Banana Bread

In my quest this past spring to find a breakfast bread that wasn’t overloaded with sugar but still tasty, I gave a number of different recipes a try.  The third recipe I tried out (from AllRecipes.com) for Banana Bread was hands down my favorite.  Because the banana content is so high, you don’t have to worry about moisture and you don’t need as much added sugar as other breads do.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 C mashed overripe bananas (about 3 bananas)*
  • 1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

*NOTE:  If you don’t have over-ripened bananas, you can ripen them to your liking in the oven.  Put them in the oven at 250°F for 15-25 minutes (depending on how unripe they were to begin with).  The low heat accelerates the ripening, turning them sweet and almost pudding-like.  However, beware the peel will turn an unappetizing black color, and the bananas may leak a little!

On-Demand Overripe Bananas

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Since the bread is SO moist, it won’t stay fresh for very long.  I would give it three days tops outside of the fridge, and maybe 4-5 days in.  With that, I prefer to split these into 6″ x 3″ x 2″ mini loaf pans (this recipe will make enough for 3), wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze the loaves I’m not going to eat immediately.  The loaf at that size will easily thaw over night.  Just adjust the cook time to about 40 minutes, but start checking for doneness around 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

It’s the 4th of July and I’ve been holed up at home for the last three days with a respiratory infection.  I hardly ever get sick but when I do, that’s usually what it is.  Up until today, eating has felt like I’m dining on sand sprinkled with glass shards sauteed in acid every time I swallow.  And it all just takes like hurting…there is no flavor thanks to the congestion.  Then, there is the phlegm.  It is absolutely amazing the varying shades of color that post nasal drip can trigger.  On the bright side, I do think I’m slowly on the mend, though my voice still sounds like it belongs to someone who has been chain smoking for 30 years.

So who’s hungry?!

I’m so bummed I’m missing out on all of the 4th of July party shenanigans (e.g., eating like it’s my last day on earth), and while I’m not contagious, I just didn’t want to be “that” phlegmmy coughy person at the BBQ or Kevin’s family’s lunch.  So here I am, drinking hot tea to soothe my throat in my eighty-five degree apartment…trying to get caught up on the backlog.

Kevin and I hosted a belated birthday dinner at our place for Alex’s birthday back in February (dinner recipe deets forthcoming) and had to make sure we had something kick-ass for dessert.  With Lingie as chief dessert decision officer, we came up with a great idea for a chocolate banana bread pudding.  My favorite bread pudding is from Nook Bistro, as are a few other recipes I’ve tried to recreate through the years.  The recipe I found on Denica’s Cafe sounded like it would yield something similar at the time, though now that I’ve made and eaten it, I’m convinced Nook’s uses way more fat and maybe even a brioche bread.

I did make a few tweaks to Denica’s recipe though.  Chocolate chips usually have less cocoa butter than bars do, so they hold their shape in moderate oven heat.  That way, they retain their texture and shape in cookies, muffins, and other baked goodies without looking melted melt (even though the cocoa butter has melted). I wanted a big gooey swirly chocolatey mess with my bread pudding, so I chopped up a chocolate bar (dark instead of semi-sweet, simply out of preference) into chip-sized pieces.  If I were to make this again, I’d utilize bananas that are a day or two more ripe than what Denica recommended too, again for that gooey bread pudding texture.

Here is my rendition:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 loaf (16 oz) firm white bread or French loaf, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks and left out uncovered overnight
  • 3 ripe but still somewhat firm large bananas.  Use bananas that are a little ripe than what’s pictured below. Brown spots are fine!

    Key Ingredients
    Key Ingredients
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2/3 C chopped dark chocolate chunks (I used bars of Cote D’Or)
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Peel and slice bananas into 1/2 inch slices.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, half-and-half, and sugars until blended.  Gently stir in bread, bananas, and chocolate chunks to combine.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight, pressing down bread occasionally to absorb cream mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9″ round springform or cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep.  The pan will be very full.
  4. Bake bread pudding, covered loosely with foil, 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake 45 minutes or so longer, or until knife inserted in center of pudding comes out clean.  Cool pudding slightly on wire rack before serving.

    Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding
    Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

Check out that gooey swirl!  We served it a la mode, and I think it went over well with the birthday boy and fellow dinner guests!

