Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Caramelized Banana Bread



Caramelized banana bread, oh my.  This one has been in the making for awhile now.  Maybe you know, but one of my favorite baking books in the universe is flour by Joanne Chang.  And by "favorite", I mean I am absolutely obsessed with it.  It is always the first book I go to when I am looking for a new recipe.  So far, every last thing I have made out of flour is crazy divine.

So, why did I go and one-up my favorite banana bread recipe?  Because I had the idea of "caramelized bananas" and I just had to try it.  I mean, come on.  Just the thought of it had me salivating, and so it was do or drool time. Right?


So, I took my favorite five-star banana recipe from flour and altered it, and altered it, and altered it. (Did I mention I also added brown butter?  My favorite secret weapon.). And the end result, I feel, is a banana bread that would make Ms. Chang proud.  This banana bread is super moist, slightly dense, but still light on the tongue.  Make yourself happy and give it a try.  You just might cry at your happy results.  Enjoy!

(See, even this little Muppet couldn't keep her hands off it long enough for me to take photos!)



Caramelized Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf or 18 muffins

4 medium bananas, sliced
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup (175 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 rounded teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 325F.  Butter a 9-inch loaf pan, or line 18 muffin tins with paper liners, and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Cook, swirling the pan often, until the butter turns golden brown.  Add the sliced bananas and stir to coat with butter.  Add the brown sugar and stir to combine.  Continue cooking over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the bananas are easily mashable with the back of a spoon. Mash the bananas slightly, then remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and granulated sugar on medium for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Reduce the mixer to low speed and very slowly add the oil to the egg and sugar mixture.  Add the bananas, Greek yogurt and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined, 30-45 seconds.

In a medium bowl add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and whisk gently until thoroughly combined (alternately, you can use a sifter and sift the ingredients together).  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.  Do not overmix, but be sure that no white flour streaks remain in the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan or fill muffin liners 3/4 full.  Bake loaf for 55-60 minutes and muffins 20-23 minutes or until bread springs back when lightly pressed.  Allow to cool in the pan for at least half an hour and then pop it out of the pan.  Then, you should definitely...

EAT IT!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

White Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread

Before we moved to Minnesota I spent an agonizing amount of time imagining who my new friends would be. Would I even have new friends? What would they look like?  Could they ever compare to and replace the friends I was leaving behind?  The answer is yes.  And no.  Just as I've learned that I love my children fully, equally and differently...I love and adore my new friends fully, equally and differently.  These women who invited me to join their lives, their play groups, book clubs and social events have completed my circle here.   I adore them, I adore their children, I adore how fully full they've made my life these past six months.  Blessed is the word that constantly comes to mind.


And did I mention one of these new friends of mine, Amber, hosted a cookie exchange party?  That's a sure way to get to my heart.  Nine women means nine different kinds of cookies.  Oh, how we've been buzzing around on a sugar high since Saturday night!


I also got to learn how to frost cookies using royal icing, and I am totally hooked.  This icing makes gorgeous cookies!  Thanks for the intro Dawn!


And I got to try an awesome new cookie recipe to bring to the party.  This one will be added into my holiday repertoire from now on.  Cherry shortbread dipped in white chocolate.  Oh my!  Although, the finished product looked a little bit like a Santa with a hat but no facial features, so I can't decide if they are cute or creepy. Thoughts?


Life is good.  God is good.  My heart is full.  I am blessed this holiday season beyond measure.

PRINT THIS RECIPE!

White Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread
Adapted from BHG

Makes 30 cookies

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and chopped finely
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar, plus 1/2 cup extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, chopped into 1/4" pieces
12 ounces white chocolate, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Colored sugars or nonpareils for decorating

Preheat oven to 325F.

Spread cherries on a layer of paper towels.  Place another paper towel on top and press lightly to absorb excess moisture.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt and mix briefly to combine.  Add cold butter and mix on medium-low, or use a pastry blender, until the dough resembles coarse meal.  Add cherries, 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chocolate and the almond extract.  Knead the mixture with your hands until it comes together and forms a smooth ball.

Form dough into 1 tablespoon balls and then roll in extra sugar to coat.  Place on cookie sheet approximately 2" apart.  Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in the sugar and then flatten each dough ball.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until centers are set, then set on a wire rack to cool.

