King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Banana Bread

One of the very first things I can remember helping with in the kitchen¬† is making banana bread with my Aunt Cindy. We’d wait until the bananas were almost black and load them into the mixer to make the moistest batter on the planet. We’d bake a huge batch in little loaf pans, medium loaf pans and a few bigger ones as well and it was the best banana bread in my humble opinion. I’ve since made her recipe a few times and have not had the same success rate with it. Wonder if it was the magic of the moment spent together that made it so great?!

This year King Arthur Flour’s recipe of the year is their Whole Grain Banana Bread. This immediately appealed to me as we try to eat whole grains rather than white most of the time, not only for the health factor, but the hearty factor – I’ve got 4 boys (if you include Aaron) who are big eaters and my daughter can put the food away as well. So a while back I gave it a go when I also tried Tartine’s Zucchini & Orange Marmalade Tea Cake.

My thoughts…this was definitely the moistest WHOLEMEAL banana bread that I’ve had. I used to make one that incorporated oats that was pretty good as well, but this was better, especially with the addition of walnuts (seriously, good banana bread must have walnuts). I didn’t really care for the sugar topping and so this week when I make it again I’ll be leaving that off for sure. I’m going to adjust the temperature and timings a bit too and hopefully get it to cook without the top cracking this time around. I fear that it has to do with our dodgy oven, but making a few adjustments on my end can sometimes yield better results.

I guess you could say that if I’m trying again it is a good recipe. I’m going to have a nice thorough read of it beforehand as I’d like to have something gluten free for a get together at the end of the week, so maybe I’ll make two versions if it can be adapted. (If not, I may try that clementine cake from Jerusalem again.) But for now, it’s time to go bananas!

Nopalito: Chips and Guacamole

I held out as long as I could to try to get a sourdough post up this weekend but it’s just going soooo slow. I’ve had to retard the dough twice now because it’s finally reached the proper height right at bedtime, so tomorrow it should be right to be shaped and baked at last!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my next Nopalito post for the month. It’s been a busy weekend here at Casa de la Rosas and late night simple meals have been our go to. Friday night the older boys were at Youth Group, in the madness or taxiing kids around we got the younger two Happy Meals and Aaron and I had a huge lunch at the Burns Club earlier in the day, so when we finally got home at 9:30 we were all a little hungry but nothing a good bowl of chips and guacamole couldn’t cure!

The guacamole is not dissimilar to our normal guacamole recipe, it was nice but not revolutionary (although if I’d gotten a hold of some tomatillos that all may have changed). It’s simply some onion, green onions, lime juice, avocados, jalapeno, coriander, tomatoes, and salt. The recipe made stacks of guacamole and we enjoyed it Saturday as well alongside some cheese quesadillas (or cheese crisps as we used to call them growing up). The one thing I thought it was missing was some garlic. It really makes the flavors of guacamole sing.

When we used to go out to Mexican restaurants growing up my favorite thing would be the table-side made guacamole and the freshly cooked tortilla chips. I could eat bowl after bowl of those bad boys and there is seriously nothing like them here in Canberra. In Nopalito you are given instructions for making them from scratch, but also how to fry store bought corn tortillas to turn them into chips. So since we don’t have a tortilla press, I thought we should give them a go (especially since I got a deep fryer for my birthday). It really is just a matter of getting canola oil up to temperature, cutting the tortillas into wedges and deep frying them until golden. When they come out of the deep fryer you pat them dry on paper towels and then sprinkle them generously with salt. These were certainly the closest I’ve come to recreating that memory of chips and guacamole but it’s still not quite right. It may come to making the tortillas from scratch if I can find myself a tortilla press. Yes, I need all the gadgets.

The last part of this month is going to be insanely busy so thinking of what I might make next from this book has been challenging, given I haven’t been organized enough to go hunting for some of the more unusual ingredients (chili varieties, tomatillos and corn husks come to mind). I’ll likely reserve my last Nopalito post for some of the desserts as they look like my kind of fast baking. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good Mexican wedding cookie?!!

