Banana Bread

27 August 2010 § 2 Comments

 

 As a child I never liked bananas – they didn’t suit my tastes although I was an avid eater of many other fruits (though I have been told that banana is in fact an herb and not a fruit…my sources are not reliable and I’ve never dwelled upon it enough to research about it). A few years ago, or maybe even less, I found that I only was opposed to ripe bananas, the perfectly yellow, verging towards little brown spots within a day or two, ideal bananas for eating. I like them perhaps a few days before they reach that state, right after they lose the green phase in which they feel slightly starchy and rubbery in the aftertaste of eating a banana too un-ripened. They ought to be still firm and only slightly green on the edges for me to allow myself to eat them. Most would disagree with this manner in eating bananas but I suppose a lifetime of being forced to eat mushy ripened bananas as entirely ruptured my taste for bananas. Once they reach the state in which I no longer care to eat them, I leave them to brown as much as I dare. Then I bake.

Often times I find that the banana bread recipes I bake are lacking in a small unknown quality of which would make them taste like store-bought, professionally baked banana bread. Others were too dense or tasteless. In some I actually could taste that there was too much flour. Again I resorted to a recipe on the back of my flour bag although I was still skeptical. It makes for a banana bread that fulfills that missing bit in all my other banana breads. Although I was not blown away, I was glad I had finally produced a tasteful banana bread. With a few additions or adjustments, I’m sure it would be even more amazing. I would recommend this as a beginner’s recipe; it’s really not too shabby. Only thing is, I baked them quite a while ago and I can’t quite remember my first reactions to them.

Notes: I read that if you have extra bananas that didn’t fit into your recipe for any banana treat or if you don’t have enough bananas to bake, all you need to do is mash them up and store them individually in ziploc bags and freeze them until your decide to bake with them again or when you’ve finally acquired the appropriate amount of brown bananas to bake with.

Also, larger bananas are sweeter than smaller ones – or so I was told by my mom. And of course, as many already know, the browner and more ripened you allow your bananas to get, the sweeter and overall better your baked good will turn out to be.

To hasten the ripening process of bananas, place them in a paper brown bag with an apple or tomato and seal it closed. The ethylene gas emitted from the apple or tomato encourages the ripening of the bananas and the paper bag traps the gas inside. The bananas should ripen with the course of 24 hours.  I suppose if you add more than one apple there would be more ethylene gas but I can’t say for sure. I don’t experiment apples and their ethylene gases.

To peel bananas without leaving behind the stringy bits, start at the end of the banana (where it was not once attached to the bunch) and give it a squeeze between your fingers (imagine a compass and the respective labels of north south and so on and pinch the end of the banana from north/south, then again from east/west … I couldn’t think of a better way to describe pinching the end of the banana) twice. Proceed to peel the banana from that same end. It’s also how monkeys peel them, if you ever wondered.

Banana Bread Recipe – courtesy of Gold Medal Flour

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium bananas)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottoms of 2 (8×4 inch) loaf pans or 1 (9×5 inch) loaf pan.
  2. In a large blow, mix sugar and butter. Add eggs, bananas, buttermilk and vanilla; beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and nuts until just moistened (don’t you dare overmix – this will only lead to a miserably lousy, dense brick of a banana bread). Pour batter into pans.*
  3. Bake 8 inch loaves for 1 hour or 9 inch loaf for 1 hour and 15 minutes, that is until the toothpick comes out clean after inserted into the center of the bread. Cool for 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool for about 1 hour before slicing.

*When I bake banana bread the edges often bake faster than the middle would, thus the edges would harden and burn by the time the center is entirely baked. To fix this, I allow for the bread to bake until the top is golden brown (but not at all ready to take out) and I cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to keep it from browning further while still in the oven baking. Don’t take the loaf out, just simply open the open the quickly bend the foil over the curved dome of the bread, making sure all the sides are covered. Don’t worry about sealing it down or smoothing it over tightly, it’s unnecessary.

Yields 2 loaves (16 slices each)

Auntie Annie’s/Wetzels Pretzels – Sweet or Salty

19 July 2010 § 2 Comments

My camera sucks, basically.

I love Wetzel Pretzels. The Sinful Cinnamon ones and the salted ones and even the unsalted ones. But I love mostly the Almond Crunch pretzels. SO good.

