Category Archives: Breakfast

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.

Granola and Greek Yogurt

Hello CocoFanciers! I’m Mikal and this is my first time posting on here. Those of you that read this (and don’t know either Candice or me personally) know me exclusively via anecdotes on Candice’s posts, and probably are not aware that I am an experienced cook. I’ve been making food most of my life, either with my parents or on my own and started really experimenting on my own when I was a teenager (and even went to school for it briefly), and I have a tendency to make food without using recipes. That isn’t to say I don’t use them at all. If I’m trying to make something specific that I’ve never made before, I’ll use one, but most of the time I just throw stuff together sans recipe.

One thing I’ve been making for a couple months now is granola. My first attempt at making it was for a yogurt, fruit, and granola dessert. Contrary to what I expected, Candice loved it and insisted that I make more. I’ve now had a couple months to make and perfect the guidelines for it and – what is an unusual task for me – write them down.

Granola in the Oven
Look at that bokeh… what? Oh, right! Mmm, granola…

Now remember, these are guidelines. If you don’t like something I include, use something else. The key is to follow the outline and include the necessary ingredients. The goal for this granola is to make something that is slightly chewy, but has crispy and crunchy elements to it.

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped or sliced almonds
1 cup pepitas
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flax seed
1/2 – 2/3 cup syrup (your choice)

Equipment:
A large, flat pan – preferably a commercial aluminum baking sheet
A flat edged cooking utensil
Wax paper
Cup measure
Storage facility

Total cooking and preparation time: ~ 2 hours

Preheat oven to 250°F. Measure and equally spread three cups of rolled oats (quick oats are probably okay, but I prefer rolled oats) on the bottom of the pan (I prefer large, commercial, aluminum baking sheets. You can get them from Costco for just a few dollars each. They’re durable, and good at transferring heat to whatever is on them). I do this by sprinkling the oats out of the cup measure across the pan. Next spread your next ingredient over the oats. And the next. And the next. Until you’ve got all your dry ingredients layered in the pan. Hold the syrup until later. Now place your pan into the oven for 1.5 hours.

Put on some music, dance and sing. Watch Firefly. Plant a garden. Take a relaxing bath. Worried that you’ll forget about it and it’ll burn? Turn it down to 200°F and relax. You’ll have to wait longer, but you are less likely to burn it. The purpose of this step is exclusively to slowly heat and dry out your granola mix. So it’s ok to turn it down.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Ok, take your granola out. Stir it around. Be sure to mix it nicely. Now flatten it back out by grabbing the edge of the pan and shaking it slightly. Or you can use your utensil. Whichever you prefer. It’s not my granola. You want to use a spatula? Go right ahead! I prefer the shake method. Much quicker. And a little fun, too.

Now that your granola mix is flat, grab your syrup (honey, maple, agave, corn syrup, strawberry, chocolate, the syrup from later in this post, or whatever else you prefer). Drizzle that delicious stuff across the mixture. I prefer a back and forth pattern with streams about one inch apart. Back and forth, side to side. But whatever you need to do to get it nicely covered, do that. Once you’ve done that, mix it around. No! Don’t use your hands! That mixture is hot! No, grab that utensil I told you about earlier. Yeah, the flat edged one. Yeah, that’s the one. Ok, stir it around. Mmmm, sticky. Now flatten it out again.

Granola on Spatula
No waste! Eat it!

Done? Ok. Turn the oven temperature up to 350°F and place the pan back in. This time you’re going to cook it for 12-15 minutes. Don’t go too long or it’ll burn. Sugar burns quickly and easily, so watch it this time.

After it’s done, take it out. But don’t let it cool in the pan. That’s a bad idea. No, dump it out onto a 2 foot length of wax paper. Careful! You don’t want to spill it. Now you just let it cool. The longer it cools, the harder it gets. At some point, you’ll dump it into a container to store. We’ve been using a large ziplock freezer bag, because we don’t have reusable plastic containers that large. But whatever you have that’ll hold it is all you need.

Granola Cooling
It looks and smells delicious at this point.

Whew, that was a lot of text. Yes, I talk a lot. What of it? But wait, I’m not done! I have to tell you about the syrup.

The last two times I made this I used a lot of honey. Unfortunately, honey is rather expensive. Tasty, but expensive. So I decided to make my own syrup. Something that uses honey, but mixes in other ingredients to make the honey last longer. Well, that’s simple. Here’s what you need:

2 cups water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey

Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Mix well with a large spoon of some sort. Place on a stove with a temperature somewhere around medium-low. Stir occasionally until it’s nice and syrupy-thick. This could take up to half an hour. Once done, take it off the heat and let it cool. Congratulations! You now have a syrup that tastes a bit like honey, isn’t as expensive, and will last longer for your granola! Enjoy!

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One of the primary purposes of this granola is as a topping for yogurt (though we’ve also added it to muffins and pancakes). You can think of it as a yogurt parfait, but it’s not really necessary to layer it in the same way. What we typically do is get one 6 ounce cup of flavored greek yogurt (such as Brown Cow, and because it tastes better than regular yogurt), add one or two sliced, sugared strawberries and a handful of granola. And there you go! A delicious breakfast, snack, or any other time of the day food.