Throwback Thursday: Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling from Baking Chez Moi

Throwback to July 2017 when Food52 Baking Club was going through Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking Chez Moi – it was a month of pure indulgence and there are several recipes that I will come back to again and again – like her custardy apple squares, her double mint milk chocolate mousse and gelee and these: her chocolate cream puffs with rose flavored mascarpone filling.

I’ve come to find out that cream puffs are one of my daughter’s very favorite things and Turkish delight is up there as well, so during the school holidays as a special treat one day for being the only 2 girls in a house full of boys we held a little high tea in her new, very girly bedroom. It featured many little treats that we had been making during that time period (like the Tartine shortbread and ANZAC bikkies from Dorie’s Cookies), but this was the icing on the cake for us.

The thing that’s unique to these little choux pastries is the cocoa powder. I’m only just starting to dabble in making choux pastry, so I felt like I was really taking a risk trying these out. I like Dorie’s method for making choux, taking note to bring the water and butter to a boil before adding the flour (I went through a rut a while back where I tried 4 times to make choux and I rage quit only to find out I was adding the flour too early), and slowly incorporating the eggs into the flour mixture after it has sat for a bit and it’s been mixed to cool it down. I love that with the smaller size I can just use a cookie scoop to portion them. And I love the ease of filling them because you just cut off the top and use a spoon.

It’s the simple things that make this recipe so approachable and the flavor that makes them so beautiful!

She’s already talking about the next time we can have a high tea (or go to Max Brenner again – am I the only one who thinks it’s too expensive for what it is?!) and I think maybe during the next school holidays I’ll have to oblige her. Maybe we’ll find a fondue set or a chocolate fountain to be part of it.

Even her Phoebe doll dressed up for the party. ūüėČ The other items on our high tea platter were ham and cheese toasties, chicken nuggets and sausage rolls. And we had to have scones with jam and cream of course. We let the boys sample the leftovers. =)

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: French Bread

I’ve finally made another recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice! Although it’s not yet the sourdough I’ve been dying to bake…soon though, soon…

This wasn’t even on my list of recipes to try but I was flicking through another of my favorite cookbooks and spotted the French Onion Soup and thought wouldn’t it be amazing to make French Onion Soup and to have even made the bread for it?! So it moved to the top of the list.

The French bread recipe is a bit similar to the Italian bread recipe in so far as you do an overnight starter that you then turn into a proper dough. But in this recipe it’s called a pate fermentee and its proportions and rise time are different before refrigerating overnight. The dough itself is different too..there’s no call for strange ingredients and there wasn’t even any oil added to this dough. Pretty straightforward really.

My microwave proofing method is showing great success. The dough doubled in only 1 1/2 hours when it was to be left for 2. Reinhart says if that happens to knock it back and leave it until it doubles from its original size. Mine easily doubled. We got back from school pick ups and it had spilled out of its container. Oops.

You split the dough in thirds from here and shape it into baguettes before leaving them out to grow to 1 1/2 times their size. This took about an hour but could have only been 45 minutes so I straight away started preheating the oven since it needed to be so hot and set the dough on a footstool in front of the oven for the ambient heat (we really lack in a good warm spot in our house to leave dough to rise – sometimes we actually resort to putting it in our car!) – I had Aaron slash the dough before putting the baguettes in the oven.

Our baking method had to be slightly different than the one suggested because heat dissipates so quickly since our oven is on the fritz. I imagine we could’ve gotten more color if our oven would heat up enough for the initial baking, and we only opened it once to turn the baking tray around and insert the thermometer to monitor the temperature. I didn’t use the spray bottle method either, but instead put a pan of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven to let off steam.

I’m pretty pleased with the result of these. They smell amazing and if I’d had these out of the oven sooner we would’ve been eating them with dinner. Didn’t stop us from sampling later on!

Hopefully Friday I’ll be back with a full report of my sourdough “project”.

