baking day: banana bread and collecting cookbooks

I made pumpkin bread the last time around and this time I decided to make banana bread. My banana bread is a little different from some recipes but I think it’s delicious.

Start with preheating your oven to 350°.

Next, your ingredients:

3/4 of a cup of butter, almost melted

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Four eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dark raisins

Five large bananas mashed up

The first thing I do is in a medium bowl is mash the bananas. I have a hand potato masher that works nicely for this chore. I try to use very ripe bananas the flavor is better.

Next I grease and flour two pans – I think the dimensions are 9″ x 5″ but don’t hold me to that. I grease with butter and with almond meal (almond flour– I use it a lot in baking). If you don’t have almond meal in your pantry just use flour.

Put the pans to the side.

And a second bowl, mix together with 2 tablespoons of other flour or almond meal your raisins, chopped pecans, dried cranberries

Throw your butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for almost a minute. Add it to a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Cream until smooth add your vanilla and your eggs, mix again. Next add the mashed bananas and your cardamom and cinnamon.

After that is smooth and well mixed, add in your salt, baking soda, baking powder and give it a stir. Add in your flower one cup at a time. Once the batter is well mixed if you have been using a hand mixer switch to a regular old-fashioned wooden spoon and stir in the nuts and dried fruits.

Split your batter equally between your two pans and dust tops with granulated sugar. Next, place next to each other but not touching in your preheated oven.

The banana bread cooks for about an hour, and when a toothpick comes out relatively clean your bread should be done. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pans before removing from pans and cooling completely on baking racks before wrapping up. You can freeze a loaf or not. They last about a week. Or less depending on how hungry everyone in your house is!

Ovens are funny so sometimes it’s a little less time sometimes it’s a little more time. I don’t remember what it was that I baked and wrote the recipe down and posted, but the time I listed for me worked perfectly with my oven yet a reader wrote to me that with their oven it took a little more time.

Baking is not completely an exact science when it comes to ovens and cooking times. And there’s also trial and error. And it also depends on the home cook. I am more of one that uses recipes as a guide and I will wing it a lot. If it’s something I make often enough, I will try now to write the recipe down.

My problem is that a lot of the women of older generations in my family that taught me to cook from the time I was a small child didn’t actually use recipes. Maybe they had the basics on an index card, but more often than not it was straight out of their head and you learn how things were right by the feel of batters and doughs and what not. So that is kind of the way I learned. Some things had recipes and exact measurements, and some things just didn’t. Homemade pasta, for example, was one of the things that didn’t have anything written down. It was just passed from person to person how to do it.

My mother has a great collection of wonderful cookbooks, and what I learned from her includes having a great collection of wonderful cookbooks. It was my mother taught me to check out the regional cookbooks that various Junior League chapters and ladies aid societies and women’s church groups would put out.

For example, decades ago at this point (like around 1980), the Philadelphia Orchestra West Philadelphia Women’s Committee put out a wonderful cookbook called The Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook. I still have it in my cookbook collection today and it has wonderful recipes including one from my mother! I don’t recall ever had anything from the Philadelphia Junior League, but I do have a cookbook called The Philadelphia Cookbook of Town and Country circa 1963 that was by Anna Wetherill Reed. This cookbook has many wonderful recipes including for oldschool cocktails like a Philadelphia Old Fashioned cocktail and a recipe for Fish House Punch attributed to State In Schuylkill.

As far as the regional cookbooks go I have a couple from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a few southern Junior League cookbooks (like Charleston, Virginia, and Shreveport Louisiana). Sadly, as far as my regional and fundraising type cookbooks go the one that was the largest disappointment is the one that was put out by the Devon Horse Show a few years ago called Appetizers at Devon. I never fell in love with any of the recipes. I guess maybe it just reflects the changing style of the women’s committees in general all over today versus days gone by. A lot of these women don’t get into their kitchens, they order out, they buy prepared foods, they have boxes of portioned out foods delivered like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and what not, they use caterers, they go to restaurants.

One of the best cookbooks and most fun that I have the counts as a regional cookbook is Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen. These are recipes compiled by the Saint Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church Women’s Auxiliary in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Those ladies started putting out a cookbook in 1973, and the addition I have is the fourth edition from 1997. If you can get your paws on a copy, and you like Greek food, this is an amazing cook book and the recipes are easy to follow.