Granola and Greek Yogurt
Mmm, so tasty…

A hankering for chocolate muffins

Occasionally I’ll get a hankering for something. Usually it’s crunchy – chips, chips and salsa, popcorn, things like that. Last night it was Costco chocolate muffins. I’m not particularly sure why; their chocolate muffins are not my favorite by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it even my favorite flavor of what they offer. But for whatever reason, it was time to make chocolate muffins.

The initial batch of muffins yielded a dozen. As with my inexplicable hankering for the muffins, this did not seem like nearly enough for no terribly good reason. Thus I got it into my head to do what I had been wanting to do for a while – make two different recipes and compare them side-by-side to better understand the interplay of ingredients and different ratios of stuff. I can follow a recipe, but I do not have nearly enough of an understanding of the chemistry of baking to develop my own recipes or really know how to tweak a recipe to obtain the results I am looking for. I don’t know that developing my own recipes is what I’m truly after, but it seems like a good idea that if I’m hoping to make a business of this, I need to be able to set myself apart from other such businesses; using other peoples’ recipes that one can find anywhere isn’t going to do that.

In any case, I found a second recipe that did things a bit differently. First of all, in addition to cocoa powder it also used melted chocolate in the batter to give it a bit of depth and richness. It also called for chocolate rather than chocolate chips – so I used my Dove dark chocolate bits. That may contribute quite a lot to why I prefer that recipe, though on a more objective note the first recipe turned out rather dry and was a bit thicker of a batter, and thus a little unwieldy.

On a slightly unrelated note, I found that buttermilk will lend chocolate muffins a greenish tint if used in full – at least Bulgarian Buttermilk will. I used a cup of buttermilk on the first recipe, but only had enough for about 1/3 cup for the second recipe, and putting the two side by side – no wonder no one wanted to eat the first batch.

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The first batch is the one with the chocolate chips on the top. You can tell that the brown isn’t quite as rich of a color, though it seemed that the green tint came out the longer the muffins were sitting there. To be fair, though, the original calls for water and red wine vinegar; once I get some more cocoa powder I’ll attempt this recipe with a similar ratio of water to buttermilk as I attempted originally with the second recipe – I made a second batch of the second recipe using the full 1 1/4 cup buttermilk it called for and it was also slightly greenish and a bit thicker.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Muffins

adapted from Cooking Light

7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided (the original suggests minichips, which I would second)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a muffin pan, or line with muffin-cup liners, and set aside.

Combine flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and quickly whisk together to combine. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in the half of the chocolate chips to the wet mixture, then stir wet mixture into dry mixture until just moist.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over each of the cups. (You might want to slightly push down on the chips if you’re using larger semi-sweet – some of mine decided to not want to stay in the batter when I was taking them out of the pan.) Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes on wire rack.

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As I said, I’ll be making another batch once I get some more cocoa powder. I have a feeling that I may like this recipe a bit more if I were to do what I did with the following recipe regarding the buttermilk.

The thing is, I think I had a hankering for some serious chocolate, because this next recipe really grabbed me, and not only for the different way of doing things: this one melts chocolate and incorporates it into the batter, along with cocoa powder. When I saw that, I have to say my mind was made up – I had to make them right there and then.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins

from Brown-Eyed Baker

6 tbsp unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided (I used Dove dark chocolates)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup warm water
1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a muffin tin or line with baking cups and set aside.

Melt the butter and half of the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and sat. In a second bowl, whisk the buttermilk, water, egg and vanilla together until well-combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and quickly stir to blend. Do not overmix. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool muffins on wire rack.

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As I mentioned, I made another batch of these muffins with all buttermilk – and I did a double batch. That was kind of a doozey. Between the viscosity of the buttermilk and the largeness of the batch, it was really rather hard to stir the ingredients all together. I probably overmixed them, but I didn’t notice a terribly large difference in texture or anything. Also, instead of making just two dozen muffins, it made two dozen regular muffins and nearly two dozen mini-muffins.I didn’t mind that at all – it gave me a good excuse to figure out the baking time for mini-muffins. I believe they were perfect at 15 minutes, though I could have done anywhere between 12 and 15, I guess, but 10 wasn’t quite there yet.

As you can imagine, that’s a shit-ton of chocolate muffins between two days. I still haven’t gotten rid of all of them, but I did get an interesting review. For the second batch of the second recipe, one of my residents really liked it, and said they were nice and moist without being too chocolatey. My first thought when he said that was, “Well, then I didn’t put enough chocolate in, did I?” After thinking about it for a bit, though, I realized that if I wanted to have a chocolate heart attack I could just do more of my brownies, because those were pretty rich.

I think I have decided to start expanding my muffin repertoire in an effort to be able to expand the offerings on 2o3pastries. Speaking of which, I need to go fiddle with that site and toss more pictures of easy edibles up.

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.

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Eat. Be happy. 

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