Monday, December 13, 2010

Banana Bread

Again, I had a very large amount of very ripe bananas that needed to be used up relatively quickly. Banana bread seemed like the perfect thing to make. Quick breads always seem like such a wonderful comfort food on chilly winter days to me. Plus, I always think that I will freeze some for a rainy day. It never lasts that long ;)

Usually when I have extra bananas lying around I make banana chocolate chip muffins. However, I wanted to use up more of the bananas, so I decided to go with a double batch of banana bread. That used about 8 bananas and yielded 8 mini loaves. I made 4 with walnuts and 4 without. I prefer the ones with the walnuts, but I like the plain too. While making the bread, I realized that I was out of brown sugar, so I substituted white sugar and molasses (see below for substitution). They were just perfect. They looked perfect and tasted delicious. Another thing that I like to make sometimes with banana bread is honey butter. Just whip up some softened butter with some honey and voila! You have a delicious spread for not just banana bread, but also pancakes, waffles and countless other things. Just mix it to your taste. If you like it sweeter, use more honey.

Brown sugar is unrefined or partially refined and still contains the molasses. Molasses is the by-product of making refined white sugar. Generally, however, these days when you buy brown sugar, what you are actually buying is refined white sugar that has molasses added back into it. Light brown sugar contains about 3.5% molasses, while dark brown sugar contains 6.5%. If you run out of brown sugar but have white sugar and molasses on hand, there is a substitution. To make 1 cup of light brown sugar, combine 1 cup white sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoon of molasses. If you need dark brown sugar, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup molasses.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dinner Rolls

I made soft dinner rolls for Thanksgiving this year as I do every year. If I did not make them, my mom and husband would be incredibly disappointed. There really is nothing like warm homemade bread to add to your Thanksgiving table though.

Every year on Thanksgiving, I start my bread dough immediately after breakfast. This year I
made three batches instead of two. I always give them all away, and then Mike and I are left with none the next day. I love making bread. And every time I make bread, I think to myself, I should do this more often. Fresh bread is so much more delicious than what you buy in the store and doesn't have any of those yucky preservatives. I just use some basic techniques that I learned in pastry school and my trusty KitchenAid, and several hours later I have warm bread and a delicious smelling house. I always try to use fresh yeast. I think it makes for a better product. It yields a much nicer yeasty flavor that you just don't get from dry yeast. You have to mix the dough for such a long time, so I actually got to enjoy some of the parade on TV with my family while it was mixing up. I think that's the thing about fresh bread that I always forget. It takes a long tome to make it, but you don't actually have to be slaving away in the kitchen the whole time. You get
your mise en place and mix up the dough. Then the dough has to double in volume. Then you punch it down. Then it has to double again. Then, you actually have to do some work. You have to portion out and form the bread in whatever manner you desire. I portioned 1 oz pieces and formed each into a dinner roll. If you were just making loaves of bread, this would not be super time consuming. Then you have to let the rolls or loaves proof. Then it is baking time. So, really all in all, you don't have to be tied up in the kitchen for a majority of those steps. If you have never made homemade bread, I would suggest that you should try. It's not difficult and it is oh so tasty!

Proofing is an essential step when making homemade bread. It refers to the final dough rise
before baking. Sometimes called final fermentation, it is the specific term for allowing the dough to again rise after it has been shaped and/or panned. You can overproof the dough which will result in a bread with poor structure and lots of big bubbles and tunneling. You know your dough is underproofed if when you poke it, it springs back immediately. An underproofed dough will result in a tough product with a dry, crumby texture. A proof box is a chamber with controlled humidity and temperature ideal for allowing dough to rise and proof.

Cheesecake Brownies

I made cheesecake brownies for my husband's Thanksgiving party at work. I thought it would be something different from what everyone normally eats on Thanksgiving. Plus, they are super delicious.

Brownies and cheesecake together in one dessert! It doesn't get much better than that in my opinion. I know a lot of people do not like cheesecake, but I just don't get that. How could you not like cheesecake? I pair a simple plain cheesecake batter with my sinfully rich, fudgey dark chocolate brownies to make one decadently delicious dessert. If you have a recipe for each that you like, try to combine them. You don't need a recipe specifically for cheesecake brownies. Just pair two recipe that you like. You could put pecans in the brownie batter, bake it in the bottom of a springform pan, and make it the crust for your turtle cheesecake. If I can pass anything along to my readers it's that you should not be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. I often hear people saying, "I don't like to bake because it is so exact and you have to measure everything." This drives me crazy. Yes, you have to measure, but you can experiment with flavor combinations and recipes all the time as you have seen in all my posts. Don't be afraid to try. You may end up with an awful mess or a masterpiece! After all, chocolate chip cookies were created by accident :)

Brownies first came on the scene during the 1893 Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. A chef at the famous Palmer House Hotel created them after Bertha Palmer requested a dessert specifically for the ladies attending the exposition. She said it should be smaller than a piece of cake and easily eaten from a boxed lunch. These first brownies included an apricot glaze and walnuts. They are still being made according to the original recipe at the hotel.