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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mini Banana Breads

The other day, there just happened to be some overly ripe on-the-verge-of-being-thrown-away bananas, so I decided to put our new mini angel food pans and springform pans to good use and make some baby banana breads. My grandmother has been using this recipe for years. One theory is that it came from a book of recipes that came with my mother's food processor in the 80's. Odd, since Grammy doesn't use a food processor to make it. Wherever it came from, its quite delicious. I love the way Grammy wrote down the recipe for me when I asked her for it last year. I'll write the recipe the same way she gave it to me, with all its slightly strange directions (such as shaking eggs, lemon juice and milk in a container with a lid rather than "beating"). As I have discovered with this and other banana recipes, they are much much better the day after. The first day, I find they tend to be very dry, but with time, they get super moist.

Grammy's Banana Bread

2 very ripe bananas, really mashed & set aside
1 stick of butter, melt in small sauce pan & set aside
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
3/4 C Sugar
1/4 C milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a shaker container with cover, shake eggs, milk & lemon juice.

Use largw mixing bowl. Add flour, sugar, salt & baking soda. Mix lightly.

Add milk, egg, lemon juice mixture. Stir with wooden spoon. Then add mashed bananas and stir. Lastly add melted butter and mix completely (not too much).

Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan (or as we did, mini individual sized pans) and bake at 350 for 50 - 55 - 60 minutes (though since our batter was divided between 3 mini pans, it only took 40 minutes) on middle shelf. Bread will spring back when touched lightly, and toothpick will come out clean if inserted in center.

Wrap in tin foil or plastic wrap after cooled completely to let get moist overnight.

Then Grammy signed her letter:

(Good Luck) - G.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Post-Christmas Christmas Cupcakes

Last night was the Christmas celebration in Florida with Daniel's family. For the occasion, we decided to make Red Velvet cupcakes and buttercream icing out of the Wilton Cupcake Fun! book Dan's sister got me for my birthday. In it, we found some really cute ideas to decorate cupcakies like ornaments and snowflakes. We decided to do some the fancy pretty way, and some just frosted regularly. The recipe that follows is the Red Velvet recipe and Buttercream icing from this book...

Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 C A.P. flour
2 Tbl cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 C butter, soft
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 C buttermilk
2 Tbl water
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking soda.

*Preheat to 350. Spray cupcake pans with non-stick spray.
*In medium bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set Aside.
*In large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
*Add eggs, food coloring, and vanilla. Mix well.
*Alternately, add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture.
*Add water, mix well.
*In a small bowl, pour vinegar into baking soda, and stir it gently into the cupcake batter.
*Pipe into cupcake tin.
*Bake 20 min or until toothpick tests clean.
*Cool 5-8 min in the pans, then remove to let cool completely.
Makes ~22 cupcakes.

Buttercream Icing
1/2 c solid veg. shortening
1/2 c butter, soft
1 tsp vanilla extract (clear, if possible)
4 c sifted confectioner's sugar (~1lb)
2 Tbl milk (but we had to use an extra 3/4 tsp)
Food coloring, if desired

*Cream shortening and butter.
*Add vanilla, mix well.
*Add sugar, one cup at a time, beating on medium speed. Scrape down side of bowl often.
*Add milk, beating at medium speed until icing is light and fluffy. Add coloring if desired.
Keep if refrigerator and rewhip before using (if not used immediately).
Makes 3 Cups.

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For the Ornament cupcakes, the book says to cut a large sized marshmallow in half (so you still have a circle, just not as tall) and attach to the side of the cupcake with royal icing. It also gives patterns in the back of the book for hangers, on which you put a piece of wax paper, and pipe the design with royal icing and let dry. The recipe for royal icing that the book provides was very difficult to work with - very very thick. Next time, I'd probably either use my own recipe or add a lot more liquid. Or maybe even use white chocolate. Our hangers wound up too thin and brittle to be stuck into the marshmallow to be the ornament hanger, but even without them, the cupcakes still turned out adorable and definitely looked like ornaments...

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Cute, right!? I'll definitely be using this book again in the future, it has a ton of really really cute decorating ideas.
The next thing we tried from the book was to use the patterns in the back to make a snowflake that would be stuck into the frosting of the blue cupcakes, but since we didn't use a thick enough line of royal icing, they broke before we could get them off the wax paper. :(

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I think with a more liberal use of royal icing, the patterns would have worked well. We'll definitely be trying them again. The recipe for the cupcake was very good, we are going to be trying to other recipes in that book as well. And the buttercream was a hit - perfect consistency, sweet but not too sweet.

