Category Archives: Breads

A more amazing banana bread

Banana bread has become one of my standbys – takes very little prep time or energy, and generally tastes pretty damn good no matter the time of year. I’ve played with making banana bread muffins, recently branched into banana scones… Whoever first developed banana bread had a really good idea.

That being said, once I came across the recipe I presently use, I hadn’t really branched out or futzed with it because it is that good. That is, until this week. As Thursday was 4th of July, I had the day off and didn’t really have to bake. knowing I had the day off, I didn’t give much thought to baking, making sure I have ingredients, or anything of that sort. I was running low on butter anyway, so I thought I would forego the process for this week.

Luckily, I was invited to a barbecue. My first thought: AWESOME BBQ! My second thought: what should I bring? My host had no particular preference, so it was up to me to come up with something awesome. I really really really really wanted to use the last of my butter and try making roti buns, and I did…. but that became quite the aborted attempt when they decided to not rise properly. I may have over-kneaded the dough, or I might have failed with the yeast, I don’t really know – that will be retried again in the near future. It left me scrambling, though. I could try muffins, but it would be chocolate and I had already made tons of chocolate muffins in the last couple of months… So bananas it was. I unburied my trusty banana bread recipe, and found that I had approximately half an over-ripe banana more than I needed. Instead of putting it back in the fridge to let sadden, I tossed it in; half a banana can’t hurt, right?

Oh…was I correct on that one! That half-banana made just enough of a difference with the moisture that even though the loaves were sliced and placed on a platter and generally sat around half the day waiting to be eaten, they were still moist! The bread falls apart just a bit more easily with the extra moisture, at least when you’re slicing them up straight out of the oven (it was smelling so good that Mikal insisted we have some… oh buttons, so good).

So, the following is the reworked recipe. I have baking times for both loaves and muffins, so I will put that in too.

Banana Bread

Adapted from Sweet Amandine

1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large overripe bananas – approx. 1 1/2 cups
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 1/2 tbsp packed golden brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 tbsp flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a metal loaf pan, or line a muffin tin with liners. Spray liners with cooking spray if you do not want to watch people licking at the liner to get all the yummy goodness off.

In a large bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, eggs, vegetable oil, honey and water together until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined. Stir in the 1/2 cup walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

For the topping, mix together granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Fork in the room-temperature butter until decently incorporated – you’ll have a moist clumpish substance. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the loaves/muffins, and top with the buttery clumps. This helps to adhere the nuts to the top so that they don’t fall off as easily should you slice the loaf and present it, or when you’re moving the muffins.

If making loaves, bake the bread for about 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. IF USING METAL LOAF PANS check at about 45 minutes, and keep an eye out thereafter – I have noticed that the bread will take on a distinctly browned flavor if I just let it go for the whole hour or so. If making muffins, bake for 20-23 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. If making mini-muffins, bake for 15 minutes.

Peasant Bread

Bread seems like one of those things it should be pretty hard to screw up. I mean, it’s flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt. That’s all you really need. So I have to keep asking myself why my bread doesn’t turn out. When we lived in Olympia, I blamed it on the generally low ambient temperature – none of my doughs ever seem to rise enough, and came out way too dense.

I thought that would change once I got down to California. The ambient temperature in the bay area is pretty awesome, generally speaking, so the dough should rise pretty easily, right? No such luck. So I stopped attempting bread as I was obviously doing something wrong. Perhaps it was the temperature of the water that the yeast sits in to become active; perhaps it was the yeast itself. I’m betting on one or both of those, because when I tried this recipe, I busted out a new package of yeast I got in bulk, and that yeast was foaming in the water like there was no tomorrow. (I guess for them, there wasn’t >_>) I had previously been using the little envelopes, though at one point I had used a small jar of active dry yeast…

In any case, the recipe below is AMAZING. It’s a bit odd to handle – very wet, so you need to bake it in a container – but even that doesn’t deter me from wanting to make a couple of loaves EVERY DAY. I started a batch day before yesterday in the morning, but I seem to have not incorporated the flour and water together all that well because when I went to check on it, somehow a bunch of the water had separated to the bottom and it was just completely lost. I tossed that batch, and in the afternoon started another. I kind of forgot about it, so it sat for a good couple of hours before I headed to bed and had an oh-shit moment. I separated the dough into two pyrex bowls, covered them with plastic wrap, and tossed them in the fridge for their second rising. Even so, when I baked them yesterday morning, Mikal and I scarfed down one of the loaves as soon as we could get it out of the bowl. Even with over-proofing, it still came out light and fluffy, and the buttering of the bowl creates a wonderful crust – remember not to skimp on that, because it’s a beast to get out otherwise.

