All posts by chrissy

5 Secrets of Wedding Cake Success

wedding cake

The weddding cake!!! It’s the ULTIMATE cake- the cake that symbolizes a huge life choice, and look gorgeous in all the wedding photos. Yes, making the wedding cake is quite an important job.  Not only must it look beautiful (and satisfy all the bride’s ideas and color schemes) but it must taste good, and most importantly, not fall down!!!! If you are an accomplished cake maker and feel you are up to the next cake making challenge, please take note of 5 secrets to making a wedding cake.

1. Practice cutting cakes evenly and icing cakes smoothly.

This may seem like common sense but common sense is not always common knowledge. If you cut your cakes lopsided your wedding cake will be lopsided.  If your icing is not smooth and clean and crisp at the edges than your wedding cake will reflect that.  Basically, any small errors you make when icing or cutting a smaller cake, get magnified in a wedding cake so keep it clean!

2. Choose a stable cake base and filling

Should your cake taste delicious? Of course! But is it more important that the cake taste delicious or that it look beautiful?  Usually, I would say both components are important but for a wedding cake it is slightly more important that the cake be beautiful.  Test out cake bases and fillings ahead of time and make sure you choose cake that will hold up well and a filling that isn’t too moist.

3. Practice using dowel rods for stability.

Wedding cakes are edible architecture.  It is very important that you choose sturdy, hardware dowel rods that can support each layer.  Practice cutting the dowel rods so that they are level with the top of each tier.  Make sure you use just enough dowel rods to support the cake tiers without compromising the integrity or structure of the cake.  And ALWAYS save a long dowel rod to place down the center of the cake to prevent listing.

4. Talk to your bride about wedding cake expectations.

Brides have a million wedding details on their mind and are usually nervous about their big day.  Make sure you have plenty of conversations ahead of time about the look and taste of the cake.  Ensure that you are on the same page in regards to color scheme, flowers, ribbons, cake toppers, etc.  The bride usually provides the cake topper and the florist usually provides the flowers.  Make sure that the bride is aware of what things you are and aren’t responsible for.  If the bride is an unknown person, write a contract that stipulates what time you are to arrive and set up the cake.  And ALWAYS add a clause that once the cake is down it is the bride’s responsibility.  I have seen cakes get dropped later in the night and it is not the baker’s responsibility anymore!

5. Make a list and check it twice

Days before the wedding cake is due you will need to make a list about everything you need to bring onsite.  This includes things like dowel rods, tools, scissors, straws, spatulas, extra buttercream, piping tips, etc.  Ensure that you have reliable transport for your wedding cakes.  By the way, wedding cakes should always be transported un-stacked to the wedding site.  Put your dowel rods in ahead of time and stack the cake on site.  Once you get on site you have one chance to get the cake down perfectly without it falling. Make sure you are prepared so you set yourself up for success.

Finally, have fun!!! The wedding cake is one of the baker’s  happiest forms of self expression.  It is remembered for years to come by the bride, groom and wedding guests.  Plan ahead, make smart cake choices, and practice, practice, practice. You too can make a wedding cake!

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How to Make Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon rollsI love Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Have you ever woken up in the morning and just craved a cinnamon roll? Most people have at one point or another.  Even Lemony Snicket was once quoted as saying ‘Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.’  And, well, if Lemony Snicket says it, then it must be true.  I remember when I was in high school and it was a really big deal for me to get the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and bake them off before driving to school.  I would eat it, still hot, while turning into the school parking lot and savor that gooey sweetness. Then five minutes later, I would have a sugar crash in homeroom.  As I got older, I yearned to make my own cinnamon rolls and once I graduated from culinary school I had really learned how.  The process we used in culinary school had a few more steps so I have developed a quicker version for those who are impatient to begin eating immediately!!!  But before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about why so few of us take the trouble to make cinnamon rolls.  More commonly than not it is because people are scared of yeast

How does yeast work and why is it so scary?

For those of you who do not already know, yeast is a microorganism of the class, Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Yeast is also very hungry which means it needs to be fed.  It consumes sugar and then gives off carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Yeast loves temperatures right around 90 degrees F and, in fact, it thrives at this temperature.  By combining yeast with a warm liquid and a bit of sugar it will grow and be happy and make your yeast products rise and become fluffy and tasty.  But if you should happen to kill your yeast by exposing it to temperatures over 120 degrees F then the yeast will be quite grumpy and sad and your cinnamon rolls will be hard lumpy hockey pucks. Grumpy yeast is what people are more scared of than anything.   But not to fear! I will teach you some easy simple methods for ensuring that your yeast is always happy and stays happy throughout the baking process.

