Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's be honest: its Banana Nut cake, not bread

I say this for two main reasons. First, it tastes like cake. In some of my family's ancient cookbooks it is under 'Quick Breads.' But moving on to the second reason; it doesn't have yeast! I made it today without even baking soda (okay, i realize there is baking powder in self rising bread, but you get my point.)

Its a cake. But oh it is a delicious one.

Elizabeth Bernold:
also, good in muffin tins with large-sized chocolate chips
Elizabeth Bernold: in bread form, great with cranberries/cherries/raisins
soak them in water (or rum, maybe?!) before baking


In high school I worked a few short months in a local chocolate shop, and the woman - as crazy as she was - made delicious banana bread. Her secret was a whopping six bananas per short loaf.

It makes sense; it is more moist, ripened bananas are sweeter, and like I do below, she divided the recipe into small loaves so she didn't have to bake all the moisture out to get it cooked.

But this is my family's recipe and I stand by it, with those two tricks added, of course.

SEE: Baking tips

4+ very ripe bananas
~I just happened to have 4. Ill try more next time since they sell ripened bananas for cheap at the grocery store
1/4 lb butter (one stick), softened
2 eggs
2 c flour and 1 tsp baking soda, sifted together
1 c sugar
~I used 1/2 c brown, and 1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c chopped pecans
next time I am adding a couple tsps cinnamon

*Note: All the recipes I could find called for 2 c all purpose flour and 1 tsp baking soda. But since I don't have any baking soda in my pantry, I used 2 c SELF RISING flour. It seemed to work fine! But next time I'd like to try adding some whole wheat.

Whip the bananas until fluffy
cream the butter and sugar, then add eggs, only mixing until the yellow of the yolk disappears
sift together the flour and baking soda (or just self rising flour) and add slowly to butter/sugar mixture
Add pecans and whipped bananas into the butter mixture and mix.

My mom always baked this as one tall loaf, but it seemed like we had to bake it forever, which obviously dries it out. Instead, I baked it Millie (crazy chocolate shop owner/ex boss) style and divided into two loaf pans, which gets it cooked faster without overdrying.

My two loaves baked at 350 for 50 minutes. They probably could have taken a few minutes more because one of the best parts of banana bread is the crispy edges... so sweet.

Try baking with an extra loaf pan in the oven, filled with water.

and the icing? Mom's cream cheese icing with a
couple tsps cinnamon added. Its the perfect amount
creamy and just melts on top.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Linguini me

October revision: Made this in spaghetti form for some dinner guests - and found the trick: knead it a lot!!!! And only go up to the second thinnest setting on the crank before cutting it into spaghetti/linguini... it was so much easier to handle and had a lot more distinctive flavor. 

Also - get the water boiling in advance, flatten out all your pieces of dough, and then run them through the slicer one after the other so that you can just throw them into the boiling water as you go. Having dough piling on top of itself is bad news. It clumps.

A slightly less helpful post... but gosh dang it, I am making things from scratch!
Pasta is supposed to be really difficult. But it seems that if you know how to deal with dough, pasta is easier than bread. Thank goodness for friends who are professional cooks and no longer want to store their expensive equipment... Thanks Jennifer for the Pasta maker loan!!!

2 c flour

~I used my usual 3/4 c all purpose, 1/4 c whole wheat,
really love King Arthur's brand 100% whole wheat

3 eggs
1 tsp salt

Try some fresh chopped herbs in it!

**Combine the flour and salt and create a little bowl out of the flour on your counter as shown below.
~This shape allows you to add the flour slowly to the eggs as you stir the eggs. This is a similar
technique to the breadmaking trick a beautiful German friend taught me (thanks Tina!).

**Crack the eggs into this bowl and gently scramble the eggs using a fork.

**Once the eggs are scrambled begin stirring more vigorously, lightly hitting the sides of the flour bowl, knocking small amounts of flour into the eggs at a time.
~ this is kind of tricky. I usually use one hand to hold the flour in place... whatever. Mix them!

**When you have a ball of dough, knead it enough so that it is smooth, and also to add more flour.
~ I have never actually worked all of the 2 cups flour into the bread. The liquid/flour ratio just doesn't seem to hold that much flour. But try to add as much flour as you as you knead, because if it is sticky it wont go smoothly through the pasta machine. Basically, keep going until it is a very firm dough, and not at all sticky.

** When the dough firm, let it sit for about 10 minutes
~all the recipes say this, i don't know what it does. It might give the gluten a chance to bond in the dough because in bread the kneading activates the dough's stickiness which allows it to hold
in the air that is created by the yeast, making it fluffy...

** cut off small chunks of dough, 1.5 inch balls, for example

**making sure the ball is not sticky (and rolling it in flour if it is), put the pasta machine on the lowest setting (or check directions) and run the dough through. twice for good measure.

** turn the setting up to the next dial and repeat for each setting.
~The dough will start getting really long, and stickier as you go, so cut it in half and powder it in flour as needed to keep it manageable. Also, make sure that it is coming cleanly through the rollers, and not sticking to the machine. This is especially true when you start running it through the linguini/spaghetti cutter, so you might need a third hand your first time. No fear, though. It is easy enough to get a hang of.

** finally, run i through the cutter settings and lay the pieces flat.
~If you start laying them on top of each other they will stick together and you will just get another mass of dough.

**Boil!! in slightly salted water, just until there is no stickiness in the middle when you chew it.

** You can rinse the noodles if you aren't planning on using them quickly, and you can dry them if you want to save them. Though, I am unsure how long they are good dried.

Note: They dry in exactly the shape they are sitting, so make sure it is a store-able shape.