I even have a cookbook from the Italian market in Philadelphia. I have course, also have a nice selection of cookbooks from the professionals like Ina Garten and the New York Times. I have also mentioned in prior posts that if you can get your hands on volumes one or two of The American Contry Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbooks put out years ago by the Maynards, they are wonderful as well.

A new cookbook I am going to suggest that everyone go to Amazon to get (and it’s going to be released soon because I just got my shipping notification) is by Delaware county native Elisa Costantini and her son Frank Constantini. It’s called Italian Moms: Something Old Something New 150 Recipes. I also have her book Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table which was self published.

Enjoy your day!

deluxe pumpkin bread

Let the madness begin! Almost time for Thanksgiving! This morning I made the cranberry orange relish and this afternoon, pumpkin bread.

I somehow managed to pinch a nerve in my neck/shoulder so it has been slowwww going.

Here is the recipe for the pumpkin bread:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves, cardamon

3 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 cup canola oil

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar – I prefer light

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 cup dark raisins

1/4 cup minced candied ginger

In one mixing bowl combine all the dried ingredients

In a second mixing bowl combine all the wet ingredients with the sugars.

When the wet ingredients and sugars are mixed, stir in the dry ingredients. Then fold in the nuts and dried fruit and candied ginger.

Pour into two greased and floured 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes (or more- today my oven took 1 hour and 5 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

YUM!

pie plates

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Yes I roll out my own piecrust. I don’t like a lot of the modern pie plates. I use vintage pie plates.

Yes, here again is my pitch for the vintage kitchen: The glass pie plates that were made by Pyrex and Anchor Hocking are terrific . I have a bunch that were probably produced in the 1950s and 60s. One was my grandmother’s.

My favorite of these pie plates are the deep dish variety – the edges are sort of ruffled and the pie plates have little handles. I also have the plain glass ones that are more shallow, and a couple of the Wear-Ever aluminum pie plates. And you can find them in different sizes too.

These pie plates are everywhere. Thrift shops, church sales, barn sales, your neighbor cleaning out their kitchen cupboards.

These pie plates are not expensive, and I think pies bake better in them. I know pies look better in them. You can easily put a pre-made roll out piecrust into one of these plates as well if you don’t make your own crust.

I tend to pick these up when I find them because a lot of times when I take pies to other people’s homes for dinner or holidays the pie plates don’t come back. I have been finding a lot of these pie plates at the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown. I also found one last year at Angel Fest at St. Paul’s in Exton which is coming soon! (See this link for further information)

Anyway, I am really not a 1950s housewife in disguise. It’s just that some of these vintage kitchen items are better made than what we have today. Besides, a little kitsch in your kitchen never hurt anyone!

Enjoy your day!

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peach and ground cherry galette

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I purchased a pint of forgotten fruit at the farmers market yesterday. Ground cherries. They were in little papery husks almost like a tomatillo. They are a very old-fashioned fruit that you see once in a blue moon at farmers or local organic markets.

Preheat your oven to 400°F

Get out your frozen two sheet package of puff pastry – Pepperidge Farm or whomever and allow it to thaw at room temperature. If it’s really frozen it can take over half an hour.

First make the Frangipane (almond cream):

In a large mixing bowl whip together with your mixer the following:

3 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted

One large egg

1/3 cup granulated white sugar

One half teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract

One half a cup of almond flour or almond meal (I order mine from nuts.com)

1 tablespoon of regular white flour

Beat together until fluffy and set aside.

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In another bowl, put your ground cherries (after removing the little husks from them) in with a 1/3 cup of light brown sugar and a couple dashes of cinnamon. (I had purchased a pint’s worth of this fruit.) To this I add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. I then take a hand potato masher and macerate slightly the ground cherries and the sugar and cinnamon and lemon juice.

Next take out a jellyroll pan – otherwise known as a cookie sheet with an edge and line it with parchment paper

Take one sheet of puff pastry and gently unfold it and put it in the center of the pan on the parchment paper.

Next take an icing spreader or spatula and spread the almond cream/Frangipane evenly on the bottom layer of puff pastry.

Next slice two to three medium size peaches in thin slices. Arrange neatly on top of the cream. Next spoon the ground cherry mixture evenly on top of the peaches.

Take the other sheet of puff pastry and unfold it and lay evenly on top of the fruit mixture. Crimp the edges of both sheets of puff pastry together all the way around.

