Banana Bread and Miso Butterscotch Trifle For 2

 

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I appreciate the casualness of a trifle. It is created by simply stacking 3, 4, or maybe even 5 elements in a glass bowl a few times over to create a pretty and tasty final product. Traditionally a British dessert, the internet is full of versions that transcend the normal custard/sponge cake/fruit/jam combination. You have lots of room for improvisation with a trifle- it allows you to have a certain freedom that isn’t always available when making more specific desserts. (As long as you have properly cooked your cake/bread, puddings/custards, and various other pieces in the first place, layer away however your heart desires). This is also THE dessert to make when you thought you were baking a cake for a dinner party but the cake fell or you don’t have time to frost and decorate the final product. Nothing makes for a better use of an ugly cake.

Enough about using cake as a base, as my version calls for quick bread instead. After making 2 loaves of banana bread the other day, I decided to use part of a loaf for my own individual-sized trifles. I also had a strong urge to bake with miso, mainly because I had purchased a rather large bag of shiro miso the other week. So this trifle is both banana-and-umami heavy, perhaps not for everyone but try it if it sounds like your sort of thing.

Banana and Miso Butterscotch Trifle for 2 

Note: this trifle does not contain a pudding or custard, making it slightly drier than other versions. (It shouldn’t be an issue with the whipped cream and butterscotch, though.) If you’d like to add a pudding layer, I say go for it!  

1/3 loaf banana bread, cooled to room temperature and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices (*recipe below)

8 teaspoons of Miso Butterscotch Topping (I used the recipe from Christina Tosi in Lucky Peach)

Homemade Whipped Cream (I like mind unsweetened, but feel free to add a bit of sweetener if you’d like)

1 banana, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation:

Start with 2 wide rimmed glasses (I used rocks glasses from my bar set). Cube the slices of banana bread. Take enough bread cubes to cover the bottom of one glass.

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Top this banana bread layer with a heaping teaspoon of miso butterscotch. Add a few slices of banana to rest above the butterscotch layer. Next add a heaping tablespoon of whipped cream and spread evenly over the bananas.

Start this process all over again with a layer of banana bread cubes, a teaspoon of miso butterscotch, banana slices, and a tablespoon of whipped cream. Repeat with one more layer if you have enough room. Finish off the trifle with a tablespoon of toasted chopped walnuts.

Repeat the same steps with the other glass. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Banana Bread (adapted from Epicurious) 

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup mashed ripe banana

3 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (plus additional butter for greasing the pan)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup shiro miso

Preparation:

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine the mashed banana, yogurt, miso, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until fully incorporated, 1 minute.  Add the banana mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches and stir on low until just mixed together.

Bake for about 50 minutes.

 

 

 

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Even More Cookie Time: Triple Ginger

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Sometimes you need to pose with a Poinsettia. (But careful, aren’t they slightly poisonous?) 

December doesn’t exist in my head until some kind of ginger spice cookie is ready for eating.

Last year I baked this recipe for Molasses Krinkles, which was enjoyable, but it didn’t seem to be the cookie I loved from previous years. I think I’ve finally located the version that I love. The difference? Lots and lots of ginger: the dough contains chopped crystallized ginger, minced fresh ginger, and a healthy dose of ground ginger to top it off. Just my style. I would even consider measuring out heaping teaspoonfuls (or 1/2 teaspoonfuls) of the spices listed, if you want an extra kick.  This cookie is pure heaven warm from the oven. It also stays softly chewy for a few days, especially if you only keep it in the oven no longer than the suggested 15 minutes.

One caveat: the previous Molasses Krinkle recipe that I made did have a nice texture thanks to the shortening. Maybe I need to combine the best of both worlds and adapt the recipe? Next year it is!

Recipe Credit: Epicurious

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars.

Recommended For: Cookie Lovers and Their Friends

Not Recommended For: ?

Moroccan Almond Semolina Cookie Time!