Butterflake Herb Loaf

This butterflake herb loaf which was the King Arthur Flour Bakealong challenge in March 2017 is one of our very favorite dinner breads. It is ultra comforting and perfect to accompany a bowl of soup or pasta.

You make an enriched dough that has butter, eggs and milk and let it rise until doubled. Then you roll the dough out and cut out discs before spreading with a buttery herb and garlic filling and folding the discs into half moons. Then you just lay them in a row in two small loaf pans and leave to rise until the fill the pan. Half an hour in the oven and you are indulging in one of the greatest things since sliced bread!

Look at the golden buttery layered goodness…

And the glamour shot of the inside…break me off another piece!

Savory Rugelach

The King Arthur Flour Bakealong challenge this month is a twist on an old challenge – savory rugelach made as spirals rather than their traditional roll ups. I must admit I wasn’t too excited by this one…I’ve made last month’s challenge several times already…but now that I gave it a go, I can see what the fuss was all about, they are so delicious!

The dough is a combination of cream cheese, sour cream, butter and flour – it’s chilled for an hour or so before you roll it into a rectangle, sprinkle on the fillings, roll it up into a spiral and slice off discs before baking. I had a really hard time maintaining the shape on these and think that next time I’d chill it again before slicing.

The first variety I made was spinach and feta – the recipe says that because there’s not much fat in the fillings that they brush on melted butter. I took it a step further. I made up some garlic butter for naan and was hesitant to throw out the remaining 1/4 cup so I chucked it back in the fridge. I remelted it and brushed it on before putting the fillings down and it worked perfectly and added a bit of extra oomph!

The second variety was cheddar and pecan and this was very scrumptious. I wasn’t too keen on keeping this as a log and cutting after baking but soon after I started cutting discs I worked out why they did that – the pecans go everywhere! Oh well…I just refilled them after I put them on the baking trays.

These cooked in about half the time that the recipe suggested. I can’t imagine how burnt these would’ve been had I just gone with the instructions. Aaron absolutely loved these – I made them to go alongside our family movie/cheese night and most of the 48 that the recipe made have disappeared.

Will I make them again? I think so – but like I said, I’d change the slicing method by refrigerating the rolled logs first – I think I’d like to try some different fillings still too. I can see throwing these together for a party appetizer/finger food option. The challenges are consistently great and I can’t wait to see what it will be next month!

Throwback Thursday: Made in India Feast #2

A while back now, I posted about a Meatless Monday Indian feast we made using Meera Sodha’s book, Made in India, which Food52 Cookbook Club went through back in October 2017. This book is so good and we cook from it quite often, and we still haven’t come across a recipe we haven’t LOVED.

So today I thought I’d share about another meal that we made recently that was from her book.

Firstly, we made a mint yogurt chutney which is basically yogurt mixed with fresh mint, a green chilli and some lime juice. The recipe says you can use mint jelly if you don’t have fresh mint on hand, and we have resorted to that with success in the past too. I find this goes particularly well with the junjaro curry (kidney beans) and with the lamb curry that we made below. It also pairs nicely with the following…

Ondwa (semolina bread with spiced vegetables) – this intrigued me straight away because Meera says it’s practically expected that when you have guests over there is ondwa available for them in your fridge. It features zucchini, carrot and peas and a plethora of spices and has semolina and yogurt as its base. We can polish off a whole one of these for a savoury afternoon tea any day of the week.

And here we have two curries – Chicken & Fig curry and Howrah Express Cinnamon Lamb curry. For the chicken & fig curry you marinate the chicken in some yogurt with some spices and some rehydrated figs then you fry off some onion, ginger, garlic and a cinnamon stick before you add the chicken mixture and cook for 20 minutes. It’s pretty quick to throw together and I now prefer to pair this with the kidney bean curry as it is quick as well.