Peasant Bread

from Alexandra’s Kitchen

1lb 2oz all-purpose flour (approx. 4 cups)
2 tsp salt
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp active-dry yeast

room-temperature butter, approx. 2 tbsp

A couple of notes: With the flour, the recipe specifies to go by weight, but if you can’t, you measure scant-cups of flour by scooping the flour into the measuring devices with another cup or spoon, then leveling off below the rim of the measuring device. As I have a scale at home, I just went with the weight measurement because it was much easier. 

Additionally, the recipe gives a wonderful tip for achieving the correct temperature for the yeast to have some fun in: boil some water, and add a half-cup of the boiled water to 1 1/2 cups cold water – it does seem to do the trick fantastically. 

Finally, there is a warning about the baking vessels: you do need to make sure to use two or more smaller bowls or whatever for the baking, as the dough is too moist/fragile to bake up well in the larger bowl. 

In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. (The recipe then goes on to say that there is no need to stir it, but I found that if I just sprinkled it the yeast didn’t seem terribly active; with stirring, there was a party in that water in no time. Do whatever you are comfortable with.) Let stand for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit. While this is happening, measure out the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Once the yeast mixture is ready, add to the flour mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Cover the bowl with a damp tea-towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 1-2hrs until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter up two oven-safe bowls (this makes a couple of nicely-rounded loaves; I haven’t attempted to use a different pan, but you could undoubtedly use a loaf pan – I’m totally going to do that next). Using the spatula, punch down the dough, folding it in on itself. Divide the dough evenly between the two bowls. (This is where it’s a little odd to handle – you can just divide the dough in half and toss into the bowls – I had to finagle it a bit because it is that wet.) Let the dough rise for 30 minutes or until it has risen to around the top of the bowls.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F; reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for 22-25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and turn the loaves out onto cooling racks. If, for whatever reason, your loaves seem a bit pale once they are out of the bowl, stick them back in the oven without the bowls for 5 minutes or so.

As Mikal and I were eating that first loaf, I had a few different ideas of what to use the bread for: grilled cheese sandwiches, french toast, something else that has run away rom my mind… Just keep in mind that this bread is rather…soft. It’s probably not ideal for everyday sandwiches, or spreading peanut butter on. I may have to do a bit more experimenting to see if I can figure out how to make it just a bit more universally useable without messing with the simplicity of the recipe – because this is so simple I could easily make it every day.

Persimmon Scones

I love my residents. I shared one of my clementine scones with one of my newer ones, and in return she gave me a couple of dried persimmons to use in my baking. Now, I really haven’t had a persimmon before. Mikal was able to snag one off a neighbor’s tree at some point last year and I tried a bite at that time, but it was odd and I had no idea what to expect, so I wasn’t sure if it was even ripe of any sort. I have no idea to this day what they are supposed to taste like. I have been making a lot of scones lately, though, and it seemed like that might be a good thing to use them in. After looking around a bit, I found the following, but it called for fresh persimmons. Being a generally cautious person, I just went ahead and used two dried persimmon halves – and the response was pretty damn good.

Persimmon Scones
from We Make a Beautiful Mess

2 dried persimmons (original calls for 2 cups fresh)
2 tsp vanilla
4 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold
2 cups cold buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 380°F. Remove the stem-bit from the dried persimmons, then chop the gooeyness into a desirable size. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add sugar, salt, and stir together. Cut or shave the butter into dry ingredients. Use our hands or a fork to break up the butter into small chunks throughout the mixture.

(You know, the couple of times I saw my mom make scones, she cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a couple of butter knives, and she used her hands to bring the wet and dry ingredients together. At the time I thought it was gross – I had a tactile issue with slimy/sticky things. I still have this issue to some extent, but this time in making scones I decided to put everything together by hand. It was really very satisfying, and I can understand why people would choose to do so.)

Add the milk, vanilla, then the persimmons. Mix lightly with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together, adding the milk or any leftover pulp to the dough as needed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Pat the dough down into a rectangle and cut into triangles, or use a cookie-cutter (it works amazingly well! I have a candy-corn shaped cutter that I use and it’s pretty awesome) to shape the scones and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Make sure there is at least 1 inch of space between the scones – these do puff up. Sprinkle raw sugar over the tops and bake 25-35 minutes or until just slightly browned.

This recipe makes somewhere around 18 or so scones. It’s a bit, so share them with friends. They will thank you.

Clementine Scones

Apparently, my wonderful boss-lady never really liked scones. Weird, huh? Well, to her credit, they can be crumbly and hard to eat, as well as insanely dry. But apparently I have the magic touch with scones for her – I tend to make them moister, smaller, things like that. When we were brainstorming my latest batch of yummies to bring to work, she ended up surfing the interwebs and printed half a dozen different scone recipes for me to choose from. It was pretty awesome.

