Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slightly Less Sweet, Slightly More Whole Grain Smitten Kitchen Crackly Banana Bread

I was introduced to this recipe for Crackly Banana Bread by Smitten Kitchen right after our daughter Freya was born (back on January 11th). It was the very first goodie we received from our very first postpartum visitor (Thanks, Dhruvi), and we ate the whole loaf within hours receiving it. Since then, i've made the recipe with slight variations about four times. I would have made it more often than that, but I kept on eating the whole loaf myself, so I had to exercise some restraint.

The recipe below is my fully-loaded and doubled version of this amazing  recipe. Mine has less sugar, more whole grains (per Deb's suggestion), and extra goodies like nuts and dried fruit too. I also doubled the recipe because it's just so good, one loaf is simply never enough.

Deb Perelman's original recipe is fabulous and lends itself well to adjustments (a wonderful quality to find in a recipe). In the future, I might try adding toasted coconut ribbons and swapping in honey for the maple syrup. If you make this recipe with adjustments, let me know what you did and how it comes out for ya!

Fully-Loaded/Doubled Version of Smitten Kitchen's Crackly Banana Bread
6 large very ripe bananas
2 large eggs
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup diced dried dates, optional
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (I used walnuts and pecans), optional
2/3 cup chocolate chips, optional
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup uncooked millet

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter two 9x5 loaf pans. 

Mash the bananas, then add all the other ingredients to them in the order above, stirring after each addition to combine them as you do. 

Bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the loaves in the pans on a rack. Wrap tightly in foil and or plastic wrap, once cooled, to keep them fresh. They last about a week and freeze very well too.

Here's our sleepy little 6 week old gal. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dorie Greenspan's "World Peace Cookies" because, why not?!

These are insanely rich and chocolatey cookies. They're a perfect mix between chocolate chocolate chip and chocolate shortbread and the fancy salt MAKES them absolutely divine. 

Dorie Greenspan renamed these little wonders "World Peace Cookies" (she had formerly called them Sablés Korova in homage to their creator, French Chef Pierre Hermé's) because after tasting them her neighbor declared that they could bring peace to the earth. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen hilariously disagrees. She finds these cookies so addictive that they bring out a highly selfish and decidedly non-peaceful side of her personality. Ala Gollum....My precious!

I think they're outstanding. World peace inducing, I dunno, but they are definitely worth making and you will have to work hard to resist eating them all in a night. I highly recommend adding a tiny pinch of fleur de sel or other flaky salt to the top of each cookie before baking to push their flavor over-the-edge.

"World Peace Cookies"
From Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan via Smitten Kitchen
Yield: About 3 dozen
1 stick plus 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed lightly
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel /or 1/4 teaspoon of any flaky salt, plus additional for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli) 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped /or 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips of any kind

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until they become very light and fluffy. You'll want to work them for 5-7 minutes and get in as much air as possible as this makes for a much more tender cookie. 

Add the fleur de sel and vanilla and pulse quickly until just combined. Add in the sifted dry ingredients and combine on very low speed so they don't fly out of the mixing bowl. Throw a dish towel over the bowl to catch the "dust" if need be. Add the chips and pulse for just a few seconds more. We want to be sure not to overwork the dough here.

Ugly photo, sorry, but I wanted to show you the crumbliness level. I had already started to bring it together when I shot this, so it was even crumblier when I first turned it out of the mixing bowl.

Turn the crumbly dough out onto plastic wrap, parchment, or wax paper and bring it together into a square. Divide that square in two and roll two logs about 1 1/2 inch wide by about 11 inches long. These cookies are rich, so the small size is nice, but you can certainly make them larger. Just keep an eye on them while they're baking and add/reduce time as needed. 


Refrigerate the logs for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days. This dough will also freeze well for several months and you can cut the cookies directly from the frozen log and bake them right out of the freezer. 

