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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

Printable recipe
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.

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Quick Coconut Oil & Kahlua Brownies

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In looking over all the food photos I have in my “future blog” folder, I’m noticing a trend. Everything is baked in the oven! In the past, I’ve tried to save most of my baked recipes to share in cooler weather, but I just bake so much in summer, that’s really all I’ve got for you. Even the main dishes I’ve been making have come from the oven.  Am I the only one? Maybe I’ve got some Australian readers eager for baked treats & casseroles? haha!

So these are a box mix recipe which I know, is probably a food crime combining wonderful virgin coconut oil in conjunction with a box mix, but it’s really good! If you’re wanting a good from-scratch coconut oil brownie you might be able to just sub coconut oil in my favorite Fudge Brownies recipe.  But if you’re in a hurry, this one will do you.

My usual trick to make box mix brownies taste homemade is to sub melted butter for the oil, but I was out, so I used coconut oil. The slight coconut oil flavor mixed with the Kahlua (I used my homemade stuff) is pretty out of this world. Using the coconut oil changes the finish on the top and although it’s got that flaky crispy layer, it’s dull, not shiny. I also noticed they were harder to remove from the pan, but nice and fudgy and the flavor is much better than just following the instructions on the back. Enjoy!

Quick Coconut Oil & Kahlua Brownies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 fudge brownie mix
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup Kahlua, room temperature

Mix all ingredients and bake according to package directions.

Veronica’s note: You want the ingredients at room temperature to keep the coconut oil from hardening during the mixing. If it hardens, it will not mix evenly. Also, if your box calls for 1/2 cup oil, use 1/2 cup coconut oil, not 2/3 cup. Mine turned out pretty thin in a 9×13 pan so if you like thicker brownies, go with a smaller pan.

You can’t see in this photo, but he’s already holding a half-eaten brownie while reaching for another. These are definitely Joshua-approved. I served these to five other children and three adults besides myself, they were a hit all-around.

Things I Like Thursday: USA Pans

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I’m starting something new!  Things I Like Thursday. TILT.  I like it. :)  I hope you like it too.

First off, I’m a thrifty person, as we are a family of four (don’t forget the dog – she is almost as expensive than the toddler!) living on one small income, so I try to buy things that are lower in price.  However, I am also willing to save and pay more for something that is really good quality because I’ve learned over and over, the hard way, that you almost always get what you pay for.  Not always, but usually.  And you actually do end up saving money, and getting better results, by paying more for high quality pans that last a lifetime than paying for $5 pans over and over and over.

Which leads me to my favorite pans.  I have bought a lot of cheap pans and the results I got with them were OK, not great, but I’m a good baker, so it wasn’t terrible.  I finally decided, after the state fair judges told me for the millionth time not to grease the sides of my pans (and finally disqualified me for doing so after many warnings), that it was time to buy some really killer pans that baked goods would actually come free of, even if I didn’t grease the sides.

I did some research, comparing different brands, and I was swayed by the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon for the USA pans.  So despite them costing more than I’d usually like to pay, I used some of my state fair winnings money several years ago to purchase a loaf pan and two muffin pans.

USA Pans 6-Piece Bakeware Set

Oh my wow, people.  These pans are amazing.  I actually had previously purchased an even higher priced Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Loaf Pan with a gift card I got for a birthday, and these pans beat the pricey Goldtouch pans out of the park.  Yes, the Goldtouch pans are nicely nonstick, and they give breads and muffins an excellent rise, but they also consistently over-browned the sides and bottom of my baked goods.  And dark brown on the sides, golden on the top is just not a good look for baked goods.  State Fair judges are definitely not fans of that look. The pans also tend to collect yucky stuff in the corners that was a lot of work to get out with a toothpick.


USA Pans 9 x 5 x 2.75 Inch Loaf Pan, Aluminized Steel with Americoat

The USA Pans are not only fabulously nonstick, and give your baked goods an excellent rise, but they do not over-brown the bottom and sides of your baked goods, and do not collect gunk in the corners.  I have also had no problems with rust, and my pans are still in the same condition they were when I bought them two years ago.