Once cookies are completely cooled, melt remaining white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl by cooking for 15 second intervals and stirring after each 15 seconds until completely melted.  Dip half of each cookie into the white chocolate, then dip in colored sugar or nonpareils for decoration. Lay on parchment paper to dry and harden completely.  Then, you should definitely...

EAT IT!



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Claire Bear is Two!


It's amazing how you can love two children so differently, yet so very completely.  When I was pregnant with Claire I had a fear many second-time parents have...will I love her as much as the first? The answer is, "God yes! And in such a new and awesome way from the first!"  These are two different human beings, of course I'm not going to love them the same way.  I just love them both the way they need to be loved.

Two years ago, Claire burst into our lives 10 days early and with little fuss.  I went to bed as normal the night before her birthday, and at 8:30 am we were holding her in our arms, slightly shocked at what had just happened, but already in love.


I was so nervous to introduce Claire to Anna, certain that I had just ruined her life as she was no longer the only center of our universe.  But, again, my fears were unfounded.  Anna marched herself into the hospital room that morning demanding "where's my sister?", and they've been an unstoppable team ever since.





Claire has brought so much joy into our world.  She is the happiest child I've known and truly has zest for life that brings smiles to everyone around her.  She is affectionate, snuggly and loves throwing her arms around my neck and kissing me square on the lips.  This kid really loves life, and seeing this as a parent brings me insurmountable joy.












Claire has changed so much this year...from baby to toddler.  From helpless to determined.  From straight-ish hair to spiral curls.  Along with her joy, Claire has some serious spunk!  She let's her needs be known, she doesn't let Anna get away with picking on her, and she does everything just a little louder than most would deem necessary. She is her own person through and through. And oh oh oh how I love this little person.



Happy Birthday Sweet Claire Bear.  You are my Bear, my Muppet, my Monkey, my Bear Bear, my very heart and soul.  I love you so much.  I can't wait to see where this next year brings you.




Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Getaway

This is where Mace and I got to spend three amazing days all by ourselves.  No kids, no distractions, just each other.  It was quiet. It was magical.  It was awesome.


Mace and I are a couple that crave alone time together.  We get out on dates as often as possible, and count the minutes til the girls go to bed so we can be alone together.  We love spending time with each other and are pretty good at making that happen.  Except, just for short periods of time.  

Anna was 15 months old before I left her with my parents overnight and went to a Bed & Breakfast for a whopping 12 hours.  We have done one or two other overnights, but never longer than 24 hours.  Never longer than 24 hours, I said.  When Mace and I finally realized that we hadn't been away together for a weekend in over four years, we knew that had to be remedied immediately.  And remedy it we did.

We packed the girls up and sent them to my parents for two nights, and then my sister and bro-in-law's for a night. Three whole nights!  72 lovely, uninterrupted, kidless hours.  It was unbelievably heavenly.

We got to connect in a way that we've never done in the past four years.  We got to finish every conversation we started, unless it was interrupted by a spontaneous kiss.  

We got to eat entire meals without children on our laps or hearing the inevitable, "I don't like that!"  

We got to hike for miles and hours on the Superior Hiking Trail, thinking only of our own need for water, food or rest.  


We spent an entire afternoon in almost complete silence, reading and dozing as the feeling struck us. 


We drank too many glasses of wine without worry of having to get up in the middle of the night with a child.

We browsed in art galleries and shops in Grand Marais without fear of something being broken by little hands. 


We laid in bed until 9:00 each morning and let the sun soak in and warm us through the windows. 



We talked and we talked and we talked.  We fell deeper in love, though neither of us thought that possible.  And we dreamed.  We remembered dreams we used to have and created new dreams together. We had time. Beautiful time, just for each other and ourselves.  


We vowed to make sure we don't go another four years without a weekend getaway.

When we returned on Sunday we were met with the sweetest smiles and hugs.  We were all ready to be together again, refreshed and renewed from our time apart.

And, something unexpected from our trip, was this new bond our girls formed with each other.  They were apart from us, but had each other the whole weekend.  From that time together a new kind of love for each other was created.  Awesome.


Oh life is good.  So very wonderfully good.