Easy Banana Bread {Lightened Up}

April 5, 2011

As many of my readers probably know by now, I really love quick breads and eat them almost everyday (on the days that I don’t eat them, I get really grouchy). A few of my friends have asked me whether I have tried to make my banana bread lighter.  And the answer is yes, of course I have! I honestly don’t recall where the source of this recipe was, I have had this for over 15-years, but it is a lighter version of this Easy Banana Bread recipe that I posted earlier this year.

Of all of the other quick breads that I have made, this is the only version that I must say transformed beautifully into a “lighter” bread without losing its beautiful flavor and texture.  I substitute half of the butter with unsweetened apple sauce, use white wheat flour, omit the walnuts, and add a little bit more of mashed bananas into the mixture. Finally, I add a couple of tablespoons of dark chocolate chip morsels because dark chocolate has been said to be healthy! But feel free to omit those. The key here is to make sure that the bananas are very ripe; to ensure that they are tender and have excreted all of that sweet goodness. With this lighter version, I think I can have an extra slice! By the way, I’m absolutely in love with this cinnamon pecan streussel, so I added some for topping–and they were divine. Happy baking! 🙂

Source: Blissfully Delicious original

Ingredients
1-3/4 cups white wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup butter/margarine, softened
1/3 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cup mashed ripened bananas (make sure that the banana skin is almost black)
2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chip

Directions

Blend in everything, bake at 350 degree for an hour in a 10×4 pan or, in 2 loaves of 8×3.

Yield: 8 servings per loaf.


Challah

January 18, 2011

I have been wanting to try making my own Challah for a while now (like, a couple of years). My excuse: I just have an overwhelmingly long list of things that I would like to try someday, although my Bucket List here may not reflect it. One of my motivations for making Challah is they are wonderful bread for French Toast. I finally decided to take the plunge and give this bread a try. One of my friends, Sena, a great baker — often makes this bread; and I asked her if she had any tips for making my first Challah. She graciously offered up her recipe; and I was doing the happy dance at work (thankfully, my co-workers are very tolerant). I knew that her recipe would work, because she makes this bread often.

I had initially planned to take the steps by steps picture of the braid, but (sigh…), just like I always do… I ended up starting this bread at 8 o’clock at night; and probably didn’t finish until after midnight because my kitchen was a little bit drafty, and the dough took longer to rise. The cold winter outdoor really provided a cozy backdrop of my warm baking adventure in the kitchen, but not too great with my energy level. Therefore I only ended up with a final picture. I hope you enjoy this recipe – and would give it a try. I enjoyed this bread toasted with jam and Red enjoyed his with peanut butter. Charlotte enjoyed a couple of ends pieces as well. Everyone in the family was happy and satisfied with this bread. Finally, I also made a fantastic new stuffed French Toast recipe  with the leftover that I would post in the near future. Many thanks for Sena for sharing the recipe; and letting me share this with the rest of the world through the blog. Happy eating & baking!

Adapted from Bobbi Kazenelson via Sena Cooper

Ingredients
¾ cup warm water
2 large eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3-2/3 cups flour
2 tsp yeast

Directions
Put all of the ingredients together in a stand mixer bowl, fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low for approximately 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stiff with a slight sheen. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for 2-3 times.

Fold the bottom third up and top third down, fold left and right sides in, and turn the seams’ sides down into a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with lightly oil plastic wrap for approximately one hour or until it is doubled in size.

Punch dough down; divide dough into three equal pieces and roll them into cylinder approximately 18-inches long. Braid the three cylinders together.

Move braided Challah carefully onto a lined baking sheet. Let rise for 30 to 45 minutes in a warm area. Make a glaze of egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water. Brush over bread and sprinkle with kosher salt or sesame seeds.

Bake at 375 for 27 minutes.

Yield: 1 large loaf.


Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid

March 13, 2010

In some areas around here, there are still probably three to six inches of snow on the ground out here (although I may add that it is quickly melting!). My mind and soul, however, are ready for the spring or even summer! The combination of the cream cheese and raspberry filling in this recipe was such a good tease preparing me for the upcoming warmer months that we all look forward to.

While this recipe looks difficult; I can assure you that it is not.  The brioche dough that I used is so versatile that you can modify the fillings to whatever you like, such as different berries (fresh or frozen), diced apples in the fall, or pears in the winter. If you want something savory on your menu, add chopped up spinach, ham, and ricotta… then viola! This is truly a one-stop meal that would satisfy any craving.   

Brioche dough adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day &  filling adapted from the Fresh Loaf

Ingredients
1 lb of brioche dough (or any other sweet dough of your choice)
Cream Cheese Filling
Raspberry Filling
Egg glaze

Directions
Thaw your refrigerated or fresh dough, and roll them on floured surface to fit a rectangular 1/2-sheet size cookie sheet.

Preheat your oven to 350 degree.

Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet; and transfer your dough. Spread the cream cheese filling on the middle third of your dough. Repeat the layer using the raspberry filling.

Make the “braids” by cutting about 1.5-inch apart tabs on each sides of the dough. Alternating the pieces, fold the dough over to cover the filling until it’s all covered. Press gently to seal as necessary.

The dough that I used required it to sit and rest for a minimum of 1 hour (if you used other dough, follow its requirement, whether it’s 45 min or 1 hr resting time). After about an hour, glaze the braid with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for about 35 min or until golden brown. I would have taken mine a tad bit sooner than 35 min, so start watching the color around 25 min mark.

Egg glaze
1 egg
1 tbsp of milk
Beat the egg and milk together. Set aside.

Raspberry Filling
2 cups of raspberries (frozen, or fresh)
1/4 cup of corn starch
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Mix all of the ingredients together to a boil in a medium-heat. Stir constantly to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pot. Then let simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside, let cool.

Cream Cheese Filling
3/4 cup of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp of egg glaze mixture
2 tbsp sugar
Mix all of the ingredients together. Make sure the cream cheese is well mixed with the other three ingredients. Set aside.

Yield: 8-10 generous servings (1 giant loaf!)


Easy Banana Bread

January 31, 2010

Banana bread is simply one of my favorite things to bake. I have tried several different recipes in the past; some that I have liked, and other were okay. But I keep on going back to this hand-written recipe that I can’t even remember the source. I have been making this version below for probably over 15 years. There is nothing fancy or special with recipes; it calls for standard pantry items and very ripe bananas. I usually wait until my bananas are very brown that they give off these incredible sweet smell, then I would look forward to making these on the weekends’ morning.

If you want to try other varieties, here are the two that I have posted in the past:

Banana Bread, Flour Bakery Famous
Banana Bread, Kona Inn

Ingredients
1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup butter/margarine, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripened bananas
2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Blend in everything, bake at 350 degree for an hour in a 10×4 pan.

Yield: 10 servings


Overnight Honey-Wheat Rolls

October 26, 2009

I love getting together with friends for a great meal.  There is something so soothing about having a great homemade meal surrounded by close friends.  I’m so lucky that my friends love my cooking and baking (…at least, in front of me they claim that they do!). They understand that I have this obsession with keeping a mental list of items that I’d like to make on the weekends. I usually know what I am going to bake when–and I usually have an idea of what I am going to make for a dinner party a few weeks ahead.

I have been singing the praises of homemade breads, and I have been wanting to make this overnight honey wheat rolls when I saw the recipe several weeks ago. The beauty of this recipe that it doesn’t require kneading (yey!!), but then it needs to sit overnight, which can work both to your advantages or disadvantage! It’s a huge advantage because you have one less thing to do on the day that you need them. But at the same time, you need to plan well, since this dough needs to rise overnight in a refrigerator.

