Thank god for banana bread

Anand came downstairs saying, “I came down because it smells so good!” Another round of chai-spiced banana bread, with dried cranberries stirred in. I’ve finally cleared the rather immense backlog of overripe bananas, which is good, because we are about to have some more to toss in the freezer. The kids go through phases of banana eating — sometimes we can’t keep up with the demand, and sometimes, they’ll just stop, for no real reason, for a few weeks. Thank god for banana bread.

Banana Bread Recipe Link

Chai-Spiced Banana Bread Recipe

Chai-Spiced Banana Bread
(serves 12, 45-75 minutes)

(for gluten-free option, use Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free 1 to 1 baking flour; used for snowflake-shaped breads below)

We are perpetually throwing overripe bananas in the freezer around here, and when they start squeezing out the other items, we know it’s time to spend a Saturday morning baking banana bread. This is based on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. Adding in the spices we’d use for chai, along with dried fruit / ginger, makes for a festive and hearty holiday loaf. Makes 1 loaf, or several mini loaves (nice for gifting).

2 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
1/4 c. plain yogurt
2 eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 c. sugar
6 T butter, melted and cooled
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. cardamom
1/4 t. black pepper

Optional add-ins (1 c. total): dried cherries, dried cranberries, crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, chopped cashews…

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour pan(s).

2. Mix flour and baking soda in a large bowl; set aside.

3. Combine remaining ingredients (except for optional add-ins) in medium bowl with a wooden spoon.

4. Fold banana mixture into flour mixture with a spatula until just combined. If adding in dried fruit, ginger, chocolate chips or nuts, fold in now.

5. Scrape batter into prepared pan(s) until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hr for a loaf, 25-35 minutes for mini loaves.

6. Serve hot, slathered with salted butter.

Mission accomplished. :-) Chai spice banana bread

Mission accomplished. 🙂 Chai spice banana bread; the kids said it was better than all the banana bread I’ve made before (from standard recipes), which was very satisfying. Will post recipe shortly.

I’m going to freeze a few loaves to sell at the Colorful Holiday fair on the 21st, and I think make another batch soon, because we have just THAT MANY frozen bananas in the freezer, and I am going to clear space, dammit.

#serendibkitchen
#blog

Current favorite sandwich

Current favorite sandwich (‘favorite’ changes regularly, but I’m a little stuck on these right now) — open faced on multigrain toast, with Harry & David sesame honey mustard, beautiful tomatoes on the vine, and aged white cheddar. Mmm….I’m going to go make another one right now.

What’s your current favorite sandwich? (Is a wrap a sandwich? What about a lettuce wrap? Is some form of bread a necessary component? Hmm….)

#serendibkitchen

Final Thoughts on Croissants

Croissant dough looks like marble.  Lovely veining.

Triangles. I don’t know who figured out that croissants would look pretty if you made triangles and rolled them up, but good call, yo.

These actually look exactly like the Pillsbury crescent rolls that I usually make, but they are, in fact, baker’s croissants, that I made with my own two little hands and lots and lots and lots of butter.

Pretty pretty croissants. Some of them do look a little thick; I could’ve rolled them more evenly. But they will taste good regardless.

The kids wanted to try the croissants before bedtime last night, so even though they hadn’t had time to rise, and I hadn’t had a chance to brush them with egg, I tossed a few in the toaster oven. Just as well I did, because the temp suggested (425 for 15 minutes, drop to 350 for 10-15) was too high for my oven — these burnt just a bit. Without rising, they were pretty dense too!

The kids ate them anyway, but a) protested the dark chocolate in some of them, and b) like the Pillsbury crescent rolls better. I promised to make them some of those today, stuffed with apple and cheddar, and some milk chocolate ones too, once I pick up some milk chocolate. I think Kavi and Anand felt quite sorry for Mommy after all the work they’d seen me putting into these; they were very apologetic about not finishing their croissants!

This batch had enough time to rise properly. Now that’s a better color. Please note the literal POOL OF BUTTER.

Lamination, baby. Eat that, Paul Hollywood!

Kevin looked at the recipe, and says that I managed to get 81 layers in there. Roll out, fold into thirds (3 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (9 layers), chill, roll out, fold into thirds (27 layers), roll out, fold into thirds (81 layers).

It doesn’t look like 81 layers, but it’s certainly a lot of layers.

Look, I’m not saying I’d win the technical challenge, as these are not PERFECTLY the same size, but for a first pass at croissants, they’re not terrible. I wouldn’t be embarassed to have these at my station for the judging. I lowered the heat to 400 for the first 15 minutes, 350 for the next 15, which I think is about right for my oven.

(And I think the bigger ones at the bottom are stuffed with chocolate and cheese, respectively, in my defense.)

Final croissant-making notes — they’re good, but not perfect. The exterior is MUCH flakier than a Pillsbury crescent roll, which makes them somewhat messy to eat, but quite satisfying — I believe the King Arthur flour recipe described these as ‘shatteringly crisp,’ which is about right.

