Saturday, November 29, 2014

Carrot Banana Bread

It seems that I either have no bananas or when I do have bananas, I have a whole bunch of them that all ripen at the same time. Recently, I found myself with many many overripe bananas, so it was the perfect time to try some more banana recipes. I think it's blatantly obvious by now, but banana bread is one of my favorite desserts and I never get tired of trying new ones. Some are good, some not so much, but even the not so good ones aren't much of a disappointment.
A variation of banana bread I've been meaning to try since seeing it on some blogs is carrot banana bread, a hybrid of carrot cake and banana bread. I'm a fan of both, so of course it was a no-brainer. It's not much of a stretch to combine the two since the warm spices of carrot cake work perfectly in banana bread. I decided to try a healthified version of carrot banana bread from a fellow Mel of Mel's Kitchen Cafe. The banana bread came out great, but I decided to make just a few slight changes because it was not quite as light as I would've liked, so I dehealthified just a bit.

Carrot Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Makes One 9x5 inch loaf

2 cups all purpose flour (8.5 ounces)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup mashed bananas, 3 very ripe medium bananas or 2 large
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment or lightly grease.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, coconut oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined. Add in the grated carrots. Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Banana bread will last, well wrapped, at room temp for several days or for several weeks in the freezer.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles

This is another one requested by my youngest sister, so don't expect any healthy substitutions for this one. For a while, she's been wanting me to make some snickerdoodles. So, as I usually do, I decided to try a different recipe. I already have a snickerdoodle recipe from Joanne Chang posted on this blog that is very good, but it is a rather crisp snickerdoodle. For a bit more chewiness, I decided to go with a popular recipe on Allrecipes that included some vegetable shortening. Based on the popular snickerdoodle recipes I've seen across the web, they're all pretty much the same recipe with just slightly different proportions.

The texture of this one was spot on, but using some shortening instead of butter does result in a less flavorful cookie, so it's up to you which one you pick. I made little mini snickerdoodles since that's what my sister requested and while that's good for portion control, it can also be dangerous since they're so easy to eat in one bite that you might start to lose count once you taste one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles
Recipe from Young Idealistic Baker who adapted from Allrecipes
Makes about 3-4 dozen mini cookies

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine the 2 tbsp of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, with a handheld mixer, or with a wooden spoon, cream the butter, shortening, and 3/4 cup sugar together for 3-5 min until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. With a small ice cream scoop about the size of a tsp or with your hands, form small balls of dough. Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between them. Bake for 7-8 minutes, preferably on the middle rack.

Let the cookies cool for about a minute on the baking sheet so they can set up a bit. Then, remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to several days at room temp.
Obligatory stacked cookie shots, also just cause I love them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Glutinous Pumpkin Pancake - Nan Gua Bing (南瓜饼)

I've been meaning to try my hand at Nan Gua Bing(glutinous pumpkin pancakes) for some time now since I was pretty sure they would be super easy to make and I knew they would taste a lot fresher than store bought. I love pretty much pumpkin anything and when mixed with a chewy mochi texture, it's a sure winner. Recently, I had steamed some kabocha squash to make Hobakjuk, a korean pumpkin porridge, so I decided to make some Nan Gua Bing while I was at it.

The recipe has very few ingredients and is basically just like making dumplings with the addition of kabocha squash puree. Instead of kabocha squash puree, butternut squash, sweet potato, and pumpkin would also work. You may need to adjust the amount of rice flour you use depending on the puree you use. Steaming is a pretty quick way to cook your squash, but baking or boiling, then draining would also work.

The recipe comes from Christine's Recipes and really could not get any easier. You can use all glutinous rice flour which is what the original recipe calls for or you can mix in some rice flour for a sturdier pancake. It still ends up with a nice chewy texture, but it holds together a little bit better. Try it and see what you prefer. To cook these pancakes, you can pan fry or steam them, either way works. They are definitely best eaten fresh though, so make the dough ahead of time and then when you're ready to serve, shape them into patties and cook them up.

Glutinous Pumpkin Pancakes - Nan Gua Bing (南瓜饼)
Adapted from Christine's Recipes
Makes About 12 3-inch pancakes

320 g kabocha squash puree
120 g sugar, granulated sugar or brown sugar
100 g glutinous rice flour
60 g rice flour
large pinch of salt

While your puree is warm if possible, mix in the sugar and salt thoroughly with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add the rice flour and mix. Then add the glutinous rice flour gradually until you have a smooth dough that is not too sticky.