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Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie book looks perfect. Everything I’ve tried so far from various magazine/internet articles has been a winner, so I think it’s time for me to go buy a physical copy. This Moroccan Almond Semolina cookie was the first recipe on my list. In my opinion, semolina desserts are the best. (but so are almond flavored sweets….and lemony scented dessert….and also anything with a splash of orange flower water….so here you have it, a cookie that combines all of these elements!)

If you’re not one for the specific texture of semolina, I’d definitely move on to another cookie. No sense in messing with that crucial element here. However, one item that can be omitted is the orange flower water. If you’d like you can try adding an equal amount of rose water instead, or perhaps a little extra lemon zest. It also says nothing at all is fine too. I’d really suggest trying it out first- it adds a lovely floral hint to the cookie.

This recipe seems to be both very specific and versatile all at once. What is specific is the flavor and texture. The versatility comes in when and where it can be used: I can see this working as part of a whole holiday cookie platter, as a teatime snack, or at a springtime or Easter brunch. Play around and see what makes the most sense!

Recipe Credit: Dorie Greenspan via NY Times

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars. Not bad considering it involves a little powdered sugar

Recommended For: A Different Kind of Cookie Platter, Holiday Parties for Adults, Days When You Want To Bake Cookies But You Only Have Canola Oil, Not Butter

Not Recommended For: Kids Parties, People Who Dislike Orange Flower Water

James Beard Buttermilk Loaf

I’m on a big bread kick right now. Evidence Pic #1:

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Buttermilk Loaf

This homemade bread obsession is mainly because I want to become more scientific about the whole process; to really understand the why and how of the steps involved and to accurately forecast the end results. I’ll post my various observations/recipes over the next month, or until it gets too hot to bake indoors.

Last month I received the classic James Beard bread book as a gift, with the suggestion to start with the Buttermilk bread recipe. Now’s the time to mention that I’ve been conditioned since an early age to dislike white bread. My mom had a strict “No Wonder Bread” policy in the house growing up. What that really means is that we had no factory-made fluffy white bread that could be squished and rolled into a small ball hanging out in the house, ever. It is one of those food rules that I’ve carried into adulthood, despite not always making healthy meal decisions on a daily basis.

Despite my initial trepidation I decided to go with the white bread recipe. Two reasons for this: 1. Buttermilk is always my friend and 2. Any warm bread fresh from the oven is also my friend. Plus it makes sense to go with the first recommendation, right?  Upon opening the physical cookbook (a used copy) I noticed  a handwritten edit to this particular recipe, an edit that was hard to avoid because it was written over the original type in bold pen. The markings on the page called for a 1/2 tablespoon salt instead of, well, something else.  I assumed it was 1 tablespoon because any more than that sounded absurd, and no proper recipe book would have a measurement reading of less than 1/4 tablespoon without switching to teaspoons. This is before I realized that the recipe already has a life of it’s own on the internet and has posted on a lot of recipe sites and blogs. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, which many seem to think is excessive.

I went with the edited version of 1/2 tbsp. The recipe is very straightforward if you are used to baking homemade loaves.: proof the yeast, add the ingredients, knead for 10 minutes, let it rise, punch down and shape, rise again, bake, eat.

As you can imagine, this bread is excellent fresh out of the oven. The pillowy softness balanced with the crunchy crust and was perfect with butter and jam. The buttermilk was very apparent and had an excellent tangy flavor when eaten warm. Unfortunately after a day or so it seemed to have lost that special tang, eventually toasting up like basic white bread. (…and making the soft-pillow texture move towards boring bread territory. Dare I even say Wonder Bread territory?)

Because of the quick falloff in quality, I would suggest repurposing the bread leftovers around day 2. Maybe throw stale chunks in a food processor to make bread crumbs, toast squares in the oven to make salad croutons, or soak thick slices in an egg/milk batter to make decadent french toast.

I think my cookbook edit of 1/2 tbsp seems to be appropriate, though I would definitely try 1 tbsp next time to be sure. It might also depend on the type of buttermilk used.

Besides the salt measurement debate, there is another point brought up elsewhere online that I would like to agree with here: the dough in this recipe can easily make 2 loaves instead of 1. The pictures I took here are a perfect illustration of this opinion. The loaf was crazy high – in fact it was almost twice as high as the bread pan. Next time I will maybe try 2 free form loaves and adjust the time as needed.

