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Velvet Banana Bread – my blue ribbon winner!

It all started in 2009 when I entered the foods competitions at the Kansas State Fair for the first time, and met a wonderful & talented woman named Colleen Woker.  We met while watching the pie judging and I asked her if she’d won any ribbons in the other competitions. She listed off approximately 241 things she’d placed in, including getting “Best in Show” for her banana bread, which as far as I understand means that her banana bread was so good, that the judges deemed it better than anything else submitted for judging in the foods competitions. I mean, it beat cakes!  CAKES! I was so impressed by her and in that moment, knew that some day I had to get myself a blue ribbon in the banana bread competition.  Little did I know it would become nearly an obsession.

In my quest to win a blue ribbon, I’ve made over fifty different banana bread recipes, and no matter how hard I tried to find the best, most perfect banana bread, the highest I ever placed was 3rd.  I really thought I was doomed to never get my blue ribbon, or even a red one.  This year I had no idea what recipe I was going to make until the day before the competition.  In fact, I had even forgotten to buy bananas in advance to let them get super duper ripe, and all I had was bananas that were still green at the stems.  Not acceptable!

I posted a last minute plea on Facebook for rotten bananas and was given some by two wonderful women (thank you Lacey & Lisa!), enough to make a practice loaf or two if I could find the time.  I decided to take my best good friend, Jackie‘s, advice and replace the pumpkin in my most favoritest pumpkin bread recipe with bananas, which she has been doing for a year.  That recipe has 1/2 cup of water in it, which I’d never ever seen in all the banana bread recipes I’ve read in my search for the perfect one, and I was so scared to try it.  I asked her probably five times, “Do you really put the water in it when you make it? REALLY?” She assured me she did, and that it wasn’t wet or gummy, but really similar in texture to the pumpkin bread.  That sold me, because that soft texture is the ultimate for me in a quick bread.

Despite my deep fears of including the water, and the temptation to replace it with something more exciting like milk or pineapple juice, I gave her idea a go, adding a touch of cardamom, and was absolutely floored by the result.  I had never in my life had such tender, soft banana bread.  And so delicious, sweet & perfectly banana-y with a the perfect balance of spices to set it off.  Unfortunately, it was one of the uglier loaves I’d ever made, and since 25% of the judging score was based on appearance, I lost all hope right there.  Because I knew it was too good not to submit, but also knew it was too ugly to win a blue ribbon. I just hoped it was good enough to win a red.

So many things went wrong in making the official loaf and my spirits sunk deeper and deeper with each obstacle. I kept questioning why I was even bothering.  This wasn’t the regular little banana bread competition, this one was sponsored by King Arthur Flour and the first place prize was a $150 gift card to their catalog, which is much bigger than the usual $9 prize.  This was a big deal, and more people would be entering than usual.  I didn’t have a chance! I was exhausted, would have loved to sleep in the next morning, didn’t want to waste the gas or the effort when I knew it was hopeless, but I’d been in the paper about the being the Banana Bread Queen Wannabe, and everyone on Facebook knew about it.  I had to go.

When I arrived to submit my bread, I noticed that everyone around me had loaves that were the same dark shiny brown, which I found unattractive.  That made me feel a little better, until I looked to see if any of my other three baked goods I’d already turned in had placed, and they hadn’t.  I knew it was going to be my very first no-ribbon year, and I went home defeated, knowing my quest might never end.

But when we returned to the fair as a family two days later, there it was. My ugly brown banana bread sitting front and center.  Next to a blue ribbon.

I squealed. I hopped around.  I squealed and hopped some more.  I think there was a lot of, “I can’t believe it!!”  I gushed my entire banana bread story to the poor couple standing nearby when my freak out started.  They were so happy for me, but everyone else looked pretty perturbed & disturbed by my antics.  I stopped myself several times from running up to random people to tell them I won.  Joshua was grinning and giggling, clearly trying to figure out what had Mom so excited.  I took his hands and we did a little celebration dance together.  When Dennis approached us (he’d been in the bathroom), I wanted to let him discover it on his own but I just couldn’t contain myself and as soon as I saw him I beamed and jumped up and down and waved him over, pointing wildly at the display case where my winning bread resided. He knew instantly of course what that meant, and he hopped up and down with me a little in celebration.  Joshua was so happy to see all the happiness and I was so happy, and Dennis was so happy, I thought all our heads might explode.

It took six years and countless loaves of banana bread, but I did it. The blue ribbon is MINE! Thanks be to God, to Jackie, Lisa, Lacey, and to Colleen for not entering the banana bread competition this year and giving me a chance.  And to everyone who has rooted for me all these years, thank you!!  My quest is complete and I couldn’t be happier to have found my very favorite recipe for banana bread and gotten the blue for it so that I never have to try another recipe again.  I’m so DONE with new banana bread recipes.  This one is definitely my new favorite, and I truly may never make another recipe again.

