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!

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!

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. =)

Cheese-Stuffed Crusty Loaves Bakealong

Full Disclosure: Aaron helped me with this Bakealong. My hands are super dry from brioche baking the other day and I wanted to avoid bread dough as much as I possibly could. Is it just me who has a problem with flour drying out their skin?!

I’m finding bread really easy and enjoyable to make these days. After spending months last year helping our eldest with a sourdough science project, it’s like I’ve hit a groove and I just know how to make it work. Still…Aaron did the first couple steps for me. But I whittled it down to very simple instructions for him. I never sent him the recipe, which can be found here.

The first thing you need to do is make a stiff starter and leave it overnight. It’s just flour, salt, yeast and water. Stir it together and put it in a covered container to get the magic started.

The next day you take the starter, more flour, salt, yeast and water and you put them in your stand mixer with your dough hook attached and you knead it until it becomes a smooth dough. Put it back in the covered container until it’s doubled.

That’s when I took over for Aaron. I rolled out the dough on a lightly floured surface, into a rectangle about the size of a baking sheet. Then I brushed it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and and sprinkled over 1 tablespoon of garlic seasoning and 2 1/2 cups of pizza cheese (a combination of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan). I know I’ve made some changes here but I didn’t have garlic oil or pizza seasoning so I improvised. And we didn’t have Gruyere but I over bought pizza cheese at Costco so I figured it would work and would help with my oversupply. The recipe says that you can use mozzarella or cheddar instead so it just made sense!

Then I rolled it into a log and placed it on a baking paper lined baking sheet seam side down and started to preheat our oven with the dough on a stool in front of it to help it rise again. Once the oven was preheated and the dough had puffed up again, we cut it into four scrolls and placed them cut side up and I spread them open a bit and reworked them into rounds. Then I brushed some water over the top in lieu of a spray bottle and popped them in the oven for 25 minutes.

The result: they smell incredible and are perfect cheesy garlic rolls. Unfortunately we didn’t get them baked til bedtime so we sampled one together as a family. I think we might eat the rest when we do cheese night this weekend. I’d be interested in making it as two big loaves next time and seeing how they slice. And yes, there will be a next time.

Chocolate Mousse Cake Bakealong

For the longest time chocolate cake was my baking nemesis. I could never seem to get it right. Either the cake would be too dry or the icing wouldn’t work, and after many attempts I remember years ago making a vow that I would never try to bake a chocolate cake again.

Well, then my daughter declared chocolate cake to be her favorite so I knew I had to make amends. Thanks to Tessa Huff (Style Sweet CA/The Cake Blog) and this Ghirardelli devils food cake that I have made so many times now I probably could bake it without the recipe, I have found that I can in fact make a good chocolate cake, so when King Arthur Flour posted the 18th Bakealong challenge – Chocolate Mousse Cake – I was super keen to give it a whirl.

Technically the challenge is Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries, but you can plainly see I’ve used strawberries – they are just so much cheaper at the moment, and I didn’t have a birthday or guests coming over to excuse spending $12 on raspberries for this cake. I actually made it as sort of a celebration of the finishing the first week back at school. Hey, any excuse for cake, right?!!

It was a very straight forward bake really – only changes I made to the cake were I used three 8 inch pans and the batter divided into 2 cups each and I added 2 teaspoons of espresso powder to the boiling water. I also used Greek yogurt over buttermilk, because I had more of it to spare.

For the mousse I didn’t use the Instant ClearJel stuff as I’m not sure where I’d find it in Australia – I did refrigerate the mousse before I filled the cake for a couple hours though. The frosting is full butter rather than half shortening because it is horrendously expensive here.

It was a hot day and I still managed to get everything together without it melting apart as I went, so I was pretty impressed given the recipe left me fearing the worst.

Aaron’s comment was that it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made. The cake itself was great and I loved the mousse filling, but I must admit that I found the frosting too rich. Think I’ve become so used to Tessa Huff’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Ghirardelli’s Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache that it’s weakened my chocolate frosting tolerance levels.

The strawberries were nice, but I wish I could’ve gotten ahold of raspberries cheaper or had the foresight to go foraging for some wild blackberries instead, because I’ve been really into blackberries lately.

Not that I’m complaining though…this was the perfect way to end a big week!

Classic Challah Bakealong

Once a month, King Arthur Flour hosts a Bakealong encouraging their readers to have a go at a common recipe and post it to Instagram. This month marks their 17th challenge, I’ve participated in well over half of them, and it is challah!

I’ve made challah a few times as part of the Food52 Baking Club, but this recipe was a lot different, definitely easier, with the added challenge of braiding the dough as six strands. So of course, I had to do it.

Basically, you put all the dough ingredients into your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead into a ball.

Then remove it and knead it into a smoother ball and place it in a greased covered container until almost doubled (it took mine twice as long to rise than the recipe suggested).

Then you weigh it into six equal portions, roll them into long ropes and braid them using the technique provided. I watched the video and had to work upside down in order to follow along, but now that I’ve done it once it seems so much simpler than the pictures made it seem.

Brush on the egg wash and bake. And here’s where it took my bread almost 2 hours to cook because one of the elements in our oven died. *crying* It is still yum, still edible of course, but the crumb is nowhere near as nice as it should be and I’m really not happy that I’ve now got to work out what to do without a working oven for the near future. HELP!