve while still warm.

banana bread with rum and almonds and turbinado sugar topping

banana bread

On a whim, I added rum to this recipe. This is my favorite recipe for banana bread that originally came from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. Over the years I’ve tinkered with it and it has stood up remarkably well to the indignities to which it was subjected by an inexperienced baker.  For example, I once reduced the amount of sugar in it by one-third. That was a bad idea because the result was not as tender nor as sweet. One early departure from the original recipe was to use a slightly smaller loaf pan size than the 9-inch pan in the original recipe. I like a taller loaf. Encouraged, I kept experimenting with the recipe. I have used brown sugar when I ran out of white, which was great. The bread simply was a darker color because of the substitution.   I’ve thrown raisins in but I prefer it with dried cranberries, which are slightly tart instead of super-sweet, and bake up plump and moist. This time I’ve splashed rum into the batter, and I added a topping of sugar and almonds. The result of this latest experimentation baked up wonderfully moist with a fine crumb and a crunchy caramelized topping.

Banana Bread with Rum and Almonds and Turbinado Sugar Topping

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs well beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries, optional
3 tablespoons dark rum, optional

Topping:
1/4 cup turbinado or brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350˚F and grease one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pan or four two 7×4 inch mini-loaf pans. Spray with cooking spray to cut down on calories.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, reduce the heat to 325˚F

Sift together the dry ingredients: flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Cream the shortening, adding sugar gradually. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the rum, if using. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. If using raisins or cranberries, add to the bananas. Add the flour, mixing until just blended, alternating with half the bananas-raisin/cranberry mixture. Mix in half the remaining flour then add the rest of the bananas-raisin/cranberry mixture. Finally, add the rest of the flour. Do not over mix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to mix the topping and lightly press it into the top of the batter. Bake 50 minutes or until done. [40 minutes in a convection oven]

Cake Baker’s Note: If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, test the bread after 45 minutes. If the tester comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven.

banana bread

green onion cornbread

Never trust an internet recipe that doesn’t have pictures.

That’s what I learned after I searched the internet this weekend for a low carb cornbread recipe. What I discovered were two recipes (among many) that proved to me that a cornbread can be made without cornmeal. It was important to me to find a low carb recipe to go with my White Chicken Chili recipe. After all, what is  chili without cornbread.

The first recipe for “cornbread” required both almond and hazelnut flours, which were $11.00 each at Whole Foods. But I should have been wary. There were no photographs to show that the recipe was indeed kitchen tested. This “cornbread” was inedible; it was oily and tasteless. So, tonight–I am nothing it not determined– I tried the second recipe, this one from lowcarbist.com, called Green Onion Cornbread. This website had great pictures of the cornbread.

Though it also has not one bit of cornmeal in it, it turned out light and moist in texture, a great low carb accompaniment to my White Chicken Chili. I tweaked the recipe a bit. I thought it would be easier to mix if I melted the butter. Like all quick breads, this one shouldn’t be over mixed either. In fact, my cornbread came out exactly like the pictured one!

Green Onion Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1-2 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted then cooled slightly
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease one 8” square pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix together wet ingredients and green onions, then add dry ingredients and mix again.
Pour into greased baking dish then bake for 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

night of the spiderman

Spiderman the musical. What a concept. With Gotham City’s tilted perspectives, conflicted mutant superhero and super-evil villain, and great acrobatics mimicking computer generated special effects, this Spidey even got angst. Unlike another Gotham superhero, this one also got the girl.  There was never any doubt that the good guy would vanquish evil. It was great escapist fantasy for a couple of hours!

After we got back to the apartment I decided to make a post-show treat. Bulla! In Jamaica, a common shout on the playground was “yu get bulla!” meaning, zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. I got this recipe from Peter and Karen’s copy of Traditional Jamaican Cookery by Norma Benghiat (pronounced ben-gate). Besides a playground taunt, bulla is a quick bread made from flour and spices. It is always baked as a round loaf. I’ve begun to wonder if “bulla” is derived from the French boule which means “ball” and is a round loaf of bread.  It reminded me of an Irish soda bread and I wondered if this might be another ancestor of the bulla. Its etymology notwithstanding, this bulla came out dense, slightly sweet and delicately spicy.

