Friday, January 29, 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Bread - by Lisa

I also made it a priority to get this recipe done before the weekend. Not because I will be having a houseful of guests like Summer, but because I will BE one of Summer's household guests! :D

Normally, I am a boxed banana bread girl - Pilsbury's box to be exact. From someone who bakes as much as possible from scratch, this could be construed as my dirty little secret. :) Thing is, I can never seem to time it quite right with the bananas to make it from scratch. So this recipe was sort of a big deal for me.

I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter. The only minor deviations I had were forgetting to lightly whip the eggs before adding them to the batter and omitting the optional walnuts. I am generally not a fan of nuts in most cookies and breads. I did, however, add the optional mini chocolate chips. The ingredients came together pretty nicely and it wasn't long before I had it in the oven. One a side note, one thing I've been really struggling with in this project (Already? Yes, I know.) is remembering the author's instruction to bring the eggs to room temp. I am very used to doing this for butter, but very rarely do I come across recipes suggesting the same for eggs! As usual, I forgot about it with this recipe. Fortunately, the author mentions a short cut for this whereby you can soak the eggs in very warm water for 10 minutes to achieve the same effect. Woo hoo! That certainly saved me some time and frustration.

About 30 minutes into the baking cycle, my mouth started to water from how good it smelled!! Overall, it took just a few minutes shy of an hour to finish baking. This bread baked much smoother than the pound cake - everything was baked thru nicely.

I opted to wait until after dinner to taste test it with B. Overall, it tasted pretty good. I did notice it was a little spongy in texture. I am not sure if this is normal for banana bread from scratch, or if it was unique to this recipe. I also wish I didn't add the chocolate chips. Normally I love all things chocolate chip - pancakes, bagels, cookies. But for making this for the first time, I should have omitted them. I think I will try this recipe again in the future and see how it tastes without the chips. I might also be brave enough now to try other banana bread recipes!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

On to week 3 already!  I probably would have put off making this bread for another couple of days, but I am going to have a household full of people this weekend (Lisa being one of those very people - can't wait!!!!)  I needed to get this baked before Sunday because I am pretty sure that I will be completely exhausted by then.

I have to start by saying that the thing that I have probably baked most since I have been married is banana bread, believe it or not.  I have the recipe memorized, and the one that I use is from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  It's the recipe that my husband likes the best and we buy bananas every week.  Some weeks we don't eat them all, or they get over ripe, so I throw them in the freezer and then make banana bread.  I love making quick breads to change up our breakfast routine for the week.  When I saw this variation on banana bread, I couldn't wait to try it.  I love peanut butter and I love banana bread.

This was a super easy recipe.  I didn't spray my new 5x9 pan with cooking spray, but opted to greased and flour instead.  I find that cooking spray on the dark non-stick pans tends to ruin them faster.  Other than that change, I followed the recipe exactly.

I will say that I did have some trouble determining when the bread was done baking.  I was a little apprehensive after last week's pound cake and worried that I would over bake this bread.  I kept checking it after 45 minutes.  I think when all was said and done, it baked for about 60 minutes total.

Because I want to get this post up before company arrives, I'll have to save my taste-testing comments for later.  It still needs to cool, but I love the way it smells!  Here is a picture of the finished product:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pound Cake Part Deux

So it looks as though Summer and I were on the same baking wave length today! I too tackled the Perfectly Simple Pound Cake recipe this afternoon. I would've been done with it sooner, but I didn't realize until I started reading through the recipe that three items were required to be at room temperature - the sour cream, butter and eggs. Fortunately my son was distracted enough with his lunch that I was able to bake in relative peace.

Mixing in progress

One thing that sort of tripped me up was that the directions instructed you to whip the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. It said this should take about 3 minutes. I am used to recipes generally being written for hand mixers and therefore converting the time ratio in my head as stand mixers are generally more efficient. Well, after the full 3 minutes, my butter and sugar was light colored but decidedly un-fluffy. I am accustomed to creaming butter and sugar for my chocolate chip cookies and consider myself to be pretty familiar with how this should look. I was wondering if maybe my butter wasn't quite soft enough or perhaps my mixer not as powerful as the author's. In the end, I decided to let it go a little longer, and as luck would have it, the mixture finally started fluffing up! Whew!

I was surprised to find that it took a little over 75 min to bake! And at how tall it got! I could tell it was time to get it out of the oven because I could smell it starting to over bake a little. I thought about making the raspberry glaze that Summer and I talked about (another recipe in the book), but decided to maybe save that for later this week.

Lookin' good!

B and I both thought the pound cake was pretty tasty. It was even still a little warm after sitting out for a couple of hours. There was a very small section near the top that still wasn't quite baked all the way through, but that didn't detract from the overall taste. It was quite dense and rich, tho I think I would have preferred a slightly more buttery flavor. I think it would pair quite nicely with the aforementioned glaze, so perhaps I'll make that for tomorrow.

Perfectly Simple Pound Cake

This week's recipe - Pound Cake. I was not confident on how this recipe was going to turn out due to the fact that I am 8 months pregnant and it's winter and I live in Minnesota! Why those reasons? Simple, the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sour cream - no problem, I had some in the fridge. Oh wait, I didn't have quite enough . . . hmmmm . . . roads are icy today. But ultimately I decided, screw it - I am baking the cake anyway! I have been so tired lately, so that when I actually have some little bit of energy, I need to take advantage of it! So, it will be interesting to see how different my cake turns out from Lisa's. I made it with less of the sour cream that it called for.