 

Easy No-Bake Banana Cream Pie

My maternal grandfather (Grampa Bill) was in the WWII internment camps and didn’t have the luxury of receiving any dental care during that time.  This unfortunately caused him to lose his teeth at an early age and he’s had to deal with wearing dentures for at least the entire time I’ve known him.  He turned 92 last week, so we had a family dinner over the weekend.  In his honor, I made a birthday dessert that he wouldn’t really have to chew – a no-bake banana cream pie.  I’ll make one from scratch someday but it was a crazy weekend, so I made up an easy no-bake version.

Only 3 Ingredients!

I bought a graham cracker crust, instant vanilla pudding, and lots of bananas.  After slicing the bananas and laying them out on the bottom of the crust, I smothered them with the prepared pudding and let it set in the fridge for about 3 hours.  Once set, I just added some more banana slices on top and added whipped cream.  Easy!

DONE!

As you can see from the photo below,  it turned into a sloppy mess once I sliced it… albeit, a tasty sloppy mess!

Happy Birthday, Ojichan. I love you!

Banana Cupcakes with The Frosting That Never Was.

I’ve spent every Memorial Day Weekend since childhood for the last 16 years playing in a basketball tournament, eating some loathsome amount of food I shall not delve into, and hanging out with my favorite people.  This past Memorial Day Weekend was special however, because we were celebrating Jamie’s grad school graduation.  Before I go any further, I have to provide the inspiration for the subject matter of this post.  Jamie’s boyfriend, Shou, sent out an email letting us know about a graduation BBQ we were going to have for Jamie in LA since they were both down from NorCal for the tournament weekend.  Naturally, I volunteered to bring dessert, and after failing to get an answer from Jamie as to what her favorite type of sweets were, I deferred to Shou as follows:

me: hi!
  what kind of dessert does jamie like?
  i get a half day tomorrow, so i was thinking of trying to bake her something
Shou: uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
me: she said you like cheesecake but i don’t care what you like
Shou: LOL
  uhhhhhhhhhh
  she likes desserts period
me: haha
  like cake? cookies? bars? cupcakes?
  surely, she has something she likes more than others
Shou: cupcakes
me: does she like fruity things? chocolatey? citrusy?
  there are a million kinds of cupcakes
Shou: fruity is good
  wow what am i reading
  marthastewart.com?
me: ok fruity
Shou: lol
Shou: mmm
  ice cream
me: lol
or this one is fruity too – not tart though..
  what do you think?
Shou: woooooooooooo banana
me: would she like that?
  it’s HER grad dinner
  not yours!
  hahahahaha
Shou: she would like that
Mashed Bananas... or Weird Oatmeal?
After accumulating all the random supplies needed from the market and Target (candy thermometer, anyone?),  Shou sent the following text: “Omg. Jamie likes to MAKE cupcakes, not eat them.”  I couldn’t bring myself to take the perishables back to the market the next day, because “I promise I didn’t poison these bananas or leave this buttermilk in my hot car all day” just didn’t seem viable.  So, I decided to make pumpkin bars with a gingerbread crust in addition to the banana cupcakes.
My banana cupcakes were off to a good start with everything going smoothly in the batter-making process, but things took a turn for the worse when it came time to start the Caramel Buttercream frosting.  I guess the need for a candy thermometer should have raised a red flag, but I refused to buy one because I would probably never use it again.   Instead, I purchased a digital meat thermometer with a probe and clip it at such an angle where the tip of the probe wasn’t touching the bottom of the pan to give the most accurate temperature read.  Behold my clever device:
Candy Thermometer Alternative

I made the caramel successfully with said contraption, but in the process, I managed to knock a pan’s worth of hot melted sugar into my kitchen sink which quickly cooled and solidified.  After pouring gallons of boiling water down the sink to try to dissolve what had probably become a giant rock of sugar, I found my inner plumber (sans buttcrack) and disassembled the sink, cleared the clogged pipe, and put the pipes back together.  Of course, it continued to leak water, so I ended up taking it apart and putting it back together four more times.  By the time I had gotten everything back to normal, all of the frosting ingredients had cooled or warmed to the wrong temperature.  I tried to combine them all in vain and instead of a fluffy frosting, I was left with sugary soup.

Accepting frosting defeat, I bought dark chocolate frosting at the store to accompany my banana cupcakes.  Until next time, Caramel Buttercream.

Banana Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting

Click on the thumbnails below for more pictures!