Though what I have is not a Wetzel Pretzel recipe, but an Auntie Annie’s one.  I reckon I’ve tried an Auntie Annie’s pretzel once before, only don’t remember the actual taste. It could be because it wasn’t a great pretzel and the taste simply wasn’t memorable, or more likely, I just can’t recall it. I’m sure it ranks up there with Wetzel Prezels.

As I was in a rush and possibly even in a bad mood, I didn’t take as much care in baking these pretzels. I’ve made them several times before and I distinctly remember vey much enjoying them (several years ago), but now I wasn’t as tempted to eat the entire batch. Perhaps it was because they didn’t have the ideal Almond Crunch topping that I now prefer. Nevertheless, they tasted great and they would have tasted even better if I stretched the pretzels out to the proper length and mayhaps gave more atention to baking them.

Recipe from Top Secret Recipes:

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
by Todd Wilbur
The first Auntie Anne’s pretzel store opened in 1988 in the heart of pretzel country — a Pennsylvanian Amish farmers’ market. Over 500 stores later, Auntie Anne’s is one of the most requested secret clone recipes on the Internet. Many of the recipes passed around the Web require bread flour, and some use honey as a sweetener. But, by analyzing the Auntie Anne’s home pretzel-making kit in the secret underground laboratory we can determine a better solution for recreating the delicious mall treats than any other recipe out there. For the best quality dough, all-purpose flour is what you need. And powdered sugar can be used to perfectly sweeten the stuff. Take your pick from salted pretzels, or the cinnamon/sugar coated kind, and crank the oven up real hot.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon yeast
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (I wonder if it would taste better if one used sweet butter instead of oil?)

Bath –
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup baking soda

Cinnamon Topping –
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Salt Topping –
1/4 cup butter, melted
kosher or pretzel salt

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a small bowl or cup. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  2. Combine flour, powdered sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add water with yeast and vegetable oil. Stir with a spoon and then use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Dough will be nice and smooth when it’s ready. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and, and store it in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
  3. When dough has risen, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  4. Make a bath for the pretzels by combining the baking soda with the warm water and stir until baking soda is mostly dissolved.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 8 even portions. Roll each portion on a flat non-floured surface until it is about 3 feet long. Pick up both ends of the dough and give it a little spin so the middle of the dough spins around once. Lay the dough down with the loop nearest to you. Fold the ends down toward you and pinch to attach them to the bottom of the loop. The twist should be in the middle.
  6. Holding the pinched ends, dip each pretzel into the bath solution. Put each pretzel on a paper towel for a moment to blot the excess liquid. Arrange the pretzels on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. If you want salt, sprinkle pretzels with kosher or pretzel salt. Don’t salt any pretzels you plan to coat with cinnamon/sugar. You will likely have to use two baking sheets, and be sure to bake them separately. Bake the pretzels for 4 minutes, then spin the pan halfway around and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes or until the pretzels are golden brown.
  7. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and let them cool for a couple minutes. If you want to eat some now, brush them with melted butter first, if desired, before serving. If you want the cinnamon/sugar coating make it by combining the 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the unsalted pretzels you plan to coat with a generous amount of melted butter. Sprinkle a heavy coating of the cinnamon/sugar onto the entire surface of the pretzels over a plate. Munch out. (TopSecretRecipes.com)

Yields 8 Pretzels

I’ve stumbled across a almond crunch topping that I’ve not tried yet but it seems respectable, especially with the addition of honey. I’ll use it the next time I make pretzels, unless I find something better:

Almond Crunch Topping:

1/2 lb Butter
2 Tbsp Honey
White sugar
Brown sugar
1/2 c chopped almonds

While still hot, brush with melted butter and honey. Sprinkle with white and brown
sugar (approx. half and half mixture)and chopped almonds.

*But now that I look at it, I’d probably put the almonds through a food processor until the desired size, then pix them with the sugars and honey (and probably some butter for the taste and to make them slightly less sticky, and considering taste, I’d also add a pinch of salt) and roast them slightly in the oven. I assume the sugars are going to melt and form a solid form, which would harden, so I’d put it back in the processor once it’s cooled.
Well, maybe honey isn’t the best idea as it would make it more sticky than necessary. So, what I would do is simply combine the sugars, butter, salt, and ground almonds – then roast them in the oven until golden brown, or until it looks similar to what the almond topping ought to look like.

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