Posts Tagged ‘sweets’

Banana Quick Bread

Time seems to fly when you buy a bunch of bananas.  It only seems like a couple of days ago that I brought home these ever-so-slightly green bananas.  Look at them now!  Perfect for banana bread!

I don’t know how many times I have made banana bread over the years, but for some reason, the ingredients and their proportions just never seem to stick in my head.  Thank goodness for having my cookbook handy!  I gathered everything up, then got to work.  First there were the dry ingredients into the first bowl — flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

On to the bananas!  I was pleased to see that they looked much better on the inside than the outside.  Nary even a bruise!  Well, for the time being anyway.  They soon met with the flat side of a wooden spoon and became banana mush.

To the banana mush, I added some sugar, cooking oil, and an egg.  That got mixed together until well incorporated, and then in went the dry ingredients.

Now, the recipe says that you should add the wet to the dry, but for some reason, I always put the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl than the wet, which makes me think I would overflow the smaller bowl trying to put it all in there.  So, the dry goes into the wet.  Whatever.  So long as you get the wet and the dry mixed together, it’s all good in the end.  Just don’t over mix it or your banana bread will get tough.

I poured the batter into a greased loaf pan, dropped the baby ever-s0-gently a couple of times to make sure all the air bubbles were out of it, and popped it into the oven for 53 minutes.  (The recipe says 50-55 minutes, so I went for the middle of the road.)  When a toothpick comes out clean, it’s time to take it out of the oven!

I turned the bread out of the pan after a couple of minutes and let it cool on a wire rack.  I couldn’t wait for it to cool entirely before cutting into it and giving it a nice pat of butter.  I swear that my family can smell the aromas from my kitchen from clear across the valley.  My parents just so happened to call and stop by tonight and, of course, took home some banana bread.  I was smart enough to at least keep some of the fruits of my labor this time!

Banana Quick Bread

(Taken from Better Homes & Gardens Limited Edition 2000 New Cook Book)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I use more like 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium, but I usually add one extra, so I used 4)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel (optional, I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted these too)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.
  3. In another bowl, combine the egg, bananas, sugar, cooking oil, and, if desired, lemon peel.  Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.)  Fold in nuts.
  4. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Bake in a 350F oven 50-55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove loaf from pan; cool on rack.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing (if you can.)

Battle: Baked Goods – Test Run: Apple-Pear Turnovers

Another possibility for Battle: Baked Goods on Saturday… Apple-Pear Turnovers!


These little pastries seemed to be easier to make on paper than they were.  That was disappointing.  At least the ingredients list was relatively simple!  Apples, pears, frozen puff pastry, a dab of butter, and some sugar and spice — how could I go wrong?

I have never been much of a baker, have I mentioned that?  Yet, here I am attempting things that I have never before attempted, in hopes that I’ll get the hang of it.  What I really did not want to have to tackle was trying to make my own dough, especially a puff pastry dough!  (Is it even possible to make that at home???)  Thankfully, they make frozen dough, so that was the route I took.  I left that on the counter for about 45 minutes to an hour to thaw while I caught up on my work email, and went to work on the apples and pears.

Gala apples and Bartlett pears

I started out by peeling, quartering, and coring 2 Gala apples and 2 Bartlett pears,  and dropping them into a bowl of water and lemon juice to prevent any browning while I worked.  I cut the quarters in half lengthwise, then sliced them into fairly even-sized pieces.  The pears were really juicy, so it was hard to actually get them into the bowl without wanting to pop every piece I cut into my mouth!  Most of the pears made it into the turnovers…

From there, I went and unfolded the puff pastry dough.  It started out as roughly a 9″x9″ square, which I rolled out to about 12″x12″.  In hindsight, I might have opted to not roll it out and just made smaller turnovers.  I’m not sure if the rolling had anything to do with the final outcome, or if that’s just the way the puff pastry, well, puffs.

I tried my best to fill and seal each little packet, even resorting to using the suggested water trick to get it to stick, but that just did not seem to work on this unruly dough!  So, I pinched and folded and pinched some more, realizing that I was probably ruining the puff to come.

I didn’t get any photos of the actual process of filling and folding the turnovers because my hands were dirty and I was too involved to even remember that I was going to document the process.   The idea clicked right after I dropped them into the oven that I should probably take a picture, so here you go.


Into the oven!

Thirty minutes later, I pulled four golden brown, acceptably puffy turnovers from the oven in a lake of apple-pear-sugar-juice leakage that covered the tray I had baked them on.  Thank goodness for the foresight of lining that tray — What a mess!  I let them cool slightly before airlifting them from the gooey flooded tray to cool on a wire rack.


They don't look half bad...