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This barely fit in one loaf pan.

Recipe Credit: James Beard’s Buttermilk Bread

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4. I’d say this is a typical amount of breadmaking mess- ending with 2 bowls, a bread pan (maybe 2?), and a flour-covered spot from kneading. Really the part I hate cleaning the most is the cooling rack.

Recommended For: Buttermilk lovers, anyone in need of both a half loaf of fresh bread and a cup or two of fresh breadcrumbs

Not Recommended For: Anyone who likes to wait a day before eating a slice of bread. (is there anyone out there who does this, really?) 

Christmas Cookie Platter

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I take Holiday cookie platters very seriously. Once I start baking a batch during the month of December, I immediately move into this slightly crazy meditative state, not stopping until I’ve made at least 5 varieties in a weekend. (You do have to enjoy baking or else you’ll make yourself miserable) If I had more time this I would make at least 8 batches. They make great gifts for neighbors, work parties, etc.

Variety is of the utmost importance. I like to make one cut-out recipe, something spiced, and maybe a filled version as well. I also listen to feedback from my taste-tester family and friends and make amendments as needed.

This is a variation of a cookie platter that I’ve made for many years. Some of the recipes I’ve been making for 5-10 years, and one standard has been part of my family celebrations for at least 20.

The Almond Cookies are the old favorite, originally from an old Slovak-American cookbook that was my grandmother’s. The cookbook is long gone, but the written version remains in my records. Enjoy.

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Almond Cookies / Makes 4 dozen

Cream 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 egg yolks, beat until light. Add 2 2/3 cup flour sifted flour and 1/2 tsp. salt, mix well.

Roll into 1 inch balls. Drop in the 2-previously-separated egg whites and place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Press down each ball with 1/2 an almond or a fork (or both!)

Bake for 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

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Other recipes: 

Polish Apriot-Filled Cookies: Highly recommended and so worth the work.

Coconut-Orange Snowballs: Also highly recommended, and a little less time-consuming.

Christmas Cutouts with Vanilla Icing:  A solid recipe, though perhaps not my favorite cookie overall.

Molasses Crinkles: Good, but I’m remembering another recipe for molasses cookies that I enjoyed more. I’ll have to revisit this later…

 

Lunchbox Harvest Muffins, or what to do with that leftover zucchini half in the fridge.

This recipe saved my life since it was published 2 years ago, if I want to be a little hyperbolic. At the very least it has saved an overstuffed refrigerator veggie drawer from rotting on many an occasion. I like to use it when there seems to be an excess of carrots, zucchini, and other random fall vegetables hanging around waiting to be put to use.

Never the prettiest food, but always tasty.
Never the prettiest food, but always tasty.

It’s one of my favorite ways of using up any extra (shredded-or-to-be-shredded) vegetables, especially since it allows you to mix and match as needed. I like to think of it as a “choose your own adventure” sort of muffin.

The veggie ratios can be changed up and I’ve never had a problem with taste or texture. Last time I used mainly grated zucchini with a little beet thrown in for good measure. I didn’t even have an apple on hand, and while it didn’t have the same flavor depth it might have had with this addition, it was still yummy.  When I use the recipe I almost always coarsely grate the veggies, but you can do a fine grate too-  whatever you prefer here.

This is definitely a moist muffin. I think the amount of oil in the recipe will tend to keep the end product soft no matter what you do with the shredded veggies. You could probably try to lower the amount of oil used, but I would test that out a small amount at a time. Using whole wheat pastry flour seems to be important, as I tried using regular whole wheat once and it ended up heavier than expected. (should have known better.) If you use the weights listed in the recipe, you’re pretty much good to go. Overall it’s a versatile muffin recipe, ready for tweaking here and there.

Recipe Credit: NY Times

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars. I can usually make this with minimal bowls.

Recommended for: Using up extra veggies, muffin lovers, fall lunchbox treats

Not recommended for: Anyone who dislikes “veggie breads” AKA picky eaters