The interior is rich and buttery and I did very happily just eat an entire croissant. But my complaint is that they did not come out as light and airy as the ones I ate in Paris, or at LĂ©a, the French cafe two blocks away from me. Kev and I spent a while trying to diagnose what went wrong, and I’m not sure I’ve convinced him, but I *think* I overworked the dough.

When I first started mixing it, I mixed it in the stand mixer with a dough hook, and it wasn’t coming together well, so then I turned it out and started kneading it, but after five minutes of kneading, it still wasn’t holding together, so then I added a little water and it finally came together, and then I kneaded it some more. I think all of that probably doubled the working time on it (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes) and made it tougher than it should’ve been.

And then THAT may have led to it being SO HARD to roll them out. I mean, I was seriously feeling like a wimp — after two turns and roll outs, both times, I broke a sweat and felt a little shaky, even though I was working in a cool kitchen. If the dough was tougher than it was meant to be, maybe it made rolling out harder than it should’ve been?

I hope so, because that is the ONLY possibility that makes me even think about attempting these again some day. And even so, if I do them again, I plan to have Kevin ready and waiting to help with the roll outs, in case that wasn’t the issue, and the dough is just normally that difficult to roll.

Ah well. All that said, I have several croissants to eat and feed people in the next day or two, and they are yummy, and I have half a batch of rolled out dough in the freezer, and in a few weeks (after the intense rush of finishing all the sweet & curry powder prep for the Kickstarter ship out of Feast), I’ll pull it out and experiment with some Sri Lankan-inspired fillings for croissants. Suggestions welcome! My first thought was seeni sambol, but that actually seems like it’d be too much oil in a croissant. Passionfruit chocolate, though….

As for whether I’ll ever make croissants from scratch again — we’ll see! Thanks (?) to Pooja Makhijani, food inspiration, for the challenge. 

RECIPE: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/bakers-croissants-recipe

Layers of flaky, buttery pastry

I came home from teaching thinking I’d knock out the croissant lamination, no problem. Well, first off, it turned out I hadn’t made my dough square quite large or square enough. So I took the butter square off to try again. More rolling.

Second roll got it square enough, so I put the diamond of butter inside the square, folded over the triangles (like making an envelope), and pinched them sealed. Easy-peasy. Next — flipping it over and rolling it until it measured 10″ x 20″. I have to admit, having looked at the rest of the recipe by this point and seeing just how often it asked for measurements, I caved and went down to the basement to get a ruler. [shakes fist at the French] It took a while, and my shoulder muscles had started to ache, but I did it, finally. 10″ x 20″, achieved.

Next step, fold it over in thirds, like a business letter. No problem. Flip and turn and…roll it out to 10″ x 20″ again? Okay, I can do that. It went a little easier this time, as the dough wasn’t quite as chilled, but I feel like a wimp admitting that I was super-tired by the end of this roll. I think I still have some sort of stupid lingering cold, as I have been weirdly exhausted for much of the last week (weeks?).

I did the roll out, folded it in thirds again, wrapped it and put it back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes, sat down on the couch to look at the recipe again. Two MORE turns and rolls? Seriously? How many layers of flaky, buttery pastry does one person need?

ALL. I need ALL the layers. But I acknowledged that I had hit the point of tiredness where this was starting to be no longer fun, and there is no point in this kind of nonsense unless you are also having fun, so I paused for the night. Croissant-finishing would have to wait another day. Instead, I took myself to bed with a few episodes of dumb interior design TV and called it a night.

Croissantathon

Croissant-making hurdle #1 — Kevin insists that the brewer’s yeast he has on hand will work just fine in bread-making, and that that jar of active dry yeast we have is very old and I shouldn’t risk it. I trust my husband, right? Right. Onwards.

Croissants, next step. So far, so good. Mix eggs, warm water, flour, sugar, yeast. This is totally within my power. I am a baking god.

Croissants, step 3. I let the frozen butter sit for about an hour, so it was no longer hard as a rock, but still cool to the touch. Sliced and into the mixing bowl. Is that enough butter for ya?

Croissants, next step. Mix butter with salt and flour in a stand mixer. Um, I used the dough hook (think maybe the paddle attachment would’ve been better), and ended up having to do a lot of shoving butter down towards the center with a spatula, which I don’t remember ever seeing them do on GBBO; am starting to question my baking god qualifications.

Still, looks all right?

8 inch square of butter mixed with flour. When we say 8 inches, we mean that I held up a 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper and eyeballed it from there, because I don’t actually keep a ruler in my kitchen because I am not as obsessive as the French, and I am also too lazy to go down to my craft table in the basement and get one. But that looks vaguely right, I think. Into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Ha ha ha! You thought we surely had ENOUGH butter with the pound of butter that we just sliced up. Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you have to melt MORE butter and pour it over the ‘sponge’ as they call it. MOAR BUTTER.

Um. This seems very dry. And crumbly. I’m supposed to have it come together into a dough, and then knead five minutes, adding a little four if it’s too too sticky at that point. It is not too too sticky at that point. It is super-dry at that point, and has still not come together into a dough. Also, my arms are aching from five minutes of kneading because I made the mistake of doing it up on the island instead of the kitchen table, so I don’t have as good an angle as I could have and also, I almost never make bread and am really out of practice with the whole kneading thing.

