America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread

I saw this on Tastespotting.  They got it from a book that claims this to be the best banana bread recipe out there.

Obviously, I had to try it.

It ended up being normal banana bread.

There is nothing wrong with it at all– it’s perfectly moist, chewy (but still tender), a tad sweet and could please even the most selective palates.  With that said, baking “normal” things is not really part of my routine; I would have much preferred to throw a handful of cranberries into the batter and drizzle the top with an earl grey icing or almond streusel.

But a learning student must always start with the basics, right?  Right.   So for now, here is a great recipe for those who prefer to play things on the safe side … but for everyone else, I promise the next recipe will have a little more pizzazz.

America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread
Makes 1 9×5 loaf

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1½ cups)
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse (optional, I excluded these)

Adjust a rack to the lower-middle position of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla together with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Fold in the walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface with the spatula.

Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

Carrot Cranberry Muffins

No, this is not a pumpkin recipe (as promised in my last post), but in my opinion, carrot cranberry muffins totally encompass the essence of fall and all of its hearty goodness.  Fall cuisine, if i may, is entirely about the stick-to-your-bones, curl-up-next-to-the-fireplace feelings that accompany each luxurious bite you take.  Some of my usual favorites are my mom’s beef and potato stew and hot crusty breads.   And from now on, my fall diet will also include carrot cranberry muffins.

These  muffins are jam packed with carrots, banana, coconut, cranberries and pumpkin seeds .  How could these not be the perfect fall treat?  Pop one in the microwave for 10 seconds, top with a little jam or pat of butter and scarf it down (I mean, take small dainty bites and enjoy your muffin like a lady…? Ha.).   Fall perfection.

Carrot Cranberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon course salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup shredded coconut
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I like the Smart Balance oil)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
4 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the oats, cranberries and coconut. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.

Fill your muffin cups, either lined with paper cups or sprayed with cooking spray, with 1/4 cup of the batter and sprinkle with additional pumpkin seeds. Bake at 400°F for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart 

Pumpkin Fudge

Hello friends!  It is finally October and although I’m sad to see the warm weather leave for good, I am REALLY excited to begin the transition into fall and winter cooking!  Every year around this time, the cold salads and barbecue fade away from my diet and are replaced by hot soups and hearty stews.  The strawberry shortcakes and frosty drinks turn into pumpkin breads, hot cocoa and apple pies, and all is right in the world.

Today I present to you my first fall-ish recipe of the season, starring my absolute favorite baking ingredient: pumpkin!

I couldn’t wait to try this one– I’ve only ever had chocolate and maple fudge, and I’ve never made it myself.  I heard once that fudge (among other candy recipes) is sort of finicky and easy to mess up, but my mom lent me her candy thermometer, and I’m really happy with how the texture came out!  Unless you are a pro with cooking sugar, I would suggest you invest in a thermometer so you don’t have to risk burnt or non-solidified fudge, and if you just have one on hand, you’ll always be able to make your own!

Pumpkin fudge is just the beginning of a fall pumpkin binge, so brace yourself for pumpkin recipes galore for the entire rest of this month (and maybe November too)!

Pumpkin Fudge
Makes one 9×9 pan

3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt
3 cups of sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
12-oz bag white chocolate chips
1 7-oz container marshmallow cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a 9×9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Pour olive oil into a small frying pan. When oil is nice and hot, add the chopped pecans and sprinkle with salt. Toast for about 5 minutes or until pecans are a darker shade of brown. Set aside.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add evaporated milk, pumpkin, corn syrup, sugar and pumpkin spice. Stir to combine, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Using a candy thermometer, cook and stir until mixture reaches 234 F or the soft ball stage (once it boils, it should take about 15 minutes to reach this stage). Remove from heat and QUICKLY add the marshmallow cream, white chocolate chips, vanilla and toasted pecans. Stir well and pour into prepared pan. Let the fudge cool for at least 2 hours, cut, and enjoy!

Recipe from Real Mom Kitchen

Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Ice Cream Cake

Ice cream+ cake…. ICE CREAM CAKE!

I had a craving and made this on a whim with lactose-free ice cream.  What a great idea on my part.  My housemates drooled over it before I’d taken pictures…  so as soon as we finished (Photographer Emily is back! She took these beauties) they helped me demolish the whole thing.  It’s a snap to put together… just try not to eat it too quickly (or risk a brain freeze! :)).

Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Ice Cream Cake
Makes 9″ cake

1 package Oreos, divided
5 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 cup mini peanut butter cups, roughly chopped

Lightly grease a springform pan. Crush 2/3 of the Oreos (two of the rows or roughly 24 cookies) in a food processor or by hand with a rolling pin and a plastic bag. Stir in melted butter and press into bottom and sides of the springform pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Spread one quart of the ice cream over the Oreo crust. Roughly chop the remaining Oreos and sprinkle over this first ice cream layer. Freeze for 20-30 minutes.

