Archive for the ‘Daring Bakers Challenges’ Category

hello beautiful

February 7, 2009

Do you ever wander around the kitchen at night wanting something, not figuring out what it is, and then finally realizing that you’re just looking forward to coffee the next morning?  I think that this banana bread is the breakfast to go with that coffee.  This is a gentle banana bread, more cakelike than bready, with soft and comforting undertones.  If you bake it just right (well, at least in my opinion), the bread surrounding the inevitable crack down the middle will still be a little bit gooey.  I can never resist dipping my finger in to grab a little bit of the gooey part before the loaf cools.  Don’t tell, although I’m pretty sure I get caught any time anyway.

What I like about this specific banana bread is the use of both butter and yogurt.  A lot of banana breads use oil which makes them very moist, but a little greasy and tasteless, in my opinion.  The yogurt keeps the moisture factor covered, anyway.

You could always go with variations.  I want to try substituting pears for the bananas.  I have no idea if it would work, but I plan on giving  it a shot.  You could add shredded coconut (1/2 C) and swap out the walnuts for macadamia nuts, or add cinnamon and maybe even a tablespoon or so of rum.

 

Banana Bread

adapted from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

makes one 8-inch loaf

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 C brown sugar or evaporated cane juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large very ripe bananas (best if they have a lot of black spots)*
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 C whole or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C (2 ounces) walnuts or pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 C raisins

 

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together.  Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined (if it’s a little bit lumpy that’s OK, just don’t overmix it).  Fold in the walnuts.  The batter should look thick and lumpy.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 55 minutes (but check a bit earlier), rotating the pan halfway through baking.

4. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

*I always find myself with a few bananas that are going black on me.  That’s great- I just peel them and throw them in the freezer until I feel like making banana bread.  It only takes an hour or so on the counter and they’re ready to go.  If you don’t have any super-ripe bananas (either fresh or frozen), America’s Test Kitchen has a great tip: oven-ripening the bananas.  Here’s how:

While the oven preheats, throw your yellow bananas (in their skins) on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes or so.  The skins will turn black but the flesh will get softer and sweeter.  One note- this trick won’t work with green bananas, which are too far from ripeness to be useful here.

 


Daring Bakers April Challenge: Cheesecake Pops

April 27, 2008

This was my second Daring Bakers Challenge! I feel like I’ve been lucky as far as challenges go. To be completely honest, I was pretty relieved that I joined the DBs after the Julia Child french bread challenge as I’m really not sure that’s something I’m ready to tackle. I’ve actually got a loaf of bread in the oven right now, but it is of the “almost no knead” variety, and it is about as much of a yeast endeavor as I am prepared to take on.

Anyway… I really liked making these pops. The cheesecake part was really simple. I didn’t realize until the last minute that there was no butter in the recipe, and I think that yielded a very creamy and un-greasy cheesecake. The chocolate part was no problem either. I have to admit, I kind of wish I had tried white chocolate, because as much as I love dark chocolate and cheesecake, I somehow don’t love them together. I think, for me, the dark chocolate is just a bit too strong against the soft flavor of cheesecake. Next time I might add a vanilla bean to the batter to get more flavor out of the cheesecake part. I might also try milk chocolate as a coating, which I think would be less intense. Regardless, these are fun to make, and if nothing else, are hopelessly cute. I would definitely suggest giving them a try!

Check out the thousands of other delicious-lookin cheesecake pops made this month by Daring Bakers HERE.

Cheesecake Pops, adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs (I used 3 eggs when I baked half the recipe without a problem)
2 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, seeded
¼ cup heavy cream

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks (I just used bamboo skewers, although this really wasn’t the best idea)
1 pound chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I ended up using a bit of butter…)
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 to 2 hours

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paperlined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.


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