I gingerly add some warm water (about 1/4 c.), fearing disaster, as this is NOT in the instructions. And that was too much — the dough finally comes together, but now it’s decidedly sticky, sigh. Should’ve been more conservative, tried a T or two instead. GAH.

(No photo of the sticky portion, as my hands were covered in goop. As it was, my phone was getting a little more flour-y than was perhaps wise, but seems to have survived, whew.)

Okay. I think I salvaged it. A few more T of flour, and it came together into a reasonable dough, and it’s now shaped into a 9″ square (and yes, I eyeballed this one too, what kind of obsessive baker do you think I am? (There is a reason I’m more of a cook than a baker. Precision is NOT my thing.)), wrapped, and delivered safely into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Just one problem; in 15 minutes, I’m supposed to be across town at Oak Park Works, teaching publishing and writing for the next 3 hours. So I’m going to go do that, and hope that an extra 3+ hours of chilling doesn’t hurt either the butter or the dough. It’ll be fine, right? And when I get home, experiments in lamination — hopefully my sore arm muscles will have recovered by then.

(This may be the most elaborate thing I’ve ever baked. Are flaky, buttery layers worth it? Hmm….)

Croissant-making challenge, and passionfruit marshmallows

In theory, I’ve agreed to join Pooja Makhijani’s croissant-making challenge this weekend. She suggested I plan to laminate my dough on Saturday and shape and bake on Sunday.

That would’ve been wise, I’m sure, but yesterday I actually made two batches of passionfruit marshmallows and one of milk toffee, in preparation for shipping out Feast with Kickstarter goodies (also so I could take some milk toffee to Madhurima’s Diwali party last night, where it was honestly entirely unnecessary because she made a massive amount of delicious food including homemade chai and mango ice creams, and yes, I’ve told Kevin that he should seriously consider an ice cream maker for my Christmas present this year).

Anyway, I am just now about to even look at the recipe Pooja sent me, so this is likely to be a disaster, esp. as I have never even attempted croissants before. But onwards unto the breach, dear friends! Disastrous croissants await.

(I mean, how bad could they be, really? With all that butter….)

#serendib
#blog
#croissantathon

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

Pumpkin-Toffee Scones with Jaggery Drizzle

These little bites of heaven were designed to appeal to my daughter, who can be quite resistant to trying new foods. When I brought one upstairs for her to try, she initially refused. I broke off a small piece and asked her to please try it, that I’d designed it especially for her, with flavors I thought she’d love. Kavya hesitated, but unwilling to disappoint her mother entirely, eventually took it. A few minutes later, she asked for the rest, please.

Kavi then admitted that she hadn’t wanted to admit that I was right, but it was too good, so she had to give in. She’s twelve-and-a-half now; the tween years are…interesting. Two strong-willed women in one house. 🙂

This is another scone where I was aiming for autumnal + South Asian. My pumpkin spices are a little punchier than you might find in most American recipes, with cardamom and ginger added to the classic cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The jaggery drizzle adds a molasses-like complexity; Kavi and I like our drizzle with some lime, because we are all about the tang. The brightness of the lime highlights the pumpkin in beautiful ways; I love this scone with a cup of chai.

But straight up sweetness (Anand’s preference) works here too, pairing with the toffee bits; if you were going to have this with black coffee, for example, you might be just fine with a pure jaggery drizzle. Feel free to also skip the drizzle entirely; the pumpkin-toffee scone will still be delicious, especially warm, slathered with butter.

2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. toffee bits

1/2 c. pumpkin puree (blot with paper towel if watery)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/2 cup milk

Jaggery Drizzle:
1/4 c. jaggery, dissolved in 1/4 c. boiling water
1 T lime juice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain). Alternately, cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together. If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in toffee bits.

3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs lightly and combine with remaining 9 scone ingredients. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.

5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.

6. Optional: Jaggery drizzle. Dissolve jaggery in boiling water, add lime juice if desired, and pour over scones.

Autumn Scones with Candied Ginger and Dried Cherries

Autumn Scones with Candied Ginger and Dried Cherries

After visiting Dublin, I’m a little scone-obsessed. All the cafes offered scones, and they were generally so much tastier than the ones we get in America, sigh. These were for Kevin’s birthday, as ginger and cherries are two of his favorites.

I included a glaze option for these, but I didn’t glaze mine, as I don’t like scones very sweet — these are perfect served warm with a thick slathering of butter. If you do want sweet, a little cranberry-raspberry jam goes quite nicely. And tea or coffee, of course!

(If you don’t have a mini scone pan, you can cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together. If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.)

2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. chopped candied ginger
1/2 c. chopped dried cherries
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Glaze:
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
7 T water

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain).

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in ginger and cherries.

3. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 5 scone ingredients, beating eggs lightly. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.

4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.

5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.

6. Optional: Glaze. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and water. Line a baking sheet (with sides) with parchment. Pour glaze in, then dip scones in glaze. Remove to wire rack to dry. Alternately, drizzle glaze over the top.