baking

Tried and True: World’s Best Banana Bread

World’s Best Banana Bread

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups oil
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 tsp baking soda dissolved in 3 Tbsp hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • (optional) 1 cup chocolate chips

Mix ingredients in large bowl. Place in two greased and floured 9×5 loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 60 – 90 minutes. Loaves are done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The tops will get very dark.

Bake 15 minutes for mini-muffins, 20 minutes for regular muffins, 40 minutes for small loaves.


 

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This blog is devoted to investigating (and gently mocking) the hyperbole of the standard diy blog. This is the greatest recipe OF ALL TIME you need to make this NOW it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE are we thinking mimosas with this????? YUM!!!!! STOP READING AND GO MAKE THIS NOW NOW NOW!!!!!1!

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That’s a whole nutmeg because I am FANCY.

Ok, but this really is the world’s best banana bread. Next to this recipe, other banana breads don’t even look like they’re trying.

This may also be the world’s most calorically dense banana bread. I don’t think those two things are unrelated.

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The key to this recipe is to get a lot of really nasty bananas. Every time we have a sad banana orphan left on the counter until well past its prime, I chuck it into the freezer, still in its skin. The frozen bananas can be thawed on the counter or in a bowl of warm water. The best way I’ve found to handle the unfrozen bananas is to cut the top off the skin and squeeze out the insides. It’s… fairly gross.

But the final product is worth it. I highly recommend including the chocolate chips just to really elevate the obscenity of the final result.

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I know. It looks burned. But it’s fine.

When baking this, the key is patience. This sucker is dense. It’s gonna be a while. My recipe card says to bake for 60 minutes, but I’ve never had a loaf come even close to doneness in that time. This last bake was 87 minutes to perfection. I’m leaving that 60 minutes as the basement time, but you’re just going to have to keep checking. The tops of the loaves will get very dark, and the edges might even look a little over-done. Don’t panic, it’s all the sugar getting nice and caramelized.

I’m still experimenting with some slightly less egregious versions of this recipe. Up to half of the oil can be replaced by applesauce without a large difference in taste, and I’d like to play with reducing the sugar and substituting some whole wheat flour. But this time, with a hurricane bearing down on us, I went for the full-fat original. We might have to live on this banana bread for weeks.

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And we could.

 

 

baking

Cake Pops

Cake Pops, destroyer of kitchens…

The Source:

Simply Home Cooked

The Promise:

If you follow these instructions, you too can make a perfect cake pop.

The Result: Partial Success

Before we start, I’m going to bring out a huge caveat: I didn’t follow the instructions. And this is because I am both cheap and lazy. Because I am cheap, I didn’t buy a special unitasking cake pop former, and because I am lazy, I didn’t get any styrofoam to hold the pops while they dried. I’d apologize, but I’m of the opinion that you should only apologize if you’re also going to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and I assure you I am fairly unremorseful.

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Did my own actions impact my final product? Yes, which is why I’m absolutely taking the blame for the pops being… less than professional-looking. (Also I’m going to blame my four-year-old assistant for the haphazard placement of the sprinkles. COME ON KID THIS IS GOING ON MY BLOG STEP IT UP.)

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I started off with the kind of bold optimism typical of the early stages of my endeavors, deciding to make three kinds of cake pops. In time for dinner at a friend’s house. In four hours. Basically creating my own self-imposed version of one of those baking shows where they give the contestants exactly twenty minutes less than the actual time it takes to make a product so the audience can laugh at them flopping about in a panic. My only audience was my cat but I think he enjoyed the spectacle.

TO MY CREDIT, I failed not because I ran out of time, exactly, but by the time I made two kinds of pops, my motivation flagged. “Why should I take the time to jam these peanut butter balls inside a brownie ball when I can just frost the brownies with the peanut butter icing?” I asked myself, thereby calling into question the central tenet of cake pops: Why should I do all this extra work when I can just eat the cake?

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Already cracking… eeek

In addition to the vanilla pops, I also grabbed a box of lemon cake to make lemon pops. When I mixed the lemon pops, I added lemon curd and poppyseeds to the vanilla icing. The lemon poppyseed pops were more moist than the vanilla ones, but also seemed to crack more easily when I pushed in the sticks, and fell off the stick more easily when I dipped them into the chocolate. I only lost one vanilla pop, but half of my lemon pops were decapitated by the weight of the chocolate coating.

