Favorite Banana Bread

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread.  This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.

Sliced Banana Bread with melting butter

It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.

Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”

Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.


Favorite Banana Bread

  • Servings: One 9” x 5” loaf pan
  • Print

This moist banana bread is quick to make, packed with flavor and my go-to recipe when overripe bananas are on hand.


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and white vinegar and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, curdled milk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Pour wet ingredients over dry and whisk until just combined. Fold in nuts and mashed bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Cranberry Swirl Bread

Cranberry Bread
This recipe is about a week too late. I should have posted it immediately after Thanksgiving – but, after hosting two back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners, I succumbed to post-holiday laziness and didn’t get around to it until today. Apologies for my tardiness. So, close your eyes, pretend it’s Black Friday, you’ve finished shopping and you’re staring at a fridge full of leftovers – including a big Tuppperware of cranberry sauce. My go-to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce makes a generous four cups of the sparingly-used condiment and, after the big T-day, I always have a bowl of leftover sauce hogging fridge space. I have a few recipes for using up the leftover sauce including cranberry panna cotta, cranberry gelato and, my personal favorite, cranberry-cherry tart. Rather than my standard array of dessert fare,  this year I wanted to make a lovely, not-too-sweet cranberry swirl bread that could be toasted, slathered with mayo and layered with leftover turkey and warm stuffing for the ultimate savory post-holiday turkey sandwich. I’m rather happy with the results – I used the bread for sandwiches on Friday, French toast on Saturday and, finally, a creamy bread pudding studded with tart cranberry swirls on Sunday.


Cranberry Swirl Bread

  • Servings: One 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf
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Adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Fast White Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very warm water (115⁰ – 120⁰ – this is warmer than normal yeast activation temperature)
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce, drained
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or white sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of the mixer, add two cups of bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt (yeast and salt should not touch as salt can retard yeast activation). Add water and melted butter and combine on low to medium speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is moist by not sticky (you may not need to add the entire cup). Knead for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  2. Preheat oven to 450⁰. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-inch x 12- inch rectangle. Cover dough with cranberry sauce..
  3. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough, jellyroll style, pinching the ends closed to contain the cranberry filling. Place the dough in the loaf pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  4. Brush beaten egg over top of loaf, sprinkle with salt and turbinado sugar. Bake in 450⁰ oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350⁰ and continue baking for about 30 minutes more. If the top of the loaf is brown, cover with foil until loaf is fully cooked. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice, toast, slather with mayo and make the best leftover turkey sandwich ever.

Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

A basket of Bacon, Cheddar, Green Onion Scones
Certain weeks, this week for example, I struggle to post even once. I’m typically not confounded by the culinary piece (although I can get frustrated when a day-long recipe results in an inedible flop), but by this part – the header, the “intro”, the story behind the recipe. Often, I’ve cooked (and eaten) my creation days, if not weeks, before I hit upon a header for the recipe, if ever. Many dishes never make it to publication.

Last night, “D” and I were batting around  fictional “intro” ideas for these scones (baked last Sunday) that included a faux picnic featuring these scones at last night’s Hollywood Bowl concert (à la Sunset Magazine) and another story involving Jared Kushner, Russia meetings and his desire for sweet scones vs. savory.

Unfortunately, in my world, the truth behind the recipe is never that compelling.

I baked these savory scones for no other reason than I wanted kitchen time. The flavor combination idea (a classic) resulted from watching a rerun of The Great British Baking Show. Originally, I was imagining a yeasty swirl bread, loaded with a filling of bacon-cheesy goodness when I hit upon the idea of scones instead. Using my favorite sweet scone recipe as a base, I decreased the sugar, swapped sweet ingredients for savory and, voila – buttery, savory scones.

Granted, the Kushner-Russia connection would have been more interesting.


Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

I’ve taken my favorite American scone recipe and turned it savory and loaded with flavor. With three sticks of butter in the dough, no additional butter is needed on these babies.

