Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banana Bread with Mini Reese's PB Cups (and an Easy Canvas Print!)

Check out what I got in the mail last week:
Easy Canvas Prints turned the picture I use for my title into a lovely canvas. It's so gorgeous. Totally perks up my room! I can't wait to turn more of my favorite photos into canvas. You can also turn your pictures to canvas with Easy Canvas Prints. (PS Join their mailing list to get great deals!)

Seeing this canvas reminded me that I haven't baked with Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups is a LONG time. So, I looked in my "recipes to make" file, and found this recipe for banana bread.

Banana bread is great by itself, so I felt a little devious adding in the PB cups. Like, that's just wrong, right? But oh man, it was so right and good. The addition of a hint of chocolate and peanut butter makes this banana bread awesome!
Banana Bread with Mini Reese's PB Cups (found at Delightful Bitefuls)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed over-ripe bananas (about 5 medium bananas)
1 cup of mini milk chocolate peanut butter cups (you can buy them or make your own)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 9×5-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, soda and salt; set aside.

In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture and mini peanut butter cups into flour mixture; stir until well combined.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 60- 65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.

Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Bake well and prosper!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Black Cherry Ice Cream Scones

Fall is officially here (now that it's warm and super humid again in NYC...) I don't know about y'all, but I still had a lot of ice cream in my freezer left from summer. While I am sure I could have finished it in its usual form, I happened to have stumbled upon an easy recipe to make scones from ice cream. Yes, scones!

I tried this recipe last week but didn't get self rising flour. Listen to me: You MUST use self rising flour for this recipe. (Normal flour yields a weird mushy cookie thingy that is NOT a scone. Nor a cookie. It's just wrong.)

So, after buying self rising flour, I decided to use Turkey Hill's Black Cherry Ice Cream.
This ice cream is delicious straight from the container, but man, oh man... Black Cherry Scones are GREAT!

Now, go grab some self rising flour and an ice cream you'd like in a scone flavor and bake away!
Black Cherry Scones (adapted from Framed Cooks)
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Extra flour for when you roll out the scones

1. Let ice cream soften for about 15 minutes, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Add ice cream and flour to mixer. Start mixing and then add in the vanilla. Mix until combined into a dough that sticks together.

3. Generously flour rolling surface and place dough on flour. Knead it just a little until dough comes together, adding additional flour as needed until you have a dough that is more floury than wet. (Erika's Extras: It will be hard to feel the dough because your fingers will be so cold!)

4. Roll the dough into a long thin tube shape with your hands.It should be about 1 inch wide and 12 inches long.

5. Cut dough into 1 inch segments and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

6. Bake until just turning golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Cool on rack.
Bake well and prosper!

Monday, September 19, 2011

(Time Crunch) Croissants


Ahem. So, this weekend I made croissants as part of a croissant challenge that other baking bloggers are doing. Ok, I can't contain myself. Weeee!!!! I MADE CROISSANTS. I'm very excited about the fact that I made these because I didn't think I was going to be able to. The recipe shared as the base recipe on Heavenly Housewife's site was Julia Child's recipe.

Um, I live in the city that never sleeps. How was I going to accomplish a recipe that takes a day and a half? 

Well, we didn't HAVE to use that recipe. So, as to not let my other bloggers down, I found a "quicker" croissant recipe. And I have to say, they turned out great!
I didn't dare try to make these at the end of August. It was still super humid in New York and the yeast/dough would have pffffft on my plans to make croissants. Since the weather just dropped into Fall this week, I knew the weather conditions would be better for working with yeast.

Well, Fall also means more miles to put in for marathon training and it is also the begining of opera season in NY. I am lacking time to bake even simple things!
I guess the fact that I made wonderful tasting croissants during a busy weekend helped to make the croissants even tastier to me. Maybe you would feel as elated too if you also ran 17 miles Sat morning, had an opera audition afterwards, took a 30 minute nap, recorded 2 hours worth of arias, started croissants, went to bed, made croissants in the morning, went to church, went to opera rehearsal, sang at a wedding, and hung out with friends at the San Gennaro Festival. (Are you exhausted yet from reading all of that?)

I've only baked with yeast once before. The first time was a slight disaster so I was quite nervous starting this project. Everything went smoothly and I quite enjoyed working with the dough. Very therapeutic after long days. Oh, and did I mention it's quite messy? :)
I  looked silly walking into to the laudromat with flour on my jeans. People there were probably thinking I should toss the jeans in the washer too. Or maybe they were jealous since I was obviously baking something good!

I enjoyed my croissant making so much that with the second half of the batter I made Nutella croissants. One word: AMAZING!
So, if you've always wanted to make croissants but had some worries over the time comitment, try this "easier" recipe. Making the dough took 25 minutes (and that was with clean up.) The next morning took 2 hours, but 1.5 of those hours is just waiting around for the dough to do its thing.

I found the outcome very lovely. They were crispy on the outside, flaky enough on the inside, and super buttery altogether. (If you do a more involved recipe you will probably get more flaky layers.)

PS I used farm fresh butter and eggs and organic flour and milk. The better the ingredients, the better the croissant. (Do you really want to spend so much time making something without using the best?)

PPS If you want to see the other bloggers who participated in the croissant challenge, check them out. (Trust me, you WANT to.)