Dough Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups all purpose flour, have more on hand if needed
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast (7 g)
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a stand mixer bowl (flour, salt, sugar, yeast). Using the dough hook attachment, mix for 15 seconds until combined.  Heat milk to about 90 degrees in the microwave. You should be able to comfortable slide your pinky finger into the liquid and it feels warm and pleasant (like a bath) and not scalding hot.  If you burn your finger the milk is definitely too hot!
  2. Add milk, eggs and vanilla paste to mixture. Combine slowly for about 1 minute and then crank the mixer up to medium speed and mix for about 4 minutes.  Add the softened butter and mix until the butter gets absorbed into the dough (about 1 minute).  Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.  The dough should be sticky but it should not be mush in the bowl.  If it is not forming a nice round ball then you should keep mixing.
  3. Scrape the bowl down (dough included) and sprinkle flour on top of and underneath the dough to prevent it from sticking.
  4. Now you need to cover the dough and put it in a warm place to rise. (An unlighted oven, near a warm sunny window, etc. Treat the dough like it is a living thing because it is!!! If the environment where you are placing your dough feels too hot for you than it is probably too hot for the dough. Again, ideal temperatures need to be around 90 and should stay around 90 throughout this process. That’s not to say that it can’t get a bit cooler (it will just slow the yeast growth).  But it definitely should not ever get hotter than 120 degrees F.  This will keep your yeast happy.  And remember, happy yeast = fluffy cinnamon rolls.
  5. Allow the yeast to double in volume for 1 to 2 hours. This is rest time for you but activity time for your yeast because it is going to grow and grow and consume sugar and turn it into fluffy dough.  What should you do for those 2 hours?

Activites to Do While Yeast is Rising

  1. Constantly and nervously check on the yeast every 15 minutes to make sure it is rising. (I am guilty of this myself)
  2. Go for a long run so you can neutralize the calories you will shortly ingest from your homemade cinnamon roll.
  3. Do one and a half loads of laundry.
  4. Clean your home.
  5. Get on Facebook and tell everyone how you are making cinnamon rolls for the first time. Yay!

You can also make your Cinnamon Filling!!!!

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon.

Combine all ingredients together in a mixer and whip with the paddle attachment until soft and fluffy.

Finishing Your Cinnamon Rolls

  1. Remove dough from its warm resting place and punch it down with your fist. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle until it is about ¼ inch thick.
  2. Spread the cinnamon filling you just made all over your dough.
  3. Roll the dough long-ways into a log and pinch the seam tightly together. Use a sharp knife to cut the cinnamon rolls as big or as small as you like.
  4. Grease a 9 by 9 metal tin with butter or Canola spray and lay the cinnamon rolls cut side down into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until poofy. About 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until brown sugar is bubbling and cinnamon roll is golden brown.

Make Icing While Cinnamon Rolls are Baking

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water (or more) if icing is not fluid.
  1. Combine sugar and water in a bowl and stir rapidly with a spoon to form an icing. You can add more sugar to make it thicker or more water to make it thinner.

Finish the Cinnamon Rolls

While the cinnamon rolls are still hot from the oven, drizzle the icing all over them with a spoon.  And you now have a homemade cinnamon roll. Congratulations! If your yeast is being naughty or you have any questions about how to make yeast products please let me know!

cinnamon roll

cinnnamon roll

Donald Trump Cupcakes

I was walking through the mall the other day and I asked my friend “Who do you think is going to win the Republican primary?” She repsonded by saying that she disliked politics and couldn’t wait for the whole election to be over so that she didn’t have to hear about it on the news or see the Facebook wars over which candidate was better.  Hmmm, I thought- a similar sentiment for many Americans who decline to get involved in any level of political turmoil.

Almost immediately I asked her if she had seen the article about Donald Trump refusing to eat Oreos now that Mondalez, the company  that manufactures them, has moved the main manufacturing facility to Mexico. This decision was apparently made after executives learned it would be $46 million cheaper to move the plant to Mexico instead of leaving the production in Chicago where it currently resides.  Donald Trump actually loves Oreos by the way, so not eating them was a huge decision for him.