I settled on a double-orange scone recipe that incorporates both chopped orange segments and grated peel. I had just bought a couple of 5lb bags of clementines from Sprouts because they were on an amazing sale, and figured that would be a great use for them. And oh….was it good. In fact, I made two versions of it, one with spice. I actually liked that particular version more – it gives it quite the complexity to the orange flavor, while not detracting from the refreshment of the citrus flavor.

Clementine Scones

based on Double-Orange Scones with Orange Butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp grated clementine peel
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup clementine segments, chopped (I chopped them into quarters – that seemed a good size)
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tbsp raw sugar

*for the spice version: knock the granulated sugar down to 2 tbsp and add 2 tbsp brown sugar; add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, cloves, nutmeg. Add all to the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix flour, 3 tbsp sugar, the baking powder and clementine peel. Cut in 1/3 cup butter using pastry blender or fork until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add clementine segments, milk and egg; stir just until mixture leaves side of the bowl and a soft dough forms.

Place dough on floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times, working to ensure even distribution of moisture. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, roll or pat dough out into a 7″ round. Sprinkle with 1tbsp raw sugar. Cut into 8 wedges, and separate slightly.

Toss scones in freezer for at least an hour. (The nice thing about freezing the scones: you don’t have to bake them all right now – just grab as many out as you need for whatever you’re doing.) 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a different baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liner, and arrange the scones. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.


Eat. Be happy. 


Brioche dough for beignet and cinnamon rolls

I discovered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day a couple of years ago, and I have never once regretted getting it. I am sometimes confused and perplexed by their instructions (you’ll see an example of that in this post), but for the most part they are spot on.

The idea behind the book is that one can have freshly-baked bread whenever they want it as long as they make bulk dough recipes. It pretty much works out that if you make a bulk batch of, say, honey wheat bread on the weekend, you’ll have fresh bread to accompany dinner throughout the week. And the recipes are really nicely scalable, too, in case you don’t necessarily want to have a five quart bucket of dough sitting in your fridge.

I haven’t yet played around with all of the recipes – I feel the need to master the few that I have tried before trying more complex ones. My dough is almost never just right – I tend to worry that I will over-rise it, so my tendency is toward under-risen dough. It tends to come out dense, rather than that nice almost fluffy texture you’ll find in a good baguette. Once I figure out how to make it rise appropriately, I will surely celebrate on here and all the interwebs will know that I can finally make a good loaf of bread.

In the meantime, I have discovered the following recipe for brioche dough in the book, and it’s amazing. It’s my go-to dough for cinnamon or any other type of swirly-roll and beignets. This morning I’m making spinach turkey and cheese rolls because we have some spinach that isn’t quite as happy as it should be. Mikal has also promised to make caramel rolls with my failed caramels if only I would make the dough. The dough is made – and already niftily portioned out into batchy-clumps for easy use.

Brioche Dough

from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Note: The original recipe as posted makes four 1 lb loaves. Considering I forget it is sitting in the fridge half the time, I tend to halve the recipe – it’s a pretty easy split. 

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
7 1/2 cups unbleached flour

Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with the dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with the dough hook). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled; don’t try to work with it before chilling. (You may notice lumps in the dough but they will disappear in the finished products.)

Loosely cover the dough and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours or until the dough rises and falls. Stick dough into the refrigerator to chill and firm.

You can use the dough once it is chilled to the point of being firm enough to handle comfortably. I tend to put it in overnight – the first time I made it I under-chilled it; really bad idea, seriously messy and sticky.

From here the dough can go a few different places. To make the spinach rolls, I took about a third of the half-batch I did, rolled it out to about 1/8″ thick, and sprinkled with garlic powder, cayenne, grated cheddar cheese, turkey sandwich meat slices, spinach, and more cheese. It will be a bit annoying to roll together, but I rolled and sliced them and put them into muffin pan cavities. I have never been one for pulling cinnamon rolls out of a pan – too sticky/messy and they tend to look less than perfect once they are out of the pan. With the spinach rolls, it just makes more sense to do singles anyway. Also, if you notice that the dough is a bit hard to handle (warmed, that is), you can chill it before attempting to slice it.

Once the rolls are cut and roll-ish, loosely cover and let rise for an hour if chilled, 40 mins if you were brave and let the dough warm up before rolling out. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and bake for ~40 minutes or until yummy-looking.

Sadly, I took the rolls downstairs to the office before getting a picture of them – and of course they have been devoured. Why do I do this every time and expect to miraculously get different results? Because I am crazy.

Perhaps I will have the opportunity to share pictures of the caramel rolls Mikal will make. (hint)