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Most of the tips in the Simply Home Cooked post are actually great – dipping the sticks in the chocolate before pushing them into the pop helps the sticks remain embedded, the addition of the crisco thins the dipping chocolate, and tapping the wrist to shake off the excess chocolate, once I figured out what that meant, worked very well. My product certainly would have benefitted from the cake pop former. This device not only creates a smooth and circular finish, but it also compresses the cake so that it is more apt to stay on the stick. However, I just couldn’t see purchasing what is in the end an optional device that I would use maybe once a year, if that.

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How are you going to get them off of the pan, genius?

And it would have been nice to have a styrofoam block instead of thinking, “I’ll figure something out”, and then running around the kitchen in a panic, holding a drying cake pop, having completely failed to figure something out. My wonky pops were still a hit at my friend’s dinner. They’re pretty cute, lumps and all.

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How did they taste? Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to actually tasting these. After all, they’re made of boxed cake mix, canned frosting, and chocolate whose quality is dubious even before sitting for months on the shelf at Big Box Craft Store. And in the end, this cake is basically performative. The appearance is the point, not the taste. These tasted like they were made from boxed cake mix, canned frosting, and bad chocolate, and the crisco didn’t help the chocolate taste any better.

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Children are easily swayed by anything that is their favorite color

But at some point, I’d like to try making these from scratch. Because I bet these could be fantastic – cute and delicious.

And for that, I might even buy a cake pop former.

Cooking

Banana “Ice Cream”

Can frozen bananas satisfy an ice cream craving?

The source: Tasty.co

The promise: Not so much explicitly written as implied: This stuff is an acceptable substitute for ice cream.

No, not banana ice cream. Banana “ice cream”. Frozen bananas masquerading as ice cream. My skeptical eyebrow is firmly raised. I like bananas. But…

Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s great. It can’t possibly be a substitute for actual ice cream.

Can it?

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you are not ice cream

The Process:

In order to give this the best possible chance of succeeding, I started with what seemed like the recipe most likely to conceal anything weird: chocolate peanut butter banana. Wack a little chocolate and peanut butter onto anything and I’ll eat it.

I started with the trusty food processor, because I’m a little scared of our blender, but I realized quickly that the poor processor wasn’t going to cut it because the bananas are, after all, frozen solid. The blender (we have a Ninja Ultima) did, in fact, work, although it required frequent adjustments to get the frozen chunks down near the blades.

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Also our blender is very noisy, and my husband worked 3rd shift last night, so… sorry honey.

(Ironic that I spend all morning hissing at my child to be quiet and then I make an intense, sustained racket that is orders of magnitude louder than she could ever be. [I regretted it as soon as I started but it’s not like I could just quit in the middle; the bananas were melting and everything was mixed together and some things you just have to see through to the end.])

But as I finally finished blending, the result was actually… amazing.

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The mixture darkens considerably after freezing – before (left) and after (right)

It’s creamy! Like soft serve ice cream! And it tastes like…

Like cold bananas and milk and chocolate and peanut butter!

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Ok, it’s not ice cream. It’s just not. But bananas and peanut butter and chocolate are good together, and the texture is just about spot on. The melted liquid is a little thicker than real ice cream.

Encouraged, I decided to take a shot at the recipe I deemed least likely to have a good result: vanilla bean banana.

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Before freezing – after freezing it darkened a bit, but not as much as the chocolate

I didn’t use a for-real vanilla bean, because there weren’t any at Walmart, and I got everything at Walmart because that’s where I had to pick up the dog’s anxiety medication and I’ll be danged if I have to drive to a second store with my toddler just to buy freaking vanilla beans. (It’s probably better with vanilla beans, though.)

As I suspected, banana and vanilla alone just wasn’t that great, and after tasting the concoction, I tossed in two tablespoons of honey and some cinnamon. This recipe, for whatever reason, was gloopier than the chocolate peanut butter and the texture wasn’t as convincing a double for real ice cream. But with the addition of the honey and cinnamon, the vanilla held its own flavor-wise against the chocolate peanut butter.

I discovered that it’s best to eat this after about 2-3 hours in the freezer, because as the concoction continues to freeze, it becomes very hard, very much like ice cream that’s been allowed to melt and refreeze. But since a serving of even the chocolate peanut butter flavor is less than 150 calories, and eating an entire batch will set you back less than 600 calories, might as well pull up a spoon and eat it while it’s at its best. Even immediately after blending, it has the consistency of slightly melty soft serve and could be eaten right away.