Velvet Banana Bread

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Printable recipe with picture

1 cup (8 oz) mashed overripe banana
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 1/8 oz) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine banana, sugar, vegetable oil, water, and eggs. Whisk until well mixed. Measure the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves into a separate bowl and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, beating until smooth. Mixture will be very very thin and it’s OK to mix until no flour streaks remain, but if you see little lumps of flour that won’t mix out, don’t sweat it, they will dissolve while baking and overmixing will make this tender loaf tough and dry.

Spray the bottom of a 9×5 loaf pan and pour batter in (if your pan sticks, go ahead and grease the whole thing). Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan, and cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool at least 15 minutes on a wire rack before slicing. Cool completely before wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap.

Veronica’s notes: If you aren’t measuring your ingredients on a scale, please use a very light hand when measuring the flour, spooning it gently into the cup and not packing it at all before leveling it.

Also, I only left the sides of my pan ungreased because the state fair judges have disqualified me in the past for greasing the whole pan. According to them, this is a baking sin and the sides of your bread will be much more tender if you grease only the bottom. This works fine with my new nifty galifty USA Loaf Pan because it’s crazy nonstick, but if you have any other not fabulously non-stick pan, you’d better go ahead and grease the sides. I honestly can’t tell a difference in the finished loaf whether the sides have been greased or not, the judges need to chill.

Speaking of loaf pans, be sure to use a large 9×5 as this is too much batter for an 8×4 loaf pan.  If you only have a small loaf pan, make some muffins with the extra batter, but don’t fill your pan more than 3/4 full.

Lastly, if you overbake your loaf a bit (I did on the one photographed, by a couple minutes because I was busy when the timer went off), don’t forget my water trick. It works on quick breads as well as cakes! Spray the sides and bottom well with water, don’t be shy with it, and it will all absorb while cooling and soften those hardened edges right up.

Triple Coconut Doughnuts (or Muffins)

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I’m not much of a doughnut girl, but when I get a hankering for one, it’s usually on a Saturday. I had one such a hankering this last Saturday, and decided to see if I could throw some together with the ingredients I had on hand. I found some coconut in the pantry and threw these together real quick, amplifying the coconut flavor with coconut milk and coconut oil, topping with a coconut glaze and a sprinkle of toasted coconut. And…perfection! Dense and moist, the perfect doughnut or muffin texture, and they keep well to enjoy leftovers the next day.

Triple Coconut Doughnuts or Muffins

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¼ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk, or whole milk
¾ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
Coconut milk or heavy cream, for thinning

½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease doughnut pan(s) and/or line muffin pans with paper or foil liners; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream coconut oil and sugar for two minutes. Add egg and extracts and beat another minute. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a separate bowl. Add it alternately to the creamed mixture with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the coconut.

Spoon into doughnut or muffin pans, filling ¾ full. Bake doughnuts 10 minutes, muffins 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

While they are baking, toast the coconut and make the glaze. Place the 1/2 cup coconut in a skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently until golden. Remove from heat and prepare the glaze by mixing the oil and powdered sugar together as well as possible with a fork in a small bowl. Add coconut milk or cream a little at a time until glaze consistency.

Once doughnuts and/or muffins are done, turn out onto wire rack and spoon glaze over the top. If they are cool enough to handle, you can also turn them upside down to dip into the glaze while they are warm. After glazing each, sprinkle with coconut while the glaze is still wet. Enjoy warm or allow to cool. For storing leftovers, allow to cool completely before storing in a Ziploc bag with the air pressed out.

Veronica’s notes: while the doughnuts came out of the pan with ease, perhaps due to the shorter bake time (sugar hadn’t had time to caramelize onto the pan), this batter tends to stick to even the most nonstick muffin pans and I highly recommend using liners if baking in a muffin pan. Also, the almond extract in this tends to flavor it as much as, or a little more than, the coconut. It is a nice compliment, but if you’d like the coconut flavor to come through more, especially if using cow’s milk instead of coconut, use 1/4 teaspoon or replace with more vanilla. Last, please do NOT substitute coconut milk beverage (found in the refrigerated non-dairy section) for coconut milk. Use the full-fat canned stuff.

Banana Muffins of Perfection

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I got this recipe from my friend, Staci, and have made them twice in the last month. They were originally called “Banana Nut Muffins” but Dennis insisted on this new title and since it makes me laugh, I obliged him.  They really are perfect, so much so that I’m thinking about turning this recipe into a loaf and entering it into the fair this year.  Such a nice, soft, texture!

