Saturday, September 21, 2013

Actual Banana Bread


Now with picture! Looks like any other bread...
Unlike what is usually meant by the term banana bread, which is in fact a sort of very moist cake, this is a formula for yeast risen bread, using bananas.

460 grams over ripe bananas. This was 4 medium sized ones for me.
525 grams bread flour
30 grams butter
7 grams salt
7 grams yeast

Peel and smash the bananas and then put everything in a bread machine to knead for 2o minutes. Proof the dough for about 2 hours. Deflate the dough and gently shape it into a loaf. Put it in a loaf pan and let it rise until doubled, then bake at 375 for an hour.


1. The variable nature of bananas as a unit of measure is somewhat irritating to me.
2. It means that either you will have to do some algebra to figure out how much flour to add, or just kinda eyeball it. I would hate to recommend using algebra. My 8th grade algebra teacher would probably laugh her ass off at me, sitting here trying to remember how to calculate ratios. Shut up, Anne Thomas!
3. Just eyeball it. Keep in mind that this dough should be quite sticky.
4. Because it is so sticky, you will need to flour your hands and work surface quite a bit in order to shape it into a nice loaf.
5. This dough rises quite slowly, but will poof dramatically in the oven. I think it's because there is so much sugar from the bananas.
6. Over ripe bananas means just that. Mine were almost totally black and I had started to worry about fruit flies and fermentation before I stuck them in the fridge to stabilize them until I could put them in the bread.

Dad used to make this bread regularly, there was also a version of it with raisins in it that I was very partial to. I didn't have enough raisins today, but maybe next time. I think this is the first time I've tried to make it and I'm really happy with how it came out. Mine is fluffier and chewier than Dad's banana bread, because he never used bread flour, only all purpose. It still smells the same though- kinda carameley and tropical. It smells like wellbeing to me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fred Meyer Rolls

How Bread! Much Roll!

I got the recipe from the website of a domestic advice mogul who I think is not only an unpleasant person but they make enough money already that I don't feel obliged to link to the page. Besides, I had to do a lot of math to convert the recipe from volume to weight in order to re-size the recipe so it would fit in my bread machine. What kind of fancy domestic expert are you if your cooking website and doesn't even have a volume-to-weight button for measurements?* I mean jeez, there wasn't even a button for the print friendly version of the recipe.

In any case, the rolls came out amazing!!!!!

500 g all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk or 170 g water and 25 g dry milk which is what I did
5 or 6 tablespoons butter- technically 2/3 of a stick which I kinda eyeballed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
10 g yeast- this is a slightly skimpy tablespoon

The butter should be soft and the eggs at room temperature if you knead by hand, but since I kneaded everything in my bread machine for 20 minutes that's just a minor detail.

After kneading, let the dough rise until it has doubled in size or slightly more, then gently deflate it. That was about 2 hours for me.

Divide the dough into 20 pieces and put them on a buttered baking pan. To shape the rolls, first divide the dough in half. Gently roll each half into a rope, working the air out as you go, then pinch off bits. Don't worry if they're a bit lumpy, they will smooth themselves out. Let them rise until doubled. Pre-heat the oven to 375, then bake the rolls for 20 minutes.

Such Yum! Happy Cooke!
AAARRHHHGGGH! These are so goooooood. I have been trying to get my rolls to turn out like this ever since I started baking! They are just like the rolls you get at the grocery store, except butterier and fresher! I made them to take to David's folks' house for dinner and the car ride was torture because I wanted to snorf up the whole lot at once and I hadn't eaten enough lunch but that last part was my own fault so never mind. These rolls are mighty delicious. In case the picture is not convincing enough, let me extol the fluffiness, the tenderness of the crumb. I am overjoyed at the rich buttery mild sweetness, the thinness and crispiness of the crust. This is one of the rare things I have made where the pleasure of eating actually exceeds the expectations raised by the pleasure of looking.

To ensure that your rolls have similar quality of performance, please note the following technical points:

1. Rising time is very important. Don't let the dough over rise or it will start to taste fermented.
2. But don't rush it either. Once the rolls are formed, they need enough time to poof up or they won't be as light and squishy as they should be.
3. When shaping the rolls, make sure to work any air pockets out of the dough or there will be holes in your rolls.
4. If your oven heats as unevenly as mine does, turn the baking sheet around halfway through the cooking time or some rolls will be dried out and others will be pallid.
5. I used one of those insulated cookie sheets, which was probably a good idea because it made the bottoms of the rolls come out nearly as tender as the tops.

As it turned out, I was not the only person to have brought rolls to dinner, which was great because it meant there were a bunch of mine left for me to take home. They are just as good toasted with butter for breakfast as they were last night. Mmmmmnomnomnom.

* King Arthur has conversion buttons. Two of 'em. One for imperial and one for metric! AND a print version button, so there!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Let that be a lesson to you!

