Strawberry Banana Bread

The bounty of berries and stone fruits available right now makes this household very happy, especially the two-year-old fruit fiend. As much as I love apples and pears in the fall, there’s something very gratifying about filling up our shopping cart in the summertime with 6-8 different varieties of fruit. This week we went home with plums, apriums (which look like apricots, but are sweeter and juicer thanks to the plum in them!), white peaches, nectarines, blueberries, and strawberries.

We’re definitely embracing the strawberries these days, as their window for consumption is shorter than that of other summer fruits. The strawberries that we buy from our grocery store come from just up the coast at Swanton Berry Farm and are so sweet and irresistible.

Hey! Who stole my garnish? 🙂

It’s time for another “Blogger’s Choice” recipe swap, hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking. I was assigned Carrie’s Sweet Life, from which to choose a recipe to make and then share with you. Carrie is the mom of two adorable little girls, and I love reading about all of the delicious things that come out of her kitchen. When I saw her recent post about Strawberry Banana Bread, I knew that it would be the perfect use for some of our strawberries.

I made a few changes, but nothing major. I used butter in place of the olive oil (best choice health-wise? No, but my favorite banana bread recipe calls for butter and I’m addicted to the flavor that it produces). Instead of mashing the strawberries, I chopped them up so that you get more intense bursts of strawberry flavor in every bite. I also swapped out 1/2 a cup of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour, added a bit more salt, and reduced the amount of orange zest by 1 tsp. to really highlight the strawberry/banana flavors. Oh, and I mixed everything by hand instead of using a mixer. My changes are reflected below. Thanks, Carrie, for a fun, seasonal twist on banana bread. Hooray for strawberry season!

Strawberry Banana Bread

(Slightly adapted from Carrie’s Sweet Life; originally from Cook with Sara)

1/2 cup butter (8 TBS.), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
3/4 cup mashed banana (I used 2 bananas)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. orange zest
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the strawberries, banana, vanilla, and orange zest and stir until well-combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, mixing just until flour disappears.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean (mine took about 1 hour and 10 minutes). Cool on a wire rack, then remove from pan, slice, and enjoy. I especially enjoyed it the next morning, toasted up in the toaster oven with a little butter on top.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

Coming from someone whose favorite season is fall and whose birthday falls on Thanksgiving once in a while, it might sound surprising that I am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. Instead, you’ll find me gravitating towards the pecan or chocolate cream pie on our dessert table. I do love pumpkin; I guess I’m just particular about texture and the way in which it’s prepared. One of my favorite ways to enjoy it this time of year is simply roasted in the oven with butter, cinnamon, and cardamom (like these little roasted pumpkins). And as far as pumpkin desserts go, I adore pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread pudding, and pumpkin bread/muffins.

There are so many recipes out there for pumpkin bread that a quick google search left me feeling overwhelmed. I decided to flip through my neglected fall issue of Fine Cooking and was drawn to this pumpkin bread recipe because it uses olive oil instead of butter (which not only provides antioxidants, but justifies slathering each slice with butter before eating), honey is added for sweetness, and the top of the loaf is studded with pumpkin seeds. It sounded perfect, and since Levi was in the middle of one of his 3-hour marathon naps (which are few and far between), I decided to jump on the opportunity to bake!

The result was a pumpkin bread with a hint of nutty flavor and subtle kiss of honey, which really comes out the next day when you toast a slice in the toaster oven. The pumpkin seeds also add the perfect crunch. I found myself saving the top of my bread slice for last because of those tasty little seeds. The recipe says they’re optional, but I’d recommend adding them because it’s one of the things that sets this pumpkin bread apart from the rest.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; by Ellie Krieger)

cooking spray (or butter for greasing)
3-1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) whole wheat flour
3 oz. (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
2 TBS. unsalted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack to the center of oven. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray (or grease with butter, as I did).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil, and honey until well combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir with a large spoon just until evenly incorporated.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to settle the batter. Sprinkle the top with the pumpkin seeds, pressing them down lightly. Bake until the top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes (mine took a little longer – about 1 hour – but it was a rainy day so perhaps the humidity had something to do ith it? Who knows). If the bread begins to brown too much before it’s fully baked, lay a piece of aluminum foil on top.
  • Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then transfer the bread to a rack to cool completely before slicing. Serve with butter, because you deserve it 🙂

Skillet Cornbread

It took us six years of marriage to acquire our first cast iron skillet. I’m not sure of the reason behind this huge oversight, but we can finally put it behind us. When we brought our seasoned skillet home, the first thing I wanted to make in it was my mom’s cornbread. I say “my mom’s” because it’s the recipe she always made when I was growing up, but originally it’s from Joy of Cooking. My brother and I always looked forward to eating this cornbread with dinner (usually chili or some kind of soup) because of the honey bear that always made its way onto the table. The cornbread itself isn’t too sweet, and it has a nice tang from the buttermilk, so it’s the perfect match for honey! I always cut my slice of cornbread in half, providing more surface area for butter and honey, of course!