When you're ready to bake these off, preheat your oven to 325 F. Cut the cookies to about 1/2 inch thickness and place them on parchment lined cookie sheets about 1/2 inch apart. If they crumble, which mine did in a big way, just patch/pinch them back together again. I also used my palm to flatten each cookie a bit.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes (I did 10). Remove from the oven and set the pan on a rack. After about 10 minutes, transfer the cookies to the rack to finish cooling. 

These are great warm and even yummier, and more shortbread-like, at room temperature. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

60 Calorie, Gluten Free, Valentine's Day Decadence: "Chocolate Brownie Cookies" from Bon Appetit

These cookies are the perfect super-sweet treat to serve-up this Valentine's Day! I highly recommend using them to make ice cream sandwiches as their chewy, fudgey, meringue-like texture is an ideal venue for some vanilla, coffee or mint chocolate chip goodness. Heck use all three flavors. It is Valentine's Day, after all!

I really like this recipe but the cookies are verrrrrry sweet. My husband has a crazy sweet tooth, so he absolutely loved them, but I was like, whoa! If you make these with less sugar and like the results, let me know!

Unfortunately, the directions in Bon Appetit left a lot to be desired and lost an entire sheet of cookies in the process (grrrrr). Hopefully you'll have more fun making these when you follow my directions. 

Oh, another plus is that these cookies, despite being super sweet, only have only 60 calories and 2 grams of fat each, so there's that.

Chocolate Brownie Cookies from Bon Appetit Magazine 
Yield: 2 dozen or so
3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar (use any powdered sugar if you don't require gluten free foods)
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
4 oz. bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped into bits
3 tablespoons cacao nibs, optional 

Preheat your oven to 350° and set a rack in the center. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. 

Whisk the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl. Break up any large clumps you see but don't worry about sifting.

Add the egg whites, egg, chocolate and cacao nibs, stirring until well combined. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as you go so all the powdered sugar and cocoa powder are incorporated.

Spoon a heaping tablespoonful of batter per cookie onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Wet your fingers and use them to push the batter into a nice round shape if need be. These will spread out quite a bit, so the rounder you get the batter mounds the prettier the final cookie will be.

Bake in the center of your oven, one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes, rotating the sheet at the halfway mark. 

Carefully slide the parchment off the pan onto a wire rack and let the cookies cool and set up for 10 minutes without disturbing them. They will fall apart if you try to (re)move them too soon. Once they're firmed up, serve them or let them cool fully (I like them better at room temp) and store them in an airtight container for later enjoyment.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Simple Supper: My variation on Mario Batali's Penne with Cauliflower

In his book, Molto Italiano, Mario Batali describes this dish as so simple it seems almost pathetic. "Seems" is the operative word, however, because the flavor of this dish is outstanding. I altered the technique a bit and added an ingredient (the bread crumbs) but I'm sure Mario's original recipe is amazing as is. It just seemed simpler and a tad more decadent the way I wanted to do it. Mmmmmm, pasta with toasted bread on top. Gimmeabreak!

My Take on Mario Batali's Penne with Cauliflower 
Yield: about 8 servings or so
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 head cauliflower cut/broken up into small florets
generous sprinklings of salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb whole wheat penne (salt the boiling pasta water so it tastes like sea water)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 cup freshly toasted bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 475.

Prep the cauliflower and garlic and toss them together with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a large sheet pan and roast for about 20-25 minutes until slightly browned. 

Toast your bread crumbs for 8-12 minutes on a sheet pan in the same hot oven as the cauliflower.

Prep the parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano and set aside.

When the cauliflower is just about done, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once the water starts boiling, salt it heavily so it's as salty as ocean water. Add the penne and cook until al dente. 

When the pasta is done. Drain it quickly tossing it back into the pot with a bit of it's water. Add in the cauliflower, additional olive oil, parsley, grated cheese and toasted bread crumbs and toss everything together. Taste for salt and pepper, adjusting is necessary, and serve immediately.