3 cups flour plus extra for rolling and dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 /2 cup sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup water (originally 1:1)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Melt a tablespoon of butter and add 1/2 tablespoon of flour. Use a pastry brush to apply the butter mixture to the bottom and sides of a 9″ round pan. If using a pan with a dark nonstick finish, reduce the heat to 350 and remove the bulla from the oven 5 minutes before cooking time is up.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice. Mix in ginger and  melted butter. Gradually add the sugar water to make a firm dough.

Knead the dough until the sides of the bowl are clean and the ball of dough not sticky. Roll out dough on lightly floured board until it is 1/2 inch thick. Roll the dough into a 9” circle. Dust both sides lightly with flour. Put the dough in the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Eat the bulla warm with butter and jam.

Jamaican Easter bun and cheese

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What you don’t eat, you miss. I never really liked bun and cheese when I lived in Jamaica but now that I’m no longer living there, I miss it. I miss the sticky sweetness of the raisins and cherries contrasting with the salty tang of cheddar cheese. So I decided to try my hand at a stout bun; a quick bread, really. It seemed the easiest one to make, requiring no yeast. However, I did face a couple of challenges. First of all, I had to hunt around liquor stores on the Upper West Side for stout, a dark beer. To be truly patriotic, I should have looked for Dragon Stout but I settled for Guinness. After the fourth liquor store I was glad to find any stout. The second problem was that I couldn’t find mixed peel, the sugared citrus rind that is used in making fruitcakes. Well, this is the wrong holiday for that, so I did without.

How did the Jamaican Easter Bun come about? Some writers say it is a variation on the hot cross bun that is traditionally eaten at Easter in Europe. If so, that hot cross bun has undergone quite a transformation. No longer decorated with a cross, the Easter Bun in Jamaica is a spice bread redolent of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. In the case of the stout bun, it has a cup of dark beer added to it. It also gets its distinctive dark color from molasses.

I adapted this recipe for Jamaican Easter Bun from one I found on keepitjiggy.com.

Jamaican Easter Bun

Ingredients

6 oz or 3/4 cup stout (It must be fresh not flat stout)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons softened butter + 2 tablespoons butter for melting
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon allspice or mixed spice (e.g. apple pie)
2 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins, softened in enough water or rum to cover, drained
1/2 cup mixed peel, chopped (increase raisins to 1 cup if mixed peel is unavailable)
1/3 cup maraschino cherries, drained and stems removed, coarsely chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300˚F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and mix it with 1 tablespoon flour.  Brush butter-flour mixture onto the bottom and sides of the loaf pan(s). Use one 9×5 inch (8 cup capacity) loaf pan or two 8.5×4.5 inch (4 cup capacity each) loaf pans. If using non-stick pans with a dark finish, reduce the oven temperature to 275˚F and test for doneness five minutes sooner than the recommended baking time.

Warm the stout on a low flame. Add brown sugar, molasses and softened butter. Stir until dissolved. Cool.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and spices. Mix in the fruit. In a medium bowl, mix together the beaten eggs and milk.  Add to the flour-fruit mixture. The mixture will be the texture of coarse crumbs. Add the cooled stout mixture. Blend until all dry ingredients are just moistened.

Scrape batter into prepared pan(s). Tap pan(s) lightly on the kitchen counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours. I used two 8.5 inch loaf pans, so mine were done in 55 minutes. Remove from oven when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the bun(s) onto the wire rack. Re-invert and cool thoroughly. When cooled, cut the loaf in ½ inch thick slices. Serve with cheddar cheese slices sandwiched between two slices of bun. Mm-m! It takes me home again!

skinny cornbread

This recipe for low fat cornbread is adapted from an about.com recipe. It is moist and has a tender crumb thanks to the yogurt and the clabbered milk. Clabbered milk? Well, that’s what you call it when you add vinegar or lemon juice to milk to curdle it.  This cornbread is delicious with white chicken chili.

Cook Time: 25 minutes

 Ingredients:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup clabbered nonfat milk
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
To clabber milk, put 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a glass one-cup measure. Top up with non-fat milk and let rest for about 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, clabbered milk, yogurt, and oil. Add wet mixture to dry and stir until just moistened. Do not overmix.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Shift the pan back and forth on the countertop to displace any air bubbles. Bake until lightly golden and until the top springs back slightly when pressed—about 25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then serve while still warm.

Makes 16 squares.

Variation
The original recipe said to use 1 1/4 cups low fat buttermilk. But as buttermilk is difficult to find and keep on hand just on the off chance you are going to make biscuits or cornbread, I substituted clabbered milk and yogurt for the buttermilk.