Promise Kept?

This dish suffers from its association. Because it’s perfectly good, and a great, fun way to eat bananas, but it just ain’t ice cream and it’s never going to be. This came a lot closer than I expected, though, so I’m going to say… promise (mostly) kept!

Final Thoughts:

On a hot summer day, this dish hits all the right notes – sweet, creamy, cold – but as I was eating it, my brain got a little confused with each new bite because it looks so much like ice cream but tastes more like a banana smoothie (possibly because it has the exact same ingredients as a banana smoothie). That being said, where this would really shine is as an alternative for someone with food allergies or other dietary requirements that leaves real ice cream out of bounds (I used cow’s milk, but any dairy-free alternative would be fine). And I’d bet that this would work with pretty much any smoothie recipe that featured bananas.

Look, here’s my stance: a healthy diet that nourishes body and soul will include a wide variety of many foods in moderation, including ice cream. But let’s focus again on that word variety. This is a legitimately tasty option to deal with bananas darkened beyond anyone’s preferences. Frozen blended bananas can (shockingly) absolutely fill the ice cream gap inside your soul. But only for a little while. Nothing like the real thing, baby.

 

Have a suggestion for Anna to try – recipe, craft, or project? Send me a message or leave it in the comments!

baking · self care

Scandinavian Almond Cake

Recipe from This Blonde Life

I’m not a particularly accomplished baker. My bread is usually dry in the center and my cakes tend to fall. I’m not patient enough when softening butter or confident enough to mix my muffins only until “just blended”. The thought of making pie crust raises my blood pressure.

In times of personal stress, therefore, I stay out of the kitchen. I write, I quilt, I stitch, I do not mess with yeast.

But in times when the world feels dark and scary, I bake.

Ingredients - Anna Tried It
When baking, deal with the butter first. Whether it needs to be softened or melted, take care of that before you begin the mixture. Melted butter should not be hot when it is added to the batter.

You see, my mother is an accomplished home baker. We had cinnamon rolls on Christmas mornings and challah at Easter and I don’t think I tasted store bought bread until I was a teenager. Fridays were baking day, and I would walk in the door after school to the fragrance of homemade bread and chocolate chip cookies.

Baking, to me, represents the safety of a loving mother. It was part of all that made my childhood feel warm and secure.

Scandinavian Almond Cake - Anna Tried It
True to form, something went awry – my batter is way more dense than the image from This Blonde Life’s post. But I am sure that I followed her recipe to the letter.

I’ve often been accused of being a bleeding heart, but today, as my newsfeed continued to fill with wrenching scenes of torn-apart families, I felt like my heart was beyond bleeding. Broken. I’d called my representatives. I’d donated. I’d raised my voice. And now, I needed to fill the house with the smell of butter and almond extract.

It seemed most appropriate to make this quesadilla Salvadoreña or this tres leches cake, but I knew the friend with which I was planning to share the cake is lactose intolerant, so I went instead with something that seemed simple and fresh and good.

Scandinavian Almond Cake - Anna Tried It
The dense batter made a dense cake that did not rise at all, but as far as I can tell, that’s what this cake is supposed to be like.

Today is the day when Midsummer is observed across Europe. The day with the most light. We need light. We need simple and fresh and good. We need childhoods filled with safety and warmth and security and the smell of fresh bread and warm cake.

All children deserve that. And all good parents would go through hell to give that to their children.

Scandinavian Almond Cake - Anna Tried It
This pound-style cake is lovely with the almond extract and would work well with any flavoring – orange, lemon, rose… I added a splash of vanilla, and next time I’ll add a pinch of salt to help bring out depth in the flavor.

This isn’t a political blog, but some things transcend politics. It may seem silly or pointless to indulge ourselves, in dark days, with things like crafts or clothes or cake. It’s not. We don’t need quilts to keep warm when any plain blanket will do. We don’t need chocolate chip cookies to live when any plain meal will do. We don’t need beauty to survive.

But we need beauty to live. Even now. Especially now. The things we tend to dismiss as extraneous, this is what brings light into the world. The warmth of a mother’s kitchen, filled with the smell of fresh bread.

Scandinavian Almond Cake - Anna Tried It
The best way to eat pound cake is with my mom’s chocolate sauce. But that’s for a future post!

Take care of yourselves. Do whatever your version is of baking a cake. And then let’s all go out and fill the world with light.

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