Tomato sauce recipe coming soon...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mamaw's Chocolate Poundcake, and Jennifer's Cream Cheese

Another family recipe I picked up in Memphis. Mamaw is Prettyhead's mom; meaning, my great grandmother :) All of my mother's generation raves about this cake, though my mom insists it needs more chocolate.

The cool thing is that I was looking around for a good poundcake recipe before going to Memphis, and Jennifer gave me one with cream cheese that matches almost perfectly with this one, with the difference in flavorings. Combined, they equal the best poundcake in history (echoing through the hills)... but Jennifer gives much better directions because she doesnt assume I already know cooking techniques.

Despite the aBUNdance of food my parents loaded me up with before leaving, I didn't have any cream cheese in the fridge.* So this time around its chocolate. Next time, chocolate cream cheeseeeeee

* funny fridge story: I was taking out the SIX eggs to make the double recipe of this (ridiculous. oh poundcake...) and the refrigerator door started feeling funny on the hinge. I reopened it to get out the milk and the door fell completely off.

completely off.

It probably had a lot to do with the bolt that rolled across the kitchen floor at that point. But Quadrangle housing is good to me, and the repairman was in the area. Sadly I didn't yet have any cake to give him as a thank you...

Mixing in this order:

3/4 c butter
and 4 oz cream cheese, both softened
1.5 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (you can play with this, adding other extracts)
1.5 c all purpose flour
3/4 c chocolate powder 
1/8 teaspoon salt (mamaw's says 1/2 teaspoon)

*Beat the butter and softened cream cheese on medium for about 2 minutes or until creamy. *Gradually add the sugar, beating for 5-7 minutes.
~if you want to stick your finger in it, this part is amazing. creamed butter and sugar? mmm
*Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears.
~ I am unclear if this means beat the before adding them, but i didn't
*Sift together the flour, salt, and chocolate and gradually add them to the butter mixture.
~ Sifting is optional, but I've started to do it everytime I use flour. Prettyhead - though I
admit she has alzheimer and doesn't remember things well sometimes - said it makes things
less clumpy
*Beat on low just until blended after each addition
*Poundcake is a pretty thick batter... Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan
*Fill a 2 c ovenproof measuring cup with water and place it in the oven with the cake.
~ makes a more moist cake!! I'm going to try this with some more recipes...
*Bake on 300 for 1 hour for a still goey center... its be best way(Jennifer cooks it for at least 30 minutes longer, but this must be for the bundt shape because 1:30 was almost too much for my half-recipe loaf) or according to Mamaw's recipe, on 325 for 1 hour 15 minutes.
~As my aunt Patty pointed out, this is a low temperature for cakes, which are usually on at
350, which means its forgiving in the sense that it is hard to burn it. Maybe not hard to do,
but it happens less quickly.

Either way, you can use the toothpick/knife trick to check if its done by sticking it into the cake. If the knife/toothpick comes out with batter on it, the middle isn't done.
I would suggest just taking it out after one hour, though and enjoying the softness of it. I had a dinner party the other day and everyone loved that

This is a poundcake, so sometimes it is a little dry, though in the delicious way. For this reason, I suggest smothering each slice with mom's Cream Cheese Icing... 

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prettyhead's White Bread

Yes, Prettyhead. My grandfather was a little bit of a sweet talker, so thats what we all call my grandma. She really is pretty.

This, my first post from Saint Louis (!!!) is one I picked up on the roadtrip here. I met up with my parents in Roanoke, VA to see dad's family, then went to Memphis, TN to see my mother's before . With each family I tried to pick up some of the favorite old time, family recipes.

My maternal great grandmother was called mamaw and had nine granddaughters, all of whom received about six handmade dresses each year along with chocolate poundcake and oh so muchmore.

I only knew mamaw briefly when I was young, but one of those granddaughters put together a family cookbook with a bunch of her and other family members' family recipes. Ill be posting a lot of these family recipes (from both sides) that I've been given from tattered old recipe books as I try them, of which this is the first.

Did you ever love the communion bread at church? We didn't eat homemade bread at home, so that small cube that I picked off the communion plate as a child (since Presbyterians decided children could take communion before confirmation) always tasted so sweet and fresh!! As the preacher's child I felt confident enough to lead my friends up after the service and swipe the loaves that were left over after dad broke the bread quoting Jesus "This is my body, broken for you. All of you take and eat." So we took. But I think a number of people didn't think that was really appropriate.

Prettyhead made this recipe for years for communion at Memphis First Presbyterian Church. And oh my, it has shattered my bias against white bread.

In her own words, minus the *ed notes:

2 pkgs dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

2 1/2 cups scalded milk (room temperature is fine)

3 tsps salt

1/2 cup margarine

3 tsps salt

1/2 cup sugar

5-6 cups flour

*I suggest King Arthur's bread flour, and am experimenting with the right amounts of whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in one-half cup warm water. In large bowl, mix together: salt, sugar, hot milk and hone half the margarine, melting it first. Add flour, a cup at a time, until dough can be handled. Knead on floured surface 100 times, don't cheat. Grease bowl with margarine, replace dough, greased all over. Allow to rise in warm place until doubled. An oven with the light on is a good place. Break down and divide into two loaves. Put into greased loaf pans. Brush tops with more melted butter. Let rise again. Bake on middle rack at 325 for about 15 or 20 minutes. Remove from pans onto wire racks and eat at least one loaf immediately.

Virginia Anne Hicks

* this makes two huge loaves, which have to cook about 35 minutes. Break it up into three and they will rise enough for three full loaves!