Spread remaining quart of ice cream over the Oreo layer and then top with chopped peanut butter cups. Freeze for at least 5 hours. To serve, let sit 10 minutes and run a hot knife around the edge. Release the springform pan, and serve with hot fudge or caramel. Enjoy!

Recipe from Kitchen Confidante

Cake Batter Blondies

I felt like I hadn’t baked my house a treat in a while.  So I made these!  My new housemate (don’t worry, the old ones are still here too), Emma, told me that she could eat only these every day for the rest of her life, because Funfetti “just makes her happy”.   I think a lot of people would agree.  This is also the easiest recipe I’ve made in a while.  So why not?  Just 5 ingredients!

cake batter blondies
makes ones 8×8 pan

1 box funfetti cake mix (or yellow/white cake mix + 1/2 cup sprinkles)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional, but recommended!)

So easy! Preheat oven to 350F. Throw everything in a bowl and stir until combined. You want the batter to be suuuuper thick, so be sure to add the milk just a little at a time. Pour batter into a greased 8×8 (or 9×9) pan and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the edges are JUST beginning to turn golden. At this point, the center will look uncooked, but this is what you want! That’s what lends to the thick, gooey cake batter texture. YUM, cool for at least 20 minutes, then enjoy fighting your friends and family over these!

Recipe adapted from Girl Meets Life

Mixed-Up Brownie Delight

I know what you’re thinking.  Brownies… how boring.  But just give me a chance.

First off, look at the picture.  See that gooey layer in the middle?  That is peanut butter caramel with white and milk chocolate chips.  I’m serious.  As for the brownie part, there are 2 cups of sugar and 2 sticks of butter in this recipe… how could it not be completely scrumptious?  Someone said this treat is like a turtle sundae wrapped up in a brownie– I thought that was a great description! Be warned though, these are dense and RICH– not the kind of brownies you should be eating an entire pan of by yourself… (perhaps that shouldn’t happen anyway, eh?).  But make them anyway and share with friends!

I used to be kind of famous for mixed-up brownie delight– I made them on every special occasion, and then I eventually forgot about them and lost the recipe :(.  My mom found it somewhere in our basement, and now my favorite recipe can be immortalized forever!  Enjoy!

Mixed-up Brownie Delight
Makes one 9×13 pan

2 sticks butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 C. sugar
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 C. flour
1/3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
12 oz caramels
2 T. smooth peanut butter
1/2 C. evaporated milk
1/2 C. chopped walnuts (optional, I hate nuts in brownies)
1/2 C. white chocolate chips
1/2 C. milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate squares; stir to combine. Mix in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. Pour half of batter into a greased 9 x 13-in. baking pan. Bake for 14 minutes.
Heat caramels, peanut butter and evaporated milk, stirring frequently, until melted and combined. Remove brownies from oven; pour caramel mixture over brownies; Sprinkle nuts and white and milk chocolate chips over caramel layer. Pour remaining batter over chocolate chips and bake for 15 minutes. Cool before slicing.

Banana Crumb Snack Cake

I can’t stop baking. My housemate had overripe bananas… so he asked me if I wanted them for baking.  How could I say no?  Food should never be wasted.

Instead of the usual loaf bread I wanted to try something a little bit different… this may be my favorite way to use up old bananas yet!  There is plenty of sugar and butter to outshine the healthy addition of the banana, but that aside this is a must try recipe.  My house devoured a whole pan in just a few hours… so you might want to double this one!

Banana Crumb Snack Cake
Makes 1 8×8 square cake

Streusel:
6 TBSP all-purpose flour
6 TBSP firmly packed brown sugar
3 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

Cake:
1 1/3 c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
3 very ripe/overripe bananas (about 1 c.)
3 TBSP buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg

To make the streusel, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg with your fingertips until the mixture resembles lumpy sand.  Refrigerate until needed.

Place a rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour an 8×8 pan or line with parchment and spray.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, mash bananas with a fork.  Add in buttermilk and canilla and stir to combine.  Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer) cream together butter and sugar on medium-low speed until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.   Add the egg and beat until thoroughly completely incorporated.  Add the banana mixture (The batter may appear curdled for a moment, but will come back together with the dry ingredients.) and beat to combine.  Reduce the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture in two additions, beating just until incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top.  Bake the cake until it springs back when gently pressed in the center and a round wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-38 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan completely before cutting and serving.  Will keep, tightly covered on the counter or in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.  Serves 9.
Recipe from Apple A Day