The lamb curry takes a much longer time to cook – about 2 hours from start to finish – so is not a good weeknight option. It starts of similarly by frying off an onion and some garlic, then adding some tinned tomatoes and some spices, cooking the lamb and adding some yogurt and water and then letting that simmer for a good 1 1/2 hours until the meat is falling apart. It is a beautiful curry – we were very impressed.

We also made the same naan from this book that we did in my previous post but we’re getting better and the last time we made it we actually brushed on garlic butter to take it up another notch still! Be prepared for more posts about this most awesome book in the future.

Nopalito: Tostadas de Picadillo and Frijoles Pinquitos Refritos

Having grown up in Arizona of course Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines so I am super excited that Food52 Cookbook Club is going through Nopalito by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando this month.

The first recipe (well two) that I thought I’d tackle is the Tostadas de Picadillo (otherwise known as Ground Beef Tostadas) with Refried Pinto Beans (Frijoles Pinquitos Refritos).

This tostada consists of a corn tortilla (which I bought from Woolies – I only found white ones so that’s what we used) that has been made crispy (we did this on our electric skillet but the book recommends frying in oil or baking), smeered with refried bean, then topped with a ground beef mixture and the side fixings (we’ve used lettuce, red onion, coriander, Mexican cheese, sour cream and lime juice).

The ground beef mixture (picadillo) is made by frying off some beef mince that has been generously salted, then cooking with onions, jalapenos, oregano, cumin, tomato paste and chilli powder. Then you add a tin of diced tomatoes and cook the mixture for 20 minutes. Finally you add some diced potato and shredded carrots and cook for a further 20 minutes until the vegetables have cooked.

The picadillo was really yummy, and I could see this being used for more than just tostadas, it would be great on nachos or tacos too. It was relatively easy, but I was suprised by the long cook time and kinda got caught out in the moment and had to come up with a quick dinner for our eldest who had a performance he had to be at well before we were finished cooking. Whoops!

The refried pinto beans were super easy. We halved the recipe because there was no need for 6 cups of beans for this meal, so we used 2 cans of pinto beans, draining one but keeping the liquid in the other. We warmed these up together and put them in a saucepan of hot oil for a couple minutes with some oregano and onion, then once they were cooked we blitzed them with our new stick blender. I thought this recipe was pretty good but was lacking in seasoning and I would definitely add salt next time. They also turned out paler than I imagined they’d be, not sure if that is the type of pinto beans we get here in Australia or if I needed to cook them longer or in a different oil. Normally I use some pinto and some black beans in my version, so it may just be what I’m used to.

Overall I was pretty happy with our first effort and I look forward to exploring this book a bit more over the next few weeks.

Pane Bianco

Well, I did make bread over the weekend but we’re still working on reviving that sourdough starter. Aaron made a big batch of his pumpkin soup last week, and this is my favorite bread to accompany it and just so happens to be the first ever King Arthur Flour bakealong challenge: Pane Bianco.

The dough part is very straightforward, so if you’re interested, simply check out the provided links but what is unique about this bread is the shaping.

First though, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to get my bread to proof quicker now that it is cold in Canberra (we don’t get over 19C inside atm without a heater on) and since our oven is still on the fritz (the landlord is having trouble finding someone who repairs our particular oven) the oven light trick won’t work. Out of the blue I thought maybe I could use my microwave by putting a cup of boiling water inside next to my bread dough. And wouldn’t you know it worked in the prescribed amount of time on the recipe?!!

While it was rising, I made the filling by combining some sundried tomatoes, chopped basil, pizza cheese and garlic.

Then I rolled out the dough into a long rectangular-ish shape…

Spread the filling out over the top…

Rolled it up…

Pinched the ends closed then took a pair of kitchen shears and cut all the way down and shaped it into a figure 8…

Left it to rise while our dying oven preheated and baked it for 30 minutes.

(I didn’t bother with tenting it because opening the oven would have dropped the temperature too much, so this does look like I burnt the exposed filling a little. It still tasted amazing though.)

Look at that yummy filling! And the bread itself was cooked perfectly. =)