delicious discourse

banana bread is for sundays

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on September 21, 2008

I have a confession to make, Matt and I eat bananas all year long. We love them and every time we go to the grocery store we buy a bunch, usually more than we can eat. When we have time we make banana bread from the ones that are too ripe. I wouldn’t feel bad about eating all these bananas if I still lived in Hawaii and my Dad could take his machete and hack off the latest bunch from one of the banana trees in our yard;or if I could drive up the road to see Wilson and pick up a bunch of what we called apple bananas (smaller bananas with an almost sweet apple taste, hence the name), which he had clearly grown on the land behind his fruit stand. This would be obvious to most, but bananas do not grow in Austin. It takes a lot of fuel to transport them from Latin America so that I can slice one over my granola every morning. So, if we are going to continue to buy bananas, I plan not to let any go to waste. Matt and I might be eating a lot of banana bread. Good thing I have a great recipe, which is always a hit. People at my various past offices have loved it; it makes a great boating snack for energy in between wake-boarding sessions; and it is great toasted at home with a little bit of Kerrygold’s Irish butter. The chocolate chips are optional, but they add a certain sense of richness. Also, walnuts are a great addition.

I often find myself baking on Sundays. The past two times I have made banana bread it has been a Sunday. Maybe it is because Sundays I try to be lazy, which for me, means being productive, but just in a different way than I am the rest of the week; getting organized for the week, reading a book, going on a bike ride, trying a new breakfast place, doing all the little things I enjoy, but hardly find the time or the energy to do during the week. Banana bread is sunny; think tall green banana trees soaking up the sun and blowing in the sea breeze, so we can consume the white meat of the fruit at any time we like. Banana bread is comforting, and provides a great warmth with a glass on milk and curled up with a good book on a cool day, or any day for that matter. Banana bread is nutritious for the body as Sundays are the the soul. A wise woman once told me when I first moved to L.A., “LA is a great city, but make sure you take time to feed your soul.” At 18, I had no clue what she was talking about, but today, I know the importance all too well.

Sunday Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
Combine in mixer.
2 large eggs
Add one at a time to the sugar-butter mixture. Beat after each addition.
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
Combine the banana, yogurt, and vanilla in a bowl and add to the wet mixture. Mix well.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Stir into batter. Mix until evenly distributed.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes. I like to slightly undercook the bread to ensure  the bread stays moist. Let bread cool in pans for 10 minutes then roll out onto racks to cool completely before storing.

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The best zucchini bread ever, really

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 2, 2008

Zucchini bread, like carrot cake, runs in my blood. One of the many reasons I love carrot cake is because my mother, back in her baking days, would make it for every birthday of my Dad, my sister, and I, as well as requesting it to celebrate every year she turned older. I just grew up with it. It was a part of my childhood and now it is a big part of my life. So, I assume the same would have happened with zucchini bread had my father not nipped it in the bud at the early stage. The story goes, as newlyweds in Ventura, my mother would make zucchini bread all the time. My dad working close by at his surf shop, would come home for lunch or after a surf and start with a slice, which turned to two, which turned to three, you get my point. Once you start, if its that good, it is hard to stop no matter how satisfied you are. So, my Dad, a lean, athletic guy in his late-twenties, had to ask my mother to stop making so much zucchini bread because he was gaining weight! True story. Good thing birthdays come just once a year.

So, after a childhood sans zucchini bread, I decided I should try my hand at making it myself. My first attempt proved tasty, but this post, of my second attempt, proves it can get much much better.

Last week I stumbled across my now favorite blog, the aesthetically simple, gorgeously photographed, and filled-with-knowledge 101 Cookbooks. Perusing the recipe journal, I came across Heidi’s, the author, recipe for her special zucchini bread. What caught my eye were a few of the ingredients, namely curry powder, poppy seeds, and crystallized ginger. This would either be the most perfect combination or perfectly awful. I had to try it.

The verdict—perfect. Absolutely perfect. The unusual ingredients present a mystery as you try to discern the slight hint of curry powder and ginger. I took a loaf to work, the recipe makes two, and the bosses son claimed I was a gourmet chef. My reply—hardly, but Mom would be proud, and Dad would be in trouble.

Heidi’s Special Zucchini Bread Recipe (yields 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cups poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
2 t. vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using
3 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 T curry powder (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until the mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).
In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.
By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.
Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling – if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.

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A Banana Bread Weekend

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on August 27, 2008

Occasionally I will read other food blogs and since I do love Bon Appetit where she regularly has a column, yesterday I took a cyber trip over to Orangette’s blog. I began reading her entry on the banana bread she had baked over the weekend and found it amusing because I had baked banana bread for a first time in several months over the very same weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure Orangette and I are not the only two people in the entire world who made banana bread over the weekend—I am not that delusional. However, as I continued reading and she began talking about cinnamon and a cinnamon and sugar crumble, I realized we had made the very same recipe, which is, surprise, surprise, from Bon Appetit’s August 2008, “Best of the Bakeshops”.

The banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping is from Bakesale Betty, a bakery in Oakland. With cinnamon in the batter, the addition of honey, and a cinnamon sugar crumble topping, the recipe differs from my tried-and-true I normally use. After a crazy two weeks, I have been feeling under the weather with a scratchy throat and just that blah fatigue you get when you can feel a cold coming on, except no cold came. I must have been balancing on that very thin line between sick and not sick, and my body pulled through. Anyway, on Sunday, I needed comfort, especially after an awful breakfast at my usual go-to eatery (sitting outside on the patio Matt and I were subject to squawking birds and unruly kids—I felt as if I had been very bad and exiled to the kiddie table with the intention of causing me to go completely insane). What could be more comforting than banana bread? I had been lounging on the couch with a my new Bon Appetit, and having the sweet tooth that I do, I was digging “Best of the Bakeshops”, and the banana bread was just begging me to make it, it was quite shameful, but how could I resist? In the mood for indulgence, I added chocolate chips to the batter.

If is is possible for banana bread to be even more satisfying, it is so with cinnamon and chocolate. The flaky cinnamon sugar crumble offers the final stroke of goodness and the chocolate create creamy pockets within the dense bread. In fear that Matt and I would eat the entire loaf, he took it to work, where is was devoured. One of his co-workers claimed he always thought banana bread was missing something, but the addition of cinnamon created the kick it always needed.

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Recreating the “Dahlia” at home

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on July 27, 2008

If you are a die-hard fan of “the Dahlia”, as I have grown to call it, the Blue Dahlia as everyone else knows it, you will be happy to know you can recreate the simple goodness of the Brie tartine with apricot preserves and walnuts in the comfort of you own home. Just buy, or if you are ambitious—make, fresh bread. In addition purchase some Brie of your choosing and make sure you have some sort of preserves, oh, and don’t forget the walnuts–preferably whole walnuts that have not been broken to pieces. To assemble, simply slice bread in half long-ways, place a thin slab of Brie on each half, add a dollop of the preserves, and garnish with the nutty goodness of a walnut. The fun part, there is an infinite number of combinations between different breads, Bries, and preserves. Knock yourself out, go nuts, be creative.

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