I should really pay more attention to what I'm doing.

I wanted to make a version of the cream cakes I'd done before, but not only did I change the recipe, I forgot a major ingredient. Fortunately, the result wasn't bad at all.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

melted butter and sugar for dunking

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Put cupcake papers in a 12-dish muffin pan.

Mix together all the dry ingredients, making sure the baking powder doesn't have any lumps left in it. Gently stir in the cream and mix just until it forms an even mass of dough. Divide into 12 parts. Roll each part in melted butter, then in sugar. Bake in the prepared muffin pan for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Serve with peaches, cream, and this butterscotch sauce which was the whole reason I made sweet biscuits anyway:

Fry half a dozen pieces of good-quality bacon in a heavy skillet. Use medium heat so that the bacon drippings don't burn. When the bacon is done, use it to make BLTs or something. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and add

2 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt or more, depending on taste
about 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Stir everything together, and simmer for about 2 or 3 minutes to condense it slightly. Taste for salt and vanilla, it requires a surprising amount of both. While you shouldn't be too worried about adding too much vanilla (it's very difficult to over-vanilla something) it is possible to over-salt it. If you taste the sauce and it's just a little not quite quite, add a little pinch of salt, and taste again. Different kinds of salt do vary in intensity, so start low and build up.

The sauce is phenomenal. The original recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, but as soon as I saw it I thought it would be even better if I made it with bacon fat. The smoke flavor is very subtle, it just shows up in the aftertaste as a kind of outdoorsy effect. Like smelling your neighbor's barbecue while you eat dessert.

That aside, as a method for eating butterscotch sauce, the biscuits could use some work. To wit:

1. I forgot to add the sugar in the dough. The proper recipe calls for 1/3 cup.
2. Because I forgot the sugar, the dough was more dry than I wanted. Sugar adds a lot more moisture than you'd think.
3. Because the dough was dry, it didn't poof up as much as I wanted.
4. Although it's possible that my baking powder is too old.
5. Overall, they were tasty but I wanted them more moist and tender.

I can think of 3 ways to fix the problem.

1. I can put the dang sugar in like the recipe says. I don't like this solution because I like the less-sweet biscuit.
2. I can add more cream. This is probably the best option, although it might make the cooking time a bit longer.
3. I could add a smidge more baking powder and cook them for a shorter time at a higher temperature. Risky. After all, what I wanted most was a less dry biscuit, although having them poofier would be nice too.

Probably the best fix would be to add more cream and to buy fresh baking powder. I still have more butterscotch sauce to use up, but I might put it on pancakes and bananas instead.

The peaches were just perfect of course. It is the time of year for peaches, after all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nice Potato Salad


Not exactly a Nicoise salad, but still pretty nice. Har har. Moving right along...

I said I'd bring potato salad to Jej's picnic, and I'd had some little potato finger-food thingies that were 'nicoise inspired' which gave me this idea. Traditionally, Salad Nicoise has potatoes, green beans, olives, eggs, tuna and sometimes tomatoes on it. The hors d'oeuvres  were basically just tiny tuna-deviled potatoes with a green bean stabbed through the top and a sprinkle of "egg mimosa" which meant little crumbs of egg yolk to make it look fancy. The green bean was awkward to eat. But I liked the potato part, and as silly as it was, the green bean tasted really good. Still, what I wanted was potato salad, not tuna salad, so I came up with this.

1 lb tiny yellow potatoes
1/2 lb fresh green beans
a handful of parsley, chopped
a green onion, sliced fine
2 cold, hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/2 cup olives, coarsely chopped
zest of a lemon


juice of a lemon, about 1/4 cup
2 T fish sauce
1 T sherry vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T minced fresh thyme

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake them up. Set aside.

Boil the potatoes whole until you can stick a fork through them. Drain them, then let them cool completely. Meanwhile blanch the green beans. To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil, then dump in the beans. Leave the beans in the water just until they turn translucent and bright green. Drain the beans then either dump them into a pot of ice water or run them under cold water until they are chilled.

When the potatoes are cold, cut them into bite sized bits. Cut the green beans on and angle to increase the area of cut surface (and to make them prettier). Put all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with dressing. The orange things in the picture are nasturtium petals, they're just to make it look fancy.

Ok, this was a pretty good salad, but some things occurred to me later, namely

1. It would have been better if I'd roasted the bitty potatoes instead. I think little toasty parts would definitely add  a more complex and interesting flavor.

2. I might put in tiny red tomatoes. Both for color and because tomatoes.

3. Tuna in olive oil. Yes, the fish sauce is fine, but the fish itself is actually more important to the whole nicoise thing than just being a way to add a certain fishy something-something. I think partly it's texture, and partly because fish sauce is fermented, which gives a very different character to things.

4. It would look better if you just decorated the top with egg slices. The egg yolks get all smushed up if you stir them into the salad.