Heavenly Housewife at Donuts to Delirium

Anna at Keep it Luce

Faith from An Edible Mosaic

Joumana over at Taste of Beirut

Croissants (from Serious Eats which has lovely step by step pictures)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold milk
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick salted butter, frozen
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen
Optional: Chocolate or other filling

1. Take the butter out of the freezer and let it sit at room temperature while you work. You want it as cold as possible, but still cuttable. Put the yeast, water and sugar into a medium bowl and stir to combine. (The water should NOT be warmer than 110 degrees F.) Set aside until it begins to get foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and egg and beat lightly to break up the egg and combine it all.

2. Put the flour and salt into your food processor and pulse to distribute the salt. Cut each stick of butter into tablespoon-sized pieces, then cut each of those pieces in half. Put all of the pieces into the food processor with the flour and pulse about 10 times to distribute the butter and break the chunks just a little. You don't want small pieces as you would for pie crust; larger chunks are preferable. (So bigger than pea size is fine.)

3. Add the flour and butter to the liquid in the bowl and fold gently with a spatula until all the flour is moistened and it is well combined, being careful not to break up the butter. The butter should still be fairly hard at this point. The dough will be very wet; don't worry about it. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy your zzzzzs.
4. The mixture can be used the next day, or kept refrigerated for an additional day if you aren't ready for it. When you are ready, flour your work surface generously and have more flour standing by. Turn the dough out onto your work surface, sprinkle some additional flour over the top, and form it into a rough square. Working quickly, roll the dough out to an approximate 16-inch square. Because it's so wet, it should roll easily, but it might be a bit sticky. Add flour as needed on top and underneath and also on the rolling pin to keep it from sticking. Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter.

5. Then fold it in thirds again, to make a square. Do the same roll-and-fold two more times. As you work, keep the work surface lightly floured, just to keep it from sticking. Since the dough is so soft, you should be able to do this fast enough that the butter won't get too soft and squishy. If the butter does soften, put it in the fridge and continue once the butter has firmed up again. After the last fold, flatten it a bit, then put it into a plastic bag and put it into the refrigerator for at least an hour, or up to three days.

6. When you are ready to make the croissants, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or butter the sheet. The dough will have risen while refrigerated. Cut the dough into quarters.

7. Roll the first quarter into about a 6-inch square. Cut the square into quarters diagonally (so you're making an X on the dough).

8. Take one of your right triangles of dough and roll or stretch it into a pie-shaped wedge at least seven inches long. You can make it longer or a little shorter depending on how long and plump you want the croissant.

9. Starting at the wide end, roll the dough toward the the point.

10. Place the finished croissants on the prepared baking sheet with the point underneath. Form the dough into a crescent shape.

11. Cover them with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. They won't rise much at all, but they should feel puffy instead of firm. Brush the croissants with an egg wash, if desired, or leave them plain. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

12. Filling Variation: For chocolate croissants, follow the original recipe though Step 6, then roll the quarter of dough into a rectangle about 10 x 6 inches. Cut that into strips about 2 1/2 inches wide x 6 inches long.

13. Put your favorite chocolate at one end and roll up. (I used Nutella.) It works best to make sure the dough is just a little wider than the chocolate and fold it over to enclose the chocolate when you start rolling, so it doesn't seep out during baking. Place the rolls seam-side down on the pan and allow them to rise and bake as in the original recipe.
Bake well and prosper!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sometimes All You Need After a Long Day is a Comic Strip

Bliss comic strip just gave me a good laugh before I hit the sack. I hope you'll enjoy it too!
Good night!

Bake well and prosper!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oatmeal Brownie Milky Way Bars

The last couple of weeks of summer have been pretty good for me. I was cast in an opera, Pillsbury featured my last blog post, I've been logging some great miles in training for a marathon, and I've been hanging out with a bunch of friends, old and new.

I've also stumbled upon many great recipes! (When I first typed that I spelled "upron." I wonder what an upron would be. Some fancy type of apron without strings?)

Anyway, I digress. One of those awesome recipes I found was this one for Oatmeal Brownie Milky Way Bars from the great site, i am baker

I haven't used a boxed brownie mix in a long time so these tasted a little weird to me due to that. However, they are still very yummy and GREAT when microwaved and topped with vanilla ice cream. And if you'd like to use a brownie recipe made from scratch, I'd suggest the tried, tested, and true Supernatural Brownie recipe
Oatmeal Brownie Milky Way Bars (from i am baker)
Oatmeal Milky Way Brownie Bars
2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
2 cups flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 sticks room temp. butter
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups boxed brownie mix (I used dark chocolate)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 bag (11 oz.) caramel squares
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Milky Way bars
(If you are using the Supernatural Brownie recipe, you can use everything called for in that recipe in place of the flour, sugar, butter, baking soda, salt, brownie mix, oil, and egg.)

In a medium sauce pan, place the two Milky Ways, entire bag of caramels, and half cup of heavy cream. Let simmer over medium to medium low heat until fully melted. Remove from heat and let cool approximately ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and butter. Either use a fork to incorporate or use hands to combine. The chunks of butter should be no larger than the size of a pea.

Add in two cups of brownie mix, egg, and oil. Stir until just combined.

Using a prepared 9x13 baking dish, spread half of the oat mixture into dish and press firmly to flatten. (Make sure you don't use more than half because you won't have enough to cover the top.)

Pour the melted Milky Way mixture over the oat mixture. Make sure to get all the way to the corners.

Top with remaining oat mixture.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.
Bake well and prosper!