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These rolls turned out to be a crowd-pleasing when we brought these over to our friends’ house for dinner. They had a nice soft crisp skin in the outside with a nice texture inside, with just enough hint of honey. I forgot to cover these as soon as I made them into knots (and as a result they didn’t rise right away!). When I noticed that they didn’t rise, I covered them for about 45 minutes and they had a nice rise to them (not doubled as the recipe stated below). Everyone loved them, and we enjoyed them not only for dinner, but also for breakfast!

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Adapted from Taste of Home Holiday-Thanksgiving 2009

Ingredients

1-1/4 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees F)
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dried yeast
2 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1/4 canola oil
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 -1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons kosher salt
Melted butter, optional

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in a 1/4 cup of warm water. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add yeast mixture, honey, oil, salt, whole wheat flour and remaining water. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until smooth. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky–and I had to add a tablespoon of water to make it moist, due to the humidity in my kitchen). Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a well-floured surface, divide in half. Shape each portion into nine-balls. To form knots, roll each ball into a 10-in rope; tie into a knot. Tuck ends under. Place rolls 2-inch apart on a greased baking sheets.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 50 minutes. Bake at 375 degree for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter if desired.

Yield: 1 to 1-1/2 dozens


Brioche Loaves

October 11, 2009

I have been wanting to make my own breads for a while, and must admit that I am a little bit intimidated by the whole process. I always assumed that bread making usually takes so much time, and requires a lot of kneading, which I am not very excited about. I have made bread in the past before using a bread machine, but that was way back in college. I can’t even recall what recipe I used, and so I began my hunt for a simple bread recipe that I could try with a high possibility for success (I figured if I failed in my first attempt, I *might* get discouraged in the future).

 

I quickly landed on this recipe, another one from one of the Barefoot Contessa books. This recipe claims that it doesn’t require any kneading although it needs to sit overnight, therefore you need to plan for it. I thought okay, this sounds too good to be true. I must say though that this recipe truly delivered on its promise:  it was easy to make & does not require kneading. It just takes time , so I had to plan for it a little bit–and I didn’t have any problem with waiting (well, not for this one–but I normally would). The reward of having this freshly baked good out of the oven was worth the time I waited for the dough to be ready. I even enjoyed the process of waiting for this bread to be prepared.. I love the smell of the dough as it was mixed in the mixer (Red told me that it reminded him of a brewery… well, I was thinking more of a bakery, but okay, I got his points… yeast + wheat= beers! Got it). Then finally when it was baking in the oven, the wonderful aroma of this bread completely filled the house.

I was finally rewarded with a slice of this warm bread with soft texture in the inside and a crunchy skin on the outside. This one was a keeper–and I will make it again in the future!

 

Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

Ingredients

1/2 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees F)
1 package dried yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
4 -1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks  unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk for egg wash

Directions

Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (If the bowl is cold, start with warmer water so it’s at least 110 degrees when you add the yeast.) Mix with your hands and allow to stand for 5 minutes until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until well mixed. With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix for 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low, add 2 1/4 more cups of flour and mix for 5 more minutes. Scrape the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.  Grease two 8-1/2 X 4-1/2 X 2-1/2 loaf pans. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and cut in half. Pat each portion into a 6×8-inch rectangle, then roll up each rectangle into a cylindrical loaf. Place each loaf, seam side down, into a greased pan. Cover the pans with a damp towel and we set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. When the rolls have risen, brush the top of each with the egg wash and bake for 45 minutes, or until the tops spring back and it sounds slightly hollow when tapped. Turn the loaves out onto a wire rack to cool.


Lemon Yogurt Cake

January 22, 2009

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Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

I have been wanting to make this cake when I first saw it Barefoot Contessa at Home. It uses yogurt instead of butter, which was intended to have lower calories. I was surprised at how moist and fluffy this cake considering the omission of butter. The lemon zest added another depth of flavor and the glaze was a must as well! We absolutely enjoyed it!

For the cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.