I shared them with an old co-worker and she deemed them the “best muffins ever.”  The base recipe is a good one that results in a tender, moist muffin with great banana flavor.  These are now my favorite thing to make with bananas!

Banana Muffins of Perfection

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Printable recipe with picture

2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 cup mix-in’s

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients all at once, stirring just enough to moisten. Gently stir in mix-in’s. Spoon into greased muffin tin, filling 2/3 full. Bake in 350F oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Makes 15-18 muffins.

Staci’s & V’s favorite mix-in’s: chopped nuts, diced prunes, chopped strawberries, blueberries, dried cranberries, chocolate chips. Staci also likes to add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom, but doesn’t measure so you’ll have to figure out how much you like if you add them. I’d add a teaspoon total of spices (max) if it was me, but you might like more or less.

I make mine nut-free to keep them easy to chew for Joshua. My two favorite ways (so far) are with blueberries (above) and dried cranberries (first picture)! I can’t wait to try them with FRESH cranberries come fall. Oh my!

Spiced Butterscotch & Black Walnut Banana Bread

This month I was assigned to Manu’s Menu for the Secret Recipe Club. Manuela is an Italian married to an Indian, living in Australia with her family, so her blog is a smorgasbord of delicious international recipes, with the majority being delicious, authentic Italian food. She has recipes for many things on my 40 by 40 list, like Lamingtons, croissants, biscotti/Cantucci, & risotto. And what did I do? I’m so predictable. I went for the banana bread because as you know, I have an obsession and I seem to always have overripe bananas on hand. I may have not checked anything off my bucket list of recipes to make, but we’re enjoying some really delicious banana bread in the mean time, so that makes up for it. :)

I took Manu’s recipe for the bread and kicked it up a notch, just on a whim that started because of the butterscotch chips sitting on my desk when I was reading her recipe. We really loved the combination of oozing butterscotch, black walnuts, and subtle spices in a loaf rich in banana flavor.  I went ahead and used the butter called for but next time will try oil as I just really prefer the soft & silky texture that oil gives to quick breads. If only oil had all the delicious flavor as butter!

This was a wonderful loaf and I thank you, Manuela for helping me create it. Buon appetito!

Spiced Butterscotch & Black Walnut Banana Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 cups (8 ½ oz / 245 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (5 ½ oz / 150 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 eggs
½ cup (4 oz / 113 g) butter, melted
3 large (or 4 small) overripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (2 ½ oz / 60 g) toasted black walnuts, chopped
½ cup (3 ½ oz / 94 g) butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, bananas, and vanilla. Stir together until just moistened, then add the walnuts and butterscotch chips. Stir together until just combined and spread into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about an hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Recipe source: adapted from Manu’s Menu

Cinnamon Freud Banana Bread

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I was assigned to Karen’s blog, Cinnamon Freud, for the Secret Recipe Club this month. She’s a counseling psychology doctoral student who also loves to cook and bake. How genius is her blog name?! I know she must get that a lot, but it’s true. Genius.

So anyway, last month I chose banana bread for my SRC assignment and Debra suggested I do banana bread every month because of my outrageous obsession with it. Although I didn’t intend to take her up on that challenge, as soon as I received my SRC assignment, I looked to see if Karen had a banana bread recipe, because I had a bunch of bananas that were really overripe and needing to be used. And she did – this recipe, in fact.  I made this bread the same day I received my assignment – the quickest I’ve ever done it!

Since she simply called it banana bread, and I have way too many banana recipes on my blog to call it just banana bread, I added her blog name into it.  I couldn’t resist – it’s just so catchy!  :)  My second choice for this bread’s name would be “Dessert Banana Bread.”  This bread has more sugar than normal (which I totally am on board with – the more sugar the better, as far as I’m concerned), making it a bit more indulgent and appropriate for dessert…with a scoop of ice cream and caramel sauce on top, of course. haha! ;)  Oh and I have to tell you this bread is excellent with black walnuts. I made one plain, one with black walnuts. They were beautiful – sweet, dense, soft & velvety, just perfect.  These disappeared FAST – a definite winner!

Cinnamon Freud Banana Bread

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3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 cups mix-ins (nuts, chocolate chips, etc)
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and any mix-ins you want to add. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until blended, then add the remaining ingredients, beating until combined. Add approximately 1/4 cup dry ingredients into the wet. Mix until just combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients.

Spread into prepared loaf pans & bake for 55-70 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Recipe source: Cinnamon Freud


I usually keep my recipe posts and baby posts totally separate, but since I haven’t been posting very much period, I just can’t resist including some baby love. :)  Here he is being a cloth diaper and baby leg warmers model. :D

Be sure to check out the other Group C Secret Recipe Club contributions this month by clicking the linky frog below!