Hmmm, I thought again.  What better way to start a politically charged argument than to make the most politically charged cupcake I could think of- a Donald Trump cupcake.  And yes, I did decide to use Oreos for the eyes.  And yes, it is ironic. Enjoy the irony and the deliciousness that is, the Donald Trump cupcake.  Delicious cupcake recipe courtesy of The Cake Bible.  Delicious orange Trump hair and big eyes courtesy of Donald Trump- my favorite Republican candidate that we love to be astounded by (and yet secretly delight in all of the half truths he proclaims about America).  Your welcome Republican party for this extra publicity.

(Donald) Trump Your Cupcake!!!


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 10.5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder


  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • oreo halves
  • 2-3 drops red food coloring
  • 1 drop yellow food coloring
  1. Combine all dry ingredients in mixing bowl and mix for 15 seconds.
  2. Add cream to dry ingredients and then add butter and beat for 2 minutes to aerate, scraping down sides occasionally. Add vanilla paste.
  3. Add egg yolks one at a time beating and scraping down between additions
  4. Fill a piping bag with the batter.
  5. Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.  Pipe the batter evenly into the tin to fill all the cupcake liners.
  6. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool.
  8. While cooling mix butter and icing sugar in a mixing bowl at high speed to make icing.
  9. Take out about 1/4 cup icing and mix in food coloring.
  10. Fill piping bag with mahogany colored icing.
  11. Cut off top of cooled cupcake.  Spread icing on one edge of cupcake and then get two oreo halves (used for eyes) to prop up the lid of the cupcake. Wedge the other side of the lid into the cupcake so that it sticks.
  12. Pipe the orange icing on top of the cupcake for that signature “Trump” look.
  13. Voila, you have “trumped” your cupcake.  20150918_204917


Apple Tart in Less Than 30 Minutes


apple tart
Apple Tart

I am not sure about you, but sometimes I just want to impress a friend or a boyfriend or just make a treat for myself.  I might have an urge to bake but I am short on time or feeling lazy and yet I still want my Martha Stewart fix for the day.  On days like that, I skip making the dough part of my apple tart and gasp! I buy frozen puff pastry.

Those who know me, know that not only do I always make my own puff pastry dough but I am the first one to discuss the increase of flavor in the homemade version.  Not to mention the fact that banging out some butter on the counter for homemade puff pastry is therapeutic to say the least.  But sometimes one just does not have time to fit in all the folds required to make the homemade dough. Or maybe you were late remembering that event where you were volunteered to bring a “homemade” dessert and you feel guilted into throwing at least something together. In any of these instances this fall beauty is a recipe for you.  In other posts I will talk about how to make your own puff pastry (from scratch!) .  But this post is dedicated to those of you don’t have much time and still want to get your baking fix.

But first, a short story that shows just how popular an easy dessert can be.  Once I had to entertain a group of ladies for a dessert luncheon.  I made many a complicated pastry- hazelnut torte, macarons, ganache tarts, and then I threw in the apple tart at the end.  Everyone simply clamoured for the apple tart like it was the last dessert left on the planet.  I don’t know if it’s the buttery richness of the puff dough or the fact that eating fruit on a dessert can make some people feel like they are eating a “healthy” dessert but that tart simply vanished.  And I got so many requests for the recipe. I knew then that I had hit a gold mine with this quick and fabulous apple recipe.  And here it is! Good luck amazing your friends and astounding their taste buds!

Active Time: 25 minutes

Bake Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Apple Tart

  • One package frozen puff pastry dough
  • 4-5 granny smith apples, peeled
  • 1/2 jar apricot preserves
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 lemon
  1. Roll out one sheet of frozen puff pastry to fit a 12×8 rectangular baking pan (or whatever size you own that fits closely). Press it to fit in the rectangular baking sheet.  The sides should just come over the edges of the tin. Trim the excess.
  2. Prick the bottom of the puff pastry dough all over with a fork.  (This will prevent the bottom of the tart from puffing up in the oven).
  3. Chill the sheet and puff pastry dough for at least 30 minutes. (This relaxes the gluten in the dough).
  4. While the dough is chilling thinly slice the apples.  I like to cut the apples in half after coring them and slice them thinly along the cross section of the apple.
  5. Remove puff dough from the fridge and line the apples in the tart pan.  Arrange them neatly for a pretty finish.
  6. Cut the butter in small pieces and and sprinkle over the tart.  Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the apples.  Squeeze the half lemon on top of the apples to prevent them from browning.
  7. Bake tart for about 40 to 50 minutes in a 400 F oven until crust is golden brown and apples are cooked down.
  8. While the tart is still hot heat the apricot jam gently in the microwave.  It should just be warm, not boiling hot.  You can mix a bit of whiskey or brandy in with the jam at this point.  Use a spoon to gently spread the jam over top of the apples.
  9. Allow to cool and serve with freshly whipped cream. Bon Appetit!

apple tart

Secrets of Shortbread

Heart-shaped Shortbread

As a pastry chef, I frequently get asked “What is your favorite dessert?”.  Well the answer is that I have many favorites! Of course, I am a pastry chef and get to eat delectable treats all day.  To say that I have a favorite is like asking a mother which child she prefers.  But, I will say that after spending many hours completing intricate wedding cakes or piping the perfect mousse, simplicity is often my favorite trait in a dessert.  And one of the simplest (and most delightful) desserts I can think of is shortbread.