Aside from the obvious issue with the turnovers leaking at the seams, they seemed to turn out alright.  I was disappointed in the puff of the puff pastry, as it wasn’t as flaky and puffy as I had hoped it would be, particularly in the pastry covering the fruit filling.  The corners were flaky as advertised, and I’m really not sure why the rest of the turnover didn’t turn out as well.  My suspicion would be that the rolling adversely affected the dough, but that seems somewhat unlikely, since dough was born to be rolled!  (Edit:  With some confirmation to this suspicion, I have eliminated the rolling of the dough from the instructions below.  This supports the idea that these test runs are a good idea!)

Whatever the case, the overall taste of the turnovers (or the one I tried at least!) was pretty good!  The spices seemed right on, and the fruit retained a good bite to it.  Now, I just have to figure out which will be entered into the Aluminum Chef competition this Saturday.  Decisions, decisions.



Apple-Pear Turnovers


  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed per package directions
  • 2 medium baking apples (I used Galas)
  • 2 medium pears (I used Bartletts)
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 egg

Makes 4 servings.


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Peel & core apples and pears, then cut into small, even-sized pieces.
  3. Mix apples and pears in a large bowl.
  4. Mix sugar and spices in a small bowl, then add to the apples and pears.  Stir to coat.
  5. Unfold puff pastry dough, and cut large square into 4 smaller squares.
  6. Put 1/4 of apple & pear mixture into the center of each square, and place 1/2 teaspoon of butter on top of mixture.
  7. Fold the dough over the filling to create a triangle and pinch edges closed.
    • Tip: If dough is not sticking together, try wetting your fingers and pinching it together.
  8. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  9. Beat egg in small bowl.
  10. Place turnovers on baking sheet, and brush beaten egg over each.
  11. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching Everyday Italian on the Food Network, and saw Giada making biscotti.  She whipped up these lemon almond numbers that looked really good, so I decided that I’d make them too!

Now, I may not appreciate Giada’s insistence on pronouncing every Italian word with an Italian accent, but she makes some delicious looking food.  My boyfriend, who I will lovingly refer to as Bikenut, went crazy over these cookies.  He seriously loved them, saying they were the best that he’s ever tasted, and even went raving about them to my friends at our monthly Aluminum Chef gathering.  With such a great response, I decided to use the same basic cookie recipe but add chocolate instead of the lemon to make Chocolate Almond Biscotti.


The ingredients, less a tablespoon of homemade vanilla extract.

I was really surprised at the number of ingredients that were used.  It was far fewer than I imagined, and these cookies could not be any easier to throw together.   To top it off, there’s not really much of a mess to clean up afterward — something Bikenut appreciates.  I mentioned to him that I was making the biscotti today and he said, “I hope they turn out as good as the first ones!  And don’t destroy the kitchen!”

Dirtying only two bowls, the beaters of the hand mixer, a measuring cup and a couple of measuring spoons, I was able to get the biscotti logs ready for the oven.  The dough is extremely sticky, and the tip about wetting your hands before attempting to form them is an excellent trick!


Biscotti logs, going in the oven for 35 minutes.

While the biscotti was baking, I sat back down to do some work.  Ahh, the advantages of working at home;  I can take a 15 minute break and whip up some yummy treat, then let it bake while I respond to email and the like.  Sooner than I knew, the timer was beeping.  The first bake was done!


Cooling after the first bake. "Biscotti" apparently means, "twice baked" in Italian.

While waiting the five minutes for the cookie logs to cool, someone came knocking at the door.  My neighbor’s new girlfriend (I assume) had locked herself out of their apartment and wanted to know if I had a chair that she could borrow so she could climb through their bedroom window.  Funny how you end up meeting some of your neighbors.

With Annie safely through the window and my step-stool returned, it was back to the biscotti.  The logs had cooled enough to be handled, but the chocolate was still warm, so it dirtied the bread knife I was using a bit while I was slicing the logs into the half-rounded cookies and left chocolate-y streaks on the cut-side of some of the cookies.


On the sheet, ready for the second bake.

Back into the oven for another 25 minute bake.  You can see in the picture above that the cookies are still somewhat moist, particularly towards the rounded tops.  The second bake drew out all of that moisture, leaving me with a yummy, crunchy, crumbly chocolate almond biscotti!  Now all I need is a nice latte to dunk them in.



Chocolate Almond Biscotti

(adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ “Almond and Lemon Biscotti“)


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (bittersweet, semi-sweet, or combination)


  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.  Beat until mixture is a pale yellow color and all the sugar appears incorporated.
  5. Combine the flour mixture a third at a time with the egg mixture, beating until just blended.
  6. Stir in almonds and chocolate chips, then let dough rest for 5 minutes.
  7. Divide dough in half and place on a baking sheet.
  8. Wet your hands with water and form each half of the dough into a log, approximately 9″x3″.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes, then remove to cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Slice logs into 1″ thick cookies and place cookies cut-side down on the baking sheet.
  11. Return to oven, bake for an additional 25 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven, cool completely.  Enjoy!