Banana Bread Cockaigne

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This month my Secret Recipe Club assignment was Rachel’s blog, The Avid Appetite. Cute name, and her recipes are great too!

If you’ve been reading a while, you know I have a banana bread obsession, fueled by my desire to beat a certain someone in this category at our state fair’s baking competition…which I have yet to do, despite many ribbons in other categories. As a result, I have shared 9 recipes for banana bread/muffins on my blog, and 26 more on my Facebook Fan Page in this album.  If there is a banana bread recipe on my assigned blog for the month, I usually have to fight my inner urge/obsession to make it and usually pick another recipe.  Usually.  But this time, I couldn’t.  It was the intriguing name.

Banana Bread Cockaigne (FYI it’s pronounced kah-kayne, not koe-kayne…big difference).  *Cue the harp music.*  I looked up the definition and it’s a mythical land of plenty, an imaginary place of extreme luxury and ease where physical comforts, and pleasures are always at hand (such as banana bread, but of course).  In other words, fairy tale banana bread! Therefore the editing on the first photo to make it look like it was living in a fairy tale – lol.

So does the bread live up to its name?  The lemon zest is such an interesting twist on the classic recipe and it does indeed give it an ethereal quality.  I was skeptical but it is a truly wonderful addition to the banana flavor!  I made this bread twice in one week (switching from shortening to butter, adding extra banana, a little oil, and toasted walnuts the second time to increase the flavor, moisture, and crumb) and sent some to work with Dennis to rave reviews. Then he got a romotion, so perhaps it really is fairy tale banana bread. :) Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe, Rachel!

Banana Bread Cockaigne

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 ½ cups (6 ½ oz / 182 g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (5 1/4 oz / 150 g) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter (3 oz / 85 g)
¾ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups (9 oz / 255 g) mashed ripe banana
½ cup (1 ¾ oz / 48 g) walnuts, toasted* and chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8×4 loaf pan** with oil; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, butter, and lemon zest together. Add the oil and eggs and beat until well combined. Beat in the banana. Using a spatula, stir in the flour mixture until almost combined, then fold in the walnuts, being careful not to over-mix.

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Remove from pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

*To toast walnuts, spread in an even-layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave in 1-minute intervals, stirring with your fingers in between, until fragrant and toasted. Allow to cool before chopping.

**Most loaf pans are 9×5, which is fine to use, but your loaf will be fairly flat compared to the one in my pictures. You will also need to decrease the baking time – start checking at 40 minutes for doneness.

Recipe source: The Avid Appetite

Check out the link below to see the other Secret Recipe Club, Group C posts!


Onion, Cheese & Poppy Seed Bread

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Poppy seeds go with lemon, amiright?  Maybe orange if you want to get a little adventurous.  But cheese and onion?  I wasn’t sure.  I love to try new things but I admit, I wouldn’t have made this bread if I hadn’t gotten the recipe from my Foodie Mama, and if she hadn’t told me that it was an undefeated blue ribbon winner for 25 years in California and she finally retired it to give someone else a chance. Ha!  Well, knowing it had to be good, even if it was a sweet quick bread with onions and cheese in it and poppy seeds, I made it while staying with my in-laws last week.  The loaf was devoured in less than a day. (I may have had more than my fair share.)

Marina recommended spreading cream cheese on the slices and I have to tell you, that was incredible! The tangy cream cheese really was the perfect compliment to the sweet & savory bread.  She also said if you toast the slices first, it makes an outrageous grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  Unfortunately this loaf was eaten too fast for us to try it, but I’m going to next time!

P.S. Marina still has copies of her cookbook available for purchase for $10 + $3.50 S&H. Let me know if you’d like to purchase one!  I have yet to be disappointed in any recipes I’ve tried from it.

Onion, Cheese & Poppy Seed Bread

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1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz) vegetable shortening
3 large eggs
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder*
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar, Monterrey Jack or a combination
1/2 cup finely diced sweet onions
Sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or coat with Miracle Pan Release; set aside.

Cream sugar and shortening until fluffy, a few minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately to creamed mixture with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in cheese, onions, and poppy seeds. Pour into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle of loaf comes out dry. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove loaf carefully and cool completely on wire rack. Loaf is best the next day, or at least several hours after baking so that the flavors can deepen and meld.

*I always recommend using an aluminum-free baking powder, such as Rumford, in any recipe calling for more than a teaspoon. The regular kind with aluminum tends to leave a chemical aftertaste in baked goods, especially if a larger amount is used.

Recipe source: Marina C.


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