Wrap with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp until you are ready to cook them. Divide the dough into 12 pieces, roll into a ball and flatten to your desired thickness, around 1/2 inch. In a preheated skillet over medium low, add a bit of vegetable oil, and fry the pancakes for about 3 min on each side until the dough is no longer raw. You may also steam them for 8-10 min on medium high heat. Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Chewy Brownies

A while ago, I had made applesauce brownies and I thought they were fantastic not to mention practically good for you. However, my younger sister didn't think they were as fantastic as I did. When we went to the grocery store the other day, she began eyeing up a brownie. I knew that I could make a fresh batch at home in under an hour, so I convinced her to let me make her some instead. I did have to guarantee that it would be a more typical brownie made without whole wheat flour and honey though.

As I said in my applesauce brownies post, while I've made brownies in the past, none of them ever seemed quite blogworthy. It could also be that my baking skills weren't quite as good initially so they never turned out quite right. Anyway, for this attempt, I thought I would try Laura Vitale's Chewy Brownies because frankly, they just looked really good and she seems to know a thing or two about brownies. My sisters and I are fans of chewy brownies, although Laura also has recipes for Fudgy and Cakey Brownies.

These brownies came out amazing and as you can see are definitely blogworthy. As with most of Laura's recipes, this one is really simple and seems practically foolproof. In no time, I had a batch of brownies in the oven. The brownies themselves are perfectly chewy with some fudginess, not overly sweet or greasy, and the edges that touch the pan crisp up beautifully. I'm happy to have found a brownie recipe that I feel like I can rely on and that I think will please pretty much any brownie craving in no time.

Chewy Brownies
Recipe slightly adapted from Laura in the Kitchen
Makes 16 Brownies

1 stick(1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chunks or chips or chopped
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee granules

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the bittersweet chocolate and whisk occasionally until melted.

While the chocolate is melting, sift your flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Once the chocolate has melted, whisk in the granulated sugar for about a minute until well incorporated. Then mix in the eggs, whisking for another 1-2 minutes until everything is well mixed. Add in the flour mixture and stir to combine. Switch to a spatula or a wooden spoon if necessary. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

For an 8 inch square pan, bake for 40 min on the center rack. For a 9 inch square pan, brownies will take about 35 min in the oven. Let cool completely before cutting. Brownies will last for several days covered at room temp or for several weeks well wrapped in the freezer.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Fall is one of my favorite times of year because it's when I tend to make more spiced and pumpkin filled desserts. I love the fruit in the spring and summer, but some of my favorite desserts are traditional fall treats like pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, apple pie, can you tell I'm a pie lover? I guess I could make these things year round, but I usually only make them to bring to a family gathering or when I have someone to share them with. I'm still on the hunt for a smaller pie plate, a 7 inch one would be perfect.
Anyway, to bring some of that fall flavor to my morning breakfast, I decided to make some pumpkin spice granola. I really can't believe that I was ever afraid of making granola after that one time that it didn't work out. Whenever recipes flop now, I just move on to another one or rethink it if it seems salvageable. Back to the topic at hand, granola is super easy to make, endlessly customizable, and it's great as a breakfast cereal, over yogurt, or for a snack. This one from Sally's Baking Addiction is very lightly sweetened, so much so that I've added just a touch more sugar in the recipe and because I love spice, I've also bumped that up just a bit. The sweetness could also depend on your maple syrup, though, so adjust as needed. Pumpkin is not a super strong flavor and there isn't a lot of it here, so mostly what you get is the pumpkin pie spice. I love the way this granola forms large clusters due to the egg whites, but you could certainly leave it out.

Pumpkin Spice Granola
Recipe slightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Makes about 6 cups

3 3/4 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 large pinches of salt
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 tbsp brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of dried cranberries, cherries, currants, etc.

Preheat oven to 325 deg F. In a large bowl, mix the rolled oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, salt, and spices together.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for a minute or two to break them up. Mix in the coconut oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and the pumpkin puree. Add the wet mixture to the dry and thoroughly coat the oat mixture with the wet ingredients.

Divide the granola between two lined baking sheets and bake for 40 min until the granola is golden brown, stirring the granola every 10-15 min and rotating the baking sheets halfway.  Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheets. Mix in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container for up to a few weeks.