USA Pans 8.5 x 4.5 Inch Aluminized Steel Loaf Pan with Americoat Loaf Pan

I can now present my quick breads to the judges without having the “fry line,” as they call it, on the sides, and last year I was not disqualified.  In fact, my Black Walnut Banana Bread got third place. (Yes, the blue ribbon STILL eludes me! One day, people, one day. Here is the main part of my Banana Bread adventures if you’re unfamiliar with my epic quest for a blue ribbon and want to catch up.)

USA Pans 5-1/2 by 3-Inch Mini Loaf Pan, Set of 4

I will say that the one drawback with the muffin pans is that they won’t fit side by side in a regular-sized oven if you want to bake two dozen muffins or cupcakes at once. Which I often do.  It hasn’t slowed me down though, I just put one in the middle rack on the far right, and one on the very top, far left. The bottom one gets done first and I move the top one down to finish, or sometimes just leave it up there to slowly finish.  It really upset me when I discovered they wouldn’t fit side by side, but I don’t mind it at all now.  Since it bothered me so much, though, I wanted to make sure to mention it so you guys don’t have any surprises if you decide to buy them!  They are definitely my favorite muffin pans, even with the unfortunate size problem.


USA Pans 12 Cup Cupcake/Muffin Pan, Aluminized Steel with Americoat

I highly recommend USA pans to anyone that enjoys baking.  They are definitely “Things I Like.” :)

Check back next Thursday for another kitchen edition of TILT! After that I might get all wild and crazy with posts on cloth diapers and essential oils. I be so crunchy! :D

Full disclosure: I’m not being paid to provide this review, nor was I provided with anything free to do it.  I just really LOVE these pans and want to spread the word.  There are affiliate links contained in this post, and I will earn a commission if you decide to purchase any of these items through the links I provide, but again, the thoughts and opinions stated here are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting my blog! :)

Classic Cherry Pie

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If you had trouble accessing the Preacher Tuna Salad recipe yesterday, I apologize. I accidentally posted it twice and deleted the original, making the link most everyone got lead to nowhere.  You can click here to view the recipe.With the 4th of July holiday quickly approaching, I thought it was about time I shared my favorite cherry pie recipe.  Maybe it’s all the red, but it just seems very festive to me! :)  There’s nothing fancy about it, unless you consider a lattice top crust fancy, but it’s a very good pie and excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  I love the flavor the almond extract adds, to me it is the essential key to a good cherry pie.

I love my Perfect Pie Crust above all others, and is the crust pictured here.  I highly recommend it for any and all pies, but truth be told, I just as often use a box of Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts.  Judge me if you must, but it saves so much time!  If you buy pre-made crusts, don’t bother with generic/off-brands, they are awful. Pillsbury is pretty good if you don’t have time to make your own.

Classic Cherry Pie

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Pastry for a two-crust pie
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 (14.5 oz) cans tart cherries in water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
Milk & coarse sugar for top crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one pie crust and line a 9” pie plate; place in refrigerator. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar & cornstarch and mix well. Drain the juice from the cherries into the pan with the sugar & cornstarch; set the cherries aside. Stirring constantly, cook the juice mixture over medium heat, until bubbling and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, almond extract, and food coloring, if desired, until butter is melted. Stir in the cherries. Spoon into prepared pie plate. Roll out second disc of dough and cut into strips with a pastry wheel or pizza cutter. Arrange strips on top of filling to make a lattice design. Seal and flute edges. Brush milk over crust and sprinkle with sugar. Place on middle oven rack and put a cookie sheet below to catch any spillover. Bake 30 minutes, then put a pie shield on the pie to protect the crust from over-browning. Bake another 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool at least two hours or overnight before serving.

Veronica’s note: I tend to cook my fruit pie filling until extremely thick, as I prefer my pies not to run at all when cut, as you can see in the photos. If you like yours to run a little, just follow the directions and you’ll be fine. My weirdness for cooking it until nearly cement is not included in them. :)  Also, I have a step-by-step video tutorial on another pie that includes how to make a lattice design here.

**Be sure to visit my “Current Favorites” in the sidebar at the right for other recipes that would be a great addition to your July 4th menu.**

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

Printable recipe
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

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!

 

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