Now that pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps, pumpkin ales are on store shelves, and chili is making a frequent appearance on dinner tables,  it’s safe to say that fall has come, making this the perfect time to share this cornbread recipe with you. It will go wonderfully with your family’s favorite chili recipe. Just don’t forget the honey bear.

Skillet Cornbread

(From Joy of Cooking)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-2 TBS. sugar (I usually add a second tablespoon because Dustin loves a somewhat sweeter cornbread)
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cornmeal (I use medium grind)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plain yogurt, or sour cream (or in a pinch, a combination of any of those things)
2 eggs
4 TBS. butter, melted (you can also use olive oil, which results in a different taste and slightly different texture, but also good!)

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cast iron skillet (the best option for a yummy, crispy crust, but you can also use a glass baking pan).
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cornmeal.
  • Beat together the buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream), eggs, and melted butter.
  • Place your greased skillet or baking pan into the oven to preheat while you mix the batter.
  • Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients with a few swift strokes (aka don’t mix it to death).
  • Pour the batter into the preheated greased pan. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cornbread comes out clean and the top is started to turn golden. Serve slices of cornbread with butter and honey, alongside your favorite soup or chili!

Currant Scones

When we vacationed in Sweden with my family two summers ago, we embraced our Swedish roots and enjoyed taking part in fika – the afternoon coffee break – when Swedes meet their friends, coworkers, or family at a cafe to indulge in a beverage and a baked good like a cookie or cinnamon roll before heading back to normal life. That’s a custom I could get used to!

I made these scones on a Saturday afternoon because I was craving a sweet baked good and was in need of a little fika myself. I also wanted to make something ahead of time that I could enjoy the following morning for breakfast when I knew I’d be too busy to bake. What a treat it was to bite into a warm, flaky scone and take that first sip of strong coffee on a Sunday morning when Levi had woken up at 5 am. It’s the little things in life!

I had never made scones before, but was pleased with the ease in which these came together! This is the recipe I was given for this week’s breakfast-themed recipe swap (to see more delicious recipes from previous recipe swaps, go here!). The original recipe called for raisins, but I decided to use the currants that I had on hand from making fruit & nut granola. Although the scones were a tad bit sweet for my taste (next time I might use 1/2 the sugar so that the tang from the sour cream can come through more), the texture was perfect, with little bursts of currant in every bite. When I was cutting the dough into wedges, I ended up with 8 larger scones, rather than the 12 the recipe called for, so they baked for about 10 minutes longer than indicated. But that’s okay. It was worth the wait to bite into a big scone – a delicious and much-needed indulgence!

This is a great basic recipe that I look forward to trying again with different fruits. I hope you enjoy them too, in the morning or in the afternoon. Go ahead. Take a break like the Swedes. You deserve it.

Currant Scones

(From Lisa, recipe swap participant)

1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup currants (or raisins)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet (or line with parchment paper).
  • In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter. Add the sour cream mixture and the egg and mix just until moistened. Gently mix in the currants.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch round. Cut into 12 wedges and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting

I blinked and my newborn became a 1-year-old. He walks, he points at things, he babbles, and he eats everything with gusto, especially cake, as we now know. I picked my favorite cake/frosting combination for Levi’s birthday cupcakes – yellow cake with chocolate, because I know he’s not picky and I’d be the one licking the beaters. I used the best birthday cake recipe on Smitten Kitchen – yellow cake with chocolate sour cream frosting – but made cupcakes instead of a layer cake and topped them with festive sprinkles. The recipe made 36 cupcakes, and I even had enough batter to make a little personal cake for Levi to eat on his actual birthday. So yes, we were eating cupcakes for days, and they were delicious. This recipe was exactly what I had hoped it would be. The cake was nice and moist with a little tang from buttermilk, and the frosting was nice and chocolate-y, but not too sweet. I decided to omit the espresso powder this time, since Levi was going to be eating a good amount of frosting, but I can definitely see how adding it would have brought out the flavor of the chocolate even more, and next time I will!

At the end of a 1st birthday party, there’s that rite of passage when you stick a slice of cake or a cupcake in front of the birthday child and stand around and stare at them to see what they’ll do. At first they hesitate; they might curiously poke at it, as Levi did, but soon they discover that what has been placed in front of them is actually edible. After a while it gets pretty messy, and the only people who think that the baby with frosting all over his face is cute is the parents. Yep, I was that proud mom. I’m also proud to share these cupcakes with you (which are actually the first I’ve ever made from scratch!) They were made and decorated with love for our little boy. Happy Birthday, Levi! And many more.