We got this cute little cupcake stand yesterday, and lots of baking goodies. Soon on here there will be some miniature things, and cupcakes in stands, and things covered in fondant. Very exciting! Merry late Christmas everyone!
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Lots of Christmas Baking

Finally getting to posting all the Christmas baking we did over the past few weeks. For Christmas Eve, we were at my Dad's house. One of his all time favorite desserts is Tiramisu, so I wanted to make that for him. But Daniel doesn't like traditional tiramisu with chocolate shavings/cocoa powder and espresso...and I didn't want to make two desserts for Christmas Eve. Luckily, I found a Giada De Laurentiis recipe that was the perfect solution. I just changed her raspberry version into a strawberry version and everyone was happy. I followed her recipe exactly, other than switching out strawberry jam and fresh strawberries for their raspberry counterparts.

Strawberry Tiramisu...

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By icecreamb4dinner
Ladyfingers & Jam/Grand Marnier layers

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By icecreamb4dinner
Creamy sugary mascarponey layer & fresh strawberries

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Finished product, before confectioners sugar dusting.

The last and only other time I have made a recipe of Giada's, it turned out quite good, but it was a royal pain in the butt to make. Me and Daniel decided to make her recipe for Turkey Sausage Pizza Pockets but working with the dough was so difficult, we nearly killed each other. I attributed this to the prepackaged pizza dough, though, and gave her another shot. This recipe for Tiramisu came out so good, I think I'll keep her in mind for other recipes in the future.

Next up, for Christmas Day, I wanted to make these Austrian Shortbread cookies to bring to my grandmother's house. The only difference between the epicurious recipe and mind is that I used Self Rising flour (and left out the salt and baking powder the original recipe called for) and used Cherry preserves instead of Raspberry. The tough dough nearly burnt out the wee motor of my dad's hand mixer, and the process of hand grating all that frozen dough gave me, my sister, and Daniel's biceps a serious workout. I began to have my doubts that all this work would pay off, but the finished product was amazing. After it sat over night, everyone agreed it was great. I think next time I would put only half the confectioner's sugar on right after coming out of the oven (as the recipe says) and save the rest for after it has cooled completely, because the confectioner's sugar turned yellow from the heat and looked more like grated cheese than sugar. And I might take their suggestion and substitute 1 cup cocoa for 1 cup of the flour for chocolate shortbread.

Austrian Shortbread with Cherry Filling...

(Don't mind the unflattering pictures)
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The Bake-A-Thon Continued as we prepared 2 bailey's cheesecakes: One for my dad to bring to work, and one to split between my Dad's family and my Mom's. I have no idea where I got this recipe from. I've had it for a while and I've gradually made changes to it since I started using it. But its a favorite recipe, and even people who don't like Baileys tend to like this cheesecake. This time, we used Caramel Bailey's instead of original, and I changed the crust a little bit.

Marble Bailey's Caramel Cheesecake with Hot Cocoa Nilla Wafer Crust...

Crust Ingredients:
Box of Nilla Wafers or graham crackers
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c sugar
1 packet hot cocoa.

Combine butter, sugar and hot cocoa mix. Stir in the nilla wafers or graham cracker crumbs. Press into the bottom of a greased & parchment-lined 9" springform pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350. Let cool and grease the sides of the pan.

Filling Ingredients:
3 8oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
3/4 C sugar
3 eggs
3/4 C bailey's caramel
2 Oz melted chocolate.

*Preheat to 450 and put in a shallow baking dish filled with water (prevent's cracking!)
*Beat cream cheese until smooth.
*Slowly beat in the sugar, then the eggs one at a time. Then Bailey's.
*Pour 1/3 of mixture into a bowl and stir in the melted chocolate.
*Pour most of the plain cream cheese mixture into the prepared pan.
*Drizzle with the chocolate cream cheese mixture.
*Pour the rest of the plain mixture on top.
*To make marble, take a knife and gently swirl.
*Bake 10 minutes at 450, then lower to 250 and bake for 55 min.
*Let cool all the way before putting in the frig.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Pre-Holiday Baking

Oops. I'm a little late. We did these pre-holiday Smores Bars quite a while ago, but the past few weeks have been pretty eventful. We were in Christmas for about 2 weeks and were busy busy the whole time. Hopefully sooner than later I'll get to posting all the Christmas goodies we made, and the Post-Christmas Christmas cupcakes.

This recipe for Smores Bars came off of Hershey's Website here. The only difference between their recipe and mine was we used one less chocolate bar. We just broke up three of their regular bars and spaced apart the pieces a little bit, like this...
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The final product after the next fluff layer and the top cookie layer (which was kinda difficult, so we wound up making little flat sheets of the dough in our hands and puzzle-piecing it on top of the fluff layer) came out like this:
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They tasted great warm, out of the oven... but surprisingly they were even better once we impatiently allowed them to cool. They were such a big hit, we would up making a second batch for Daniel to take to work, and they were gobbled up within a half hour. I definitely recommend this recipe if your sweet tooth needs a little fix!


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