Cut quite a few vent holes in the top of the path pastry. You can do it in a pattern if you want. Take one egg yolk and add a tablespoon and a half of water and whip it together. Use a pastry brush and brush the egg yolk lightly over the top of the pastry. Dust this with sugar. (egg yolk acts like a glue for the sugar)

Bake at 400° for about half an hour. My oven wasn’t doing something right today so I might have even taken longer baking. This is something you have to keep an eye on or you will burn it.

When everything is all golden and caramelized brown pull it out of the oven. It will also smell really amazing!

Cool before moving to a serving platter. I have a large round plate I picked up at a church sale years ago that I love for desserts that are a different than normal size.

You can serve this warm or cold. A little dollop of whipped cream should accompany each serving.

Refrigerate the leftovers.

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my chocolate chip cookies

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I have always loved chocolate chip cookies. I have spent the last 25 years tweaking this recipe, which is mine and not anyone else’s.

My friend Ann asked me to share my recipe. So I thought I would.

It has been a terrific pre-Christmas day I have been baking most of the day, and I also had a visit with my childhood friend and former neighbor Alexandra. We sat and drank coffee and caught up as I baked. She lives in upstate New York now, and comes down periodically to visit her family who live locally.

Truly it was a perfect afternoon. I just love days like this.

Here’s the recipe:

Deluxe Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pre-heat oven to 375° F

2 cups flour
1/2 cup miller’s bran (coarse wheat bran – fluffy and adds fiber)
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (not sea salt )
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks or half pound sweet butter room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips

1 6 oz bag milk or white or extra dark chocolate chips (your choice)

1 cup chopped or crushed pecans (I make my own out of pecan halves – the trick is not big pieces but not ground)

2 crushed Heath bars or Hersheys Skor bars (optional)

Directions :

Measure out your nuts, chocolate chips, and Heath bars (if you are using them) in a bowl by themselves and set aside.

Measure out all your OTHER dry ingredients EXCEPT the bran and mix together in a bowl and set aside.

Get out another bowl for the wet ingredients.

Using your mixer cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extract at low-speed and mix well. Add eggs one at the time at low speed.

Add bran by itself to the creamed mixture

When everything looks creamed not curdled, slowly add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt about a half a cup at a time, mixing it low-speed. You will end up possibly having to mix this with a wooden spoon it may get too heavy for the mixer.

Stir/fold in the nuts, candy, chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough at least one hour covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Doughballs should be approximately 2 inches apart on the sheet. That means for each cookie sheet you will get 12 cookies.

Bake at 375° for 10 to 11 minutes. Check on your cookies so they don’t over brown on the bottom. If your oven is uneven you may have to rotate your cookie sheets halfway through baking.

When the cookies look slightly brown on the edges but golden and perfect in the center after 10 or 11 minutes, pull them out and allow them to cool for approximately five minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Put the cookies on a wire rack to cool before putting in a tin.

You must cool cookies properly before placing in a tin because otherwise they will break before they are cool.

Enjoy!

nutcracker mania

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Please stop me if I have mentioned this before, but I kind of have a thing for nutcrackers. They are sort of like the chickens of winter – you know my milk glass chickens?

Anyway ….I decided my gift to myself this year were a few new nutcrackers. I scored all these beauties on eBay.

They were tough auctions as nutcrackers can be very expensive on eBay. But I set price limits for myself, and if they went to out of bounds I walked away.

I like to cook, so I was hunting chef nutcrackers. I found a lot of three. And you can see who the other non-chef nutcrackers are.

Also in the realm of super cool, former NBC 10 anchorman Tim Lake has a website called PANewz.com . I thrilled and honored to report he picked this blog as blog of the month!!! Seriously, how cool is that??? They say (and I quote):

PaNewz Blog of the Month: ‘Chester County Ramblings’. Get ready for Christmas
Chester County Ramblings’ blogger’s knife can dip into politics, social issues, and a rising cake in the oven, with ease. @ChesCoRamblings and Facebook/Chester County Ramblings. Submit your Blog for PaNewz.com ‘Blog of the Month’

Ho, ho, ho I am so happy this blog has received such kudos from a journalist as good as Tim!

And yes, those nutcrackers are indeed sitting on a milking stool. I found that a few months back at Resellers in Frazer for peanuts – seriously $20 or less if memory serves!

I have made a bunch of cookie dough, and I have more yet to do. As it is going to snow yet again tomorrow, I think I will bake.

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