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour-Cream Frosting

(From Smitten Kitchen)

For the Cupcakes:

4 cups plus 2 TBS. cake flour (not self-rising)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with the festive cupcake liners of your choice.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  • At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (it’s ok if the mixture looks curdled). Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin tins so that they are 2/3 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick entered into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the muffin tins, using a knife to loosen them if some of the cake is sticking to the edges of the muffin cups. When completely cool, frost cupcakes (recipe below) and decorate with sprinkles!

For the Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting (makes 5 cups):

15 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until it melts. Remove from heat and allow to cool until tepid. You want your chocolate and your sour cream to be around the same temperature so that the chocolate doesn’t seize when you add the sour cream.
  • Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly, whisking quickly until the frosting mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in 1 TBS. increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
  • Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This took only 10 minutes for us. If it becomes too hard, leave out at room temperature until it softens again.

The Birthday Boy!

Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

Saint Patrick, you braved captivity in Ireland and later returned to spread Christianity throughout the land. Rather than eradicating the native customs and beliefs, you incorporated them into your teachings so that the Christian message was more easily understood by the people; a respectable model for Christian missions today (says the Religious Studies major in me). Today we remember the day of your death by drinking Stout and loading up on carbs. I hope you’re not offended. I hope someday people remember me by eating and drinking!

I love a good Irish soda bread on Saint Patrick’s Day. I adore its crumbly texture, crusty outside, and slightly sweet, brown interior, topped with generous amounts of butter. I eat way too much, and it’s so, so good.

This is the second year we’ve eaten this particular Irish soda bread. Last year my Mom made it as part of a corned beef & cabbage dinner. This year we made it to accompany a bacon-wrapped stout & cheddar meatloaf. It’s from an article in Bon Appetit titled A Slice of Ireland, which includes captivating pictures of Ireland’s stunning, verdant countryside (where apparently there are as many versions of soda bread as there are cooks), and the account of one man’s quest for the perfect one. Mrs. O’Callaghan’s recipe is treasured for its simplicity (no add-ins like nuts or seeds) and authenticity.

The only changes I made were halving the recipe, using teff flour instead of whole wheat flour (we had some leftover from our teff galette), using a food processor to make the dough, and baking the soda bread on parchment paper, instead of spraying a baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

(Slightly adapted from the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups teff flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 of a stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup buttermilk

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine both flours, the sugar, and the baking soda. Pulse until combined. Add the butter and continue pulsing until it resembles little peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the dough just comes together (or as the original recipe says “shaggy dough forms”).
  • Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, kneading until it comes together, about 10 turns.
  • Form dough into a 7-inch round that is 1 inch high. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut a large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough, almost all the way to the edges of the round.
  • Bake in the center of the oven until it is deep brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. A bamboo skewer, when placed into the center of the bread, should come out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool, slice, and serve with butter!

(And a special thanks to my Great-Aunt Lois – one of our faithful readers – who made the beautiful potholders in these pictures!)

Pecan-Maple Sticky Rolls

This morning I woke up to a gusting wind that was blowing the redwood trees back and forth, and sending our neighbor’s leaves all over our backyard. But my cousin and I were perfectly warm inside, drinking coffee and baking up these irresistible sticky rolls to start our day. A simple no-yeast dough and gooey maple syrup topping makes it easy to bring bakery-taste to your own kitchen. We ate one and a half each for breakfast, along with flutes of sparkling grape & blood orange juice (in lieu of mimosas), and I froze the rest to make a morning in the near future extra special.

Pecan-Maple Sticky Rolls

(From the September 2009 Food & Wine)

3/4 cup whole pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks salted butter—1 stick cubed and chilled, 4 tablespoons melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 6 minutes, until fragrant; let cool slightly (alternatively, we toasted them in a skillet, stirring occasionally over medium-low heat).
  • Meanwhile, grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter (or cooking spray).
  • In a food processor, pulse the flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Add the cubed butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse a few times, just until a soft dough forms.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 3 times. Pat or roll the dough into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.
  • In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle all over the dough. Beginning at a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Cut the dough into 12 slices.
  • Divide the maple syrup and the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter among the cups. Scatter the pecans in the cups and top with the dough pinwheels.

  • Bake for about 18 minutes, until golden; place a baking sheet below to catch any drips.
  • Invert a rack (we used a cookie sheet) over the rolls and invert them onto the rack. Replace any pecans that get stuck in the cups and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 12 rolls.