Shortbread is all about the butter which of course I love.  The name literally describes the short gluten strands that are created in the cookie by greasing the flour up with butter.  But, it isn’t just the butter that makes this cookie fabulous.  It is that it is so simple and yet it goes with anything.  You can dress it up by dipping it in chocolate or adorning it with nuts.  You can crumble it and top a tart.  Or, like me, you can have it with a cup of tea and enjoy it while pondering over your day’s activities.  Which method will you choose? 🙂

Shortbread (From Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery book)

  • 180 grams unsalted butter
  • 90 g sugar
  • 2 salt
  • 6 g vanilla paste
  • 270 g all purpose flour
  • extra sugar for dusting the cookies
  1. Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer using the paddle attachment for 2-3  minutes until butter is soft, light, pale, and fluffy.  Add salt and vanilla paste.  Mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Mix for 1 more minute.
  2. Add flour.  Mix slowly until the dough just starts to come together and then dump the contents on the counter and knead the ingredients into a dough.
  3. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
  4. Roll dough out between two sheets of parchment paper (this will keep the dough from sticking and you will not need additional flour).  You can bang on the dough a bit with the rolling pin to soften it before rolling it.
  5. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and then cut into 2×1 rectangles.  I also like to cut my shortbread into hearts.  (This can be very elegant later if you decide to dip half the heart into chocolate).
  6. Place cut cookies onto cookie tray with at least 1/2 inch between them.
  7. Dust cookies lightly with granulated sugar.
  8. Chill cookies for at least 1 hour to relax the gluten.
  9. Bake cookies at 325 F for 15-18 minutes until they are a pale golden brown.
  10. Enjoy! 🙂

For The Love of Tomatoes! (Tomato Tart)

Ah, tomatoes – that summer vegetable (or is it a fruit?) we all love.  We grow them in our gardens, and put them in salads, and their red freshness is one of the beginning signatures of warm summer days.  But, I think the poor tomato sometimes gets left high and dry because apart from chopping it up and dressing it or putting it in a hamburger bun, how else can we eat it?

Two words – Tomato Tart.  This lovely, fresh tart is not only beautiful but delicious.  The crust is made by hand, and then layered with fresh tomatoes, sliced thin and layered in concentric circles.

Below is the recipe.  Bon appetit!


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cold water

1. Combine flour and salt on the counter and cut in butter until it is in pea-sized chunks.

2. Cut in cold water and use hands to press dough together, folding as you knead, to create layers.

3. Form dough into a disk and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.

4. Roll out dough into circle using a rolling pin and press into 9 inch tart pan.

5. Wrap the unbaked tart and chill at least one hour.

6. Place layer of aluminum foil in bottom of tart covering the bottom of sides and fill with rice or beans. (blind bake).

7. Bake tart with rice/beans inside for 12 minutes at 350 F.

8. Remove beans and bake empty crust an addition 5 minutes.


  • 6 oz Gruyere cheese (thinly sliced)
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 ripe tomatoes

1. Thinly slice tomatoes and cheese.

2. Chop basil and garlic.

3. Layer cheese on the bottom of the baked crust. Sprinkle basil and garlic on top of cheese.

4. Layer tomatoes decoratively in concentric circles in the crust.

5. Salt and pepper to taste.

6. Bake at 375 F for 25-30 minutes until tomatoes are cooked down and cheese is bubbling.

If you enjoy this recipe please let me know.  I would also love to hear about some of your favorite tomato recipes!

P.S. You can make miniature tomato tarts too! Perfect for appetizers!