This was an easy recipe, but I think that most pound cake recipes are. I have made pound cake several times and typically use a family recipe. It's called Grandma's Pound Cake, but honestly, I don't know which Grandma it came from. The main difference between my Grandma's recipe and this one is the sour cream and the fact that this one is made in a 5 x 9 and not a bundt cake pan.

To be honest, I wasn't impressed with the cake. It was easy enough to make, but the taste of this cake is a little different than a what I think of in a pound cake. I am not sure if I over baked it; I had it in for 70 minutes. When I checked it at 65 minutes, the center wasn't done yet. Uncas, my husband rates this cake about a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10 stating that taste was the main factor. I would have to agree with him. I probably won't be making this cake again.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Pretty Frickin' Awesome"

Those were the first words out of my hubby's mouth as he sunk his teeth into a still warm Raspberry Jam Bar. I am getting my "assignment" done just under the wire - thank God for Pacific daylight time! Hopefully in future weeks, I'll be a little better organized. In my defense, I *did* have all the ingredients by Tuesday. I just couldn't get it together for the baking part until tonight.

The finished product

ANYWAY, these were truly easy to make. I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter. The only thing I did differently was to sift the flour, baking soda and salt together instead of using a fork to blend. I'm a big fan of the sifter, so I stand by my decision! :) I really liked Beth's suggestion to use a foil lining. Like Summer, I've never done that before, but it certainly made both getting the bars out of the pan and clean up a breeze! I look forward to incorporating this technique in future recipes.

I was able to use my stand mixer for the entire process and was pleased with how the batter turned out. One thing I was surprised about was the difficulty I had in procuring a jar of seedless raspberry jam. The store I was at had a fairly decent selection of jams and jellies, but the only jar that met my needs was Smuckers. I would've used my own homemade jam, but alas - it wasn't seedless.

Overall, I enjoyed making these and enjoyed eating them even more! I'll leave you with a quote from B on what he thought of the bars: I love anything with oatmeal in it. They are crunchy; chewy in just the right places.

Fresh out of the oven!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Raspberry Jam Bars

Hi - Summer here again. Today I officially got started with the baking. First up - Raspberry Jam Bars. The prep time listed on here is 15 minutes and I would agree with that. These are quite quick to make and even with clean-up, I was done in about 20 minutes (this does not include the baking time).

I decided to jot some quick notes as I was going along, so I would remember when I posted. First thing worth noting is this recipe calls for lining an 8 inch pan with foil. I have never lined a pan with foil before. Typically I like the old greasing method or grease and flour method. But I tried the foil thing.

As the title of the recipe implies, these are a bar cookie. The crust is quite crumbly. The instructions say to cream the butter and sugar in the mixer and then stir in the rest of the ingredients by hand. Well, I tried using the stir setting on my Kitchen Aid mixer, but ended up stirring with a flexible spatula. It was actually a lot easier to mix the dough this way. And you don't really get dough - it's like the crisp part of an apple crisp.

When spreading the raspberry jam in the pan, I found that using my little off-set spatula did the job quite nicely. I did try with a regular knife at first, but with the smaller size of the pan, the off-set spatula is a better design for spreading.

Bars before baking.

The baking time stated 35-40 minutes, and mine were done in 35 minutes. After letting them cool, I see now why the foil-lining is so great. They came out with ease. One suggestion in the recipe is to use a small round cookie cutter to make little tartlets. I didn't have one, so I tried using a small heart-shaped one. It wasn't worth the effort.

They are very tasty and I can see making these again. Slight modifications that I made to the recipe - light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar; salted butter instead of unsalted. There you have it - one recipe down and many more to go!

***One little disclaimer - sorry about the bad lighting in the pictures. I would like to use natural light, but it's dark and I wanted to post tonight!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let's Get Started!

I am so excited to get started baking!  But as excited as I am to get started, I am also a little nervous.  It's silly, because I do know how read a recipe, put ingredients together, and use my oven.  In fact I am not too shabby with all three of those things.  I think what I am nervous about is that once we do get started, it's the beginning of a commitment.  Will we really complete every recipe in this book?  I sure hope so!

As I mentioned above, I think I am pretty skilled when it comes to using my oven.  I stand by the claim that it doesn't matter how old or temperamental it is, you can bake and have things turn out.  It's just a matter of learning the quirks of your oven.  Now Lisa has a nice, new, pretty stainless steel oven that she will be baking from.  Me?  I have an ancient, Montgomery Ward stove that came with the house we bought.  It sure looks like it's on it's last leg, and I would LOVE to get a new one.  But we've decided to keep it until it dies.  Fortunately, it's not the worst stove that I baked in, so that's a plus. I am pretty convinced that it's going to keep running for at least another 20 years - boo!

One other thing I wanted to point out in this post is that while we are going to try and bake weekly, life might get in the way, and we are ok with that.  In fact, life will get in the way for me come March (maybe the end of February) as that is when my first baby is due to be born.  Given that fact, we have decided to take about a month off once Little Nimzlet arrives.  But I do promise that we will be back.  I might be slightly more distracted, but I will be back baking.  I certainly will need something to eat during those late night feeding!

But enough with the rambling.  I guess it's on to the baking.  I'll be back soon with pictures and a post about our first pick - Raspberry Jam Bars.  Let the baking begin!!!!