Ingredients

  • 8 strips bacon, cubed
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk, divided
  • 1 whole egg
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Add green onions to bacon grease in pan and sauté until softened. Add onions to bacon and cool both. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until butter is pea-sized.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, measure 1 cup buttermilk. Beat in whole egg until well combined. Pour buttermilk into dry ingredients and gently combine with your hands until dough barely comes together. Add bacon, green onion, and cheddar and gently combine. The secret to flaky scones is not to overwork the dough.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into two disks about 1 ½ inches high. Cut each disk into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on the baking sheets. Brush scones with remaining ¼ cup buttermilk and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 35-40 minutes until scone are golden brown. These scones are best served slightly warm.

 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Sliced homemade cinnamon raisin bread and a cup of tea
9:30 p.m.: I’m ravenous for a snack, but I really must eat healthy for a change. Damn, I need to grocery shop – there isn’t a healthy morsel in the house. Oh wait, is that canned tuna way back in the cupboard? Tuna is healthy – all those Omega 3’s. I could whip up an easy tuna salad. Yawn, plain tuna salad bores me. Perhaps a tuna salad sandwich instead? Ugh, I’ve run out of bread. No matter, I can bake a quick white loaf. Flour, water, salt, yeast, sugar…oh wait, here’s a bag of plump raisins. Forget the white loaf; I should make cinnamon raisin bread instead! Yum!

11:30 p.m.: Mmm…there’s nothing better than thickly-sliced toasted cinnamon raisin bread slathered in melted salted butter. Healthy what?!


Cinnamon Raisin Bread

  • Servings: One 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf
  • Print
Adapted from Joy of Cooking’s Fast White Bread recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour, divided
  • 3 Tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very warm water (115⁰ – 120⁰ – this is warmer than normal yeast activation temperature)
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1 cup raisins, soaked in hot water to soften and drained
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) or white sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of the mixer, add two cups of bread flour, 1 Tablespoon sugar, yeast, and salt (yeast and salt should not touch as salt can retard yeast activation). Add water and 2 Tablespoons melted butter and combine on low to medium speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of flour until the dough is moist by not sticky (you may not need to add the entire cup). Knead for about 10 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  2. Preheat oven to 450⁰. Grease an 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Combine remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Punch the dough down. Place the dough between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-inch square. Brush the dough with the remaining Tablespoon of melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and drained raisins. Lightly press raisins into dough.
  3. Roll up dough, jellyroll style, pinching the ends closed. Place the dough in the loaf pan, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in volume (about 30 minutes).
  4. Brush beaten egg over top of loaf, sprinkle with salt and turbinado sugar. Bake in 450⁰ oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350⁰ and continue baking for about 30 minutes more. If the top of the loaf is brown, cover with foil until loaf is fully cooked. Remove loaf from pan and let cool completely on a rack. Slice, toast, slather with butter, and push the guilt away until tomorrow.

Zucchini Bread with Blueberries

Zucchini Bread

Thwarted again! The plan was to wrap up the scone bake-off this weekend with a final ginger scone recipe that, if I remember correctly, made a flavorful, but cake-like scone.   Five zucchinis in my CSA basket pushed me in another unexpected direction. This is my “go to” zucchini bread recipe – either with or without the blueberries.

Zucchini Bread with Blueberries
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

Bread
2.5 c. Grated zucchini
½ t. plus ½ t. Salt
3 c. plus 1 T. All-purpose flour
1 t. Baking soda
1 t. Baking powder
1 T. Cinnamon
¼ t. Nutmeg
¼ t. Clove
3 Eggs
1 c. Vegetable oil
2 ¼ c. Sugar
1 T. Vanilla extract
1 pint Blueberries (optional)
¾ c. Chopped walnuts (optional)
Streusel
4 T. Butter
¼ c. Quaker oats
¼ c. Chopped walnuts
¼ c. Sugar or brown sugar
2 T. Flour
¼ t. cinnamon

Directions:
Place grated zucchini in colander, sprinkle with ½ t. salt and toss. Grease and flour two 8×4 loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make streusel topping by combining strudel ingredients and blending with fingers until pea-sized crumbs form.

Sift 3 c. flour, ½ t. salt, baking, soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl. Using mixer, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together. Add sifted ingredients to egg mixture and gently combine until flour is fully incorporated. Dust blueberries with 1 T. flour (helps blueberries from sinking to bottom). Wring as much liquid from zucchini as possible using a dry kitchen towel. Add zucchini, blueberries and walnuts to batter and stir until combined. Pour batter into pans and sprinkle with streusel.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.