A Caramel Walnut Tart For any Occasion


When I was in culinary school I had the honor of being instructed by a very fine chef who was about 70 and European.  He had a heavy German accent, could still bend a sheet tray in half, and had more energy than most 20-year-olds I know.  He was a vibrant man and a talented baker who specialized in showcasing simple yet elegant desserts.  One dessert he taught us was a caramel walnut tart.  I had never seen walnuts (or caramel for that matter) served in this way before.  This tart encompasses all those features we love in a good dessert – crunch, the toasted aroma of nuts, smooth caramel, and elegance.  It is not too tricky.  The only technical part comes at the end when you must temper the eggs.  Try it out for your next dinner party or for any occasion where you want to impress. It pairs beautifully with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit. 🙂

Caramel Walnut Tart (Recipe adapted from Culinary Institute of America)

Tart dough

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 4 oz butter

Walnut Caramel Filling

  • 8 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 oz water
  • 9 oz heavy cream
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 6 oz walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. First make the tart dough.  Combine all ingredients on the counter and chop in the butter until it is pea sized.  Use your hands to form the ingredients into a dough.

2. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

3. Lightly flour the counter and roll out tart dough to fit a 9 inch tart pan.  Press dough into tart pan, cover lightly, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

4. Blind bake tart for 10 minutes on 350 F.  Bake for 10 minutes with weights or beans.  Tart should be lightly browned.

5. Toast walnuts for 6-7 minutes at 350 F until golden brown.

6. Line dough with the walnuts.

7. Heat the heavy cream and keep in a warm place.

8. Cook the sugar and water in heavy pot over high heat.  Stir until the sugar crystals dissolve.  Allow sugar/water to cook until the sugar takes on a light caramel color.

9. Add the hot cream, stirring with a whisk.

10. Temper the eggs very slowly with the caramel mixture.  Do this slowly or the eggs will cook!!!!

11. Strain the egg/caramel mixture into the tart.

12. Bake at 325 F until the custard sets.  (about 12-15 minutes)

DSC_0220 strawberrieswalnut tart

Hazelnut Torte – Hazelnuts Never Tasted So Good!

hazelnuts hazelnuts

Celiac’s disease and gluten intolerance is now affecting thousands of people around the world.  But having Celiac’s, which makes one intolerant to wheat, barley, and rye should not inhibit a person from enjoying a great dessert.  Last week I made a hazelnut cake which is great for the gluten intolerant individual.  It is rich and tasty and has the toasty taste and aroma of hazelnuts.  But happily, it is gluten free! Below is the recipe for the cake, the hazelnut filling and the chocolate buttercream I used for decoration.  Bon appetit!

Hazelnut Cake (adapted from Viennese Desserts Made Easy by Georgina Gronner)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.

2. Toast peeled hazelnuts in 350 degree oven until they are a light golden color. (About 7-10 minutes).

3. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and sugar together on high in a mixer until they are pale yellow and fluffy.  (about 5-6 minutes).

4. Fold in ground hazelnuts with rubber spatula.

5. In a separate bowl whik egg whites until they make a soft peak.  Be careful not to overwhip.

6. Stir 1/3 of egg whites into egg yolks to lighten the batter.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites and pour into prepared pan. Bake immediately.

7. Bake about 30 minutes until cake is golden brown and springs back.

Chocolate Hazelnut Filling (adapted from Viennese Desserts Made Easy by Georgina Gronner)

  • 2/3 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons rum

1. Cook hazelnuts and sugar over medium heat until hazelnuts and sugar are a light caramel color.  On low heat add egg yolks, milk and chocolate and cook until mixture thickens.  Cool hazelnut mixture.

2.  Whip butter until light and fluffy in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add hazelnut mixture and whip until filling is light and fluffy.

Chocolate buttercream (adapted from Culinary Institute of America Italian Buttercream recipe)

  • 4 oz egg whites
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 12 oz cold butter, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 oz chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons rum

1. Prepare egg whites in mixing bowl with whisk attachment

2.  Measure sugar into heavy bottomed pot.  Add water to sugar until sugar is consistency of wet sand.  Wash down sides of pot with water so that NO SUGAR is on sides of pot.  Cook sugar until it reaches 240 degrees F.  When sugar is at 235 F start whipping egg whites.

3. Egg whites should be opaque and mixer should be on medium low speed.  Start streaming in hot sugar slowly.  After all sugar is incorporated turn mixer to high and whisk until the bowl feels body temperature.

4. Add butter slowly and whisk until the mixture emulsifies.  It should look satiny and taste smooth and creamy.

5. Melt chocolate and stream into buttercream when the chocolate is body temperature.  Add rum.

Cake Assembly

1. To assemble cake, slice cake into three layers.  Use hazelnut filling between 1st and 2nd and 2nd and third layer.  Use chocolate buttercream to ice and finish cake.  If desired, caramelized hazelnuts can be used for decoration. Enjoy a slice of this cake with Frangelico liqueur.  This hazelnut liqueur will pick up the hazelnut flavors in the cake quite nicely.

hazelnut cake

Better Banana Bread

banana breadAh banana bread, the ubiquitous go-to dessert of all home bakers- right after chocolate chip cookies.  Banana bread is great because it easy, beloved by all, and requires virtually no baking utensils.  The other great thing about banana bread is that it is easy to “play” with the recipe.

When people find out that I am a baker I almost always get this question, “So, uh, baking is really precise right?” After which said person usually explains to me that they love cooking because there is no precision and that baking requires too much technique.  Well, my friends, I beg to differ! Baking does require precision in its elements. (e.g. amount of liquid to protein to fat to sugar). But, if you understand how these ingredients interact with each other you can play with them all you like. I don’t want to make this post into a lengthy tutorial but I would like to briefly review the role each ingredient plays in banana bread.


Sugar is integral to a baked product in many ways such as adding flavor or aiding to build structure.  But the key thing to remember about sugar is that it is hygroscopic. This means that sugar attracts water.  Adding more sugar can think out a batter since the sugar pulls water away from other ingredients (like flours and proteins).   So you can remove sugar from a product for dietary reasons but remember that it will change the consistency of the product.


Fat helps to emulsify ingredients together and add flavor.  Butter, of course, is one of my favorite fats but fat can come from other places too like oils or nuts.  Butter also softens dough and develops the crumb or structure of the product.


Flour adds strength and bulk to a product. It absorbs liquids and adds flavor. Flour also adds gluten which can toughen a baked product.  Gluten is desirable in breads and less desirable in cookies and cakes where one would like a tender, soft crumb.


Banana bread calls for baking soda so that is the only leavening ingredient I will discuss here.  Baking soda reacts with an acid when moisture is present and is a mild leavening agent.  In the case of banana bread, the baking soda is reacting with the mild acidity in the bananas.  (Bananas have a pH of about 5).  Be careful when playing around with baking soda- add too much and you coulld give your product a chemical taste.  If you want to create a super soft banana bread you can add 1/8 cup of buttermilk or two tbsp of sour cream.  These acids will react with the baking soda in the recipe resulting in a tender crumb.

Now that you know the basics, play around! And if you are looking for even more detail on baking terminology check out this site.  Below is my banana bread, created after some careful tweaking.  I would love to hear back from you about your experiments and adventures with banana bread. Message me and let me know what you have learned!


  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/2 cup nuts toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (optional)

Mash bananas and mix with melted butter, egg, vanilla paste, and granulated sugar. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into the wet (do not overmix).  Add your optional ingredients if you like at this time.  Spray or grease a small metal loaf pan.  Pour in banana bread batter and bake at 350 F for 40-50 minutes until golden brown.

The BEST way to enjoy Beets

Have you ever eaten something so wonderful and pure and yet so simple that it surprised you?  I have- and it is beets.  Beets are one of those forgotten vegetables.  Or what I like to call scary vegetables. Scary vegetables are vegetables you pass in the grocery store that have long stalks and leaves, and crazy curly cue vines coming out of them that make you wonder “What is that?” and “How would I even begin to prepare it?”  Beets (like anything) should never come out of a can.  They should be enjoyed- fresh-in the lazy days of summer.  Try standard red beets and enjoy how their glossy maroon color dress up your summer dinner table. Experiment with golden beets and their yellow hue, or even better candy-cane striped beets- a beet bred for its concentric circles of red and white.  Beets have a subtle yet beautiful flavor that should never be tarnished.  Which is why I recommend just a simple summer salad when preparing this vegetable.  Sometimes vegetables remind me of people. If an artichoke is your prickly old uncle then I would think of beets as being the elegant young lady at the dinner party.  Simply dressed, beautifully presented, and always just right with anything.  So allow me to digress away from butter today and share a little recipe with you that has no butter at all!

Beet Salad

  • 3-5 beets
  • Foil
  • Green onions
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Vinegar to taste
  • Olive Oil to taste

Wash beets and cut off stalks. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place on metal baking tray also lined with foil.  Bake in oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 1-2 hours or until a small paring knife easily cuts through the beet.  Unwrap the beet and allow to cool.

Slice each beat into circles about ¼ to ½ inch thick and pile into a salad bowl.  Season to taste with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Enjoy at room temperature for maximum flavor.

Beautiful Beets!