Tag Archives: breakfast

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

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

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

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.

LEAVENING

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!

CHRISSY’S EASY MIX BANANA BREAD

  • 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.

Kouign Amann: A Yeast Pastry Fit for Queens!

I first sighted the Kouign Amann when I was working in Apple Pie Bakery at the Culinary Institute of America.  When I was a baking and pastry student at school we were required to work 3 weeks front of house and 3 weeks back of house at the resident bakery, Apple Pie.  I loved working back of house because I was in charge of stocking pastries with one of my good friends.  We had a blast making up silly names for the pastries and racing around to beat each other filling orders. We had to initiate what are know as “call-backs”.  When you work in a kitchen and you have 5 or less of a product remaining it is customary to shout out “5 insert-name-of-pastry left!”  Your partner has to call back that pastry name and amount.  This process ensures that your counterpart heard you in what is frequently, a busy and loud, kitchen.  The first time my friend saw the Kouign Amann’s stocked in the pastry case she shouted out “5 Quiggins!!!!” I busted out laughing.  We had no idea how to pronounce the name of the dessert.  To this day it is hard for me to look at a Kouign Amann and not call it a Quiggin, which frankly sounds like a dessert out of a Harry Potter novel.

This lovely sweet laminated pastry is actually pronounced Queen a-Mahn and is buttery and beautiful. The name for this fluffy pastry comes from the Breton words for cake “kouign” and butter “amann  The dessert originated in Brittany, France and tastes a bit like a danish but lighter.  It has a delightful layer of caramelized sugar that crusts over on the top and bottom of the pastry when it is baked.  If you have ever made puff pastry, you will take to this recipe very easily. And even if you haven’t you can still make this dessert following the recipe below.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yest
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cold, salted butter
1 cup of sugar

 

MAKING THE KOUIGN AMANN

1. In Kitchen Aid stand mixer combine the flour and salt and mix for 15 seconds on low.  Combine 1 cup of water with active dry yeast and allow to set for 5 minutes.  If the yeast bubbles up then add yeast/water mixture to flour.  If not, the yeast is inactive and you will need a fresh packet.  Combine ingredients on low until the dough comes together in a round ball and then mix on medium speed for 5-6 minutes using a dough hook.  The dough should come together and be tacky but not too sticky.  If the dough is too sticky add flour slowly until it gets to the right consistency.

2. Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes at room temperature. Then allow it to continue to rise another 30 minutes in refrigeration.   Prepare cupcake/muffin tin (that makes 12) by melting butter and brushing butter in the tin.

3. While the dough is in the fridge pound the butter on a flat counter top.  Dust the counter with flour and coat the butter on all sides with flour.  Pound it gently but firmly using a wooden rolling pin until it is soft and malleable.

4. Remove dough from fridge and roll it out until it is the width of the rolling pin and the length of two rolling pins (in other words small rectangle).  Pound the butter until it is slightly smaller than half the size of the dough.  Cut it so that it just fits in the dough with the edges showing.  Place the pounded butter on top of the dough and fold the other half of the dough over the butter like a sandwich.  The butter should fit in the dough tightly but you should still have ample room to fold up the dough on all sides so that it is sealed in.

5. Flour the counter again and place the dough on the counter so that the folded edge is facing to the left like a book. Roll out the dough until it is again the length of two rolling pins.  Fold the dough like a letter in thirds.  Turn the dough 90 degrees, so that the spine (or folded edge) is again to the left and roll the dough out again to the same size and then fold it again like a letter.

6. Refrigerate the dough for 30-40 minutes.

7. Remove dough from fridge and again complete two “turns” as explained in step 5 except sprinkle half a cup of sugar on the dough each time before the dough is folded in thirds.

8. Refrigerate the dough for 30-40 minutes.

9. Dust the counter with sugar and roll out the dough until it is 8 in by 24 in.  Cut the dough in half so that each strip is 4 inches in length and then cut both strips into 4 inch squares.  Dust the dough liberally with more sugar.

10. Optionally fill each dough pocket with about a tablespoon of jam.  I highly recommend this! Although you can feel the dough with anything you like.

Kouign Amann
Kouign Amann waiting to be filled with jam

11. Fold the corners in for each square piece of dough so that it forms a dough pocket.  Gently stuff each square piece into the muffin tin.  The edges of each kouign amann may come out of over the edges or get crumpled. This is ok!

Kouign Amann
Kouign Amann waiting to rise

 

12. Cover the tins with a towel and allow to rise about 40 minutes.

13. Bake the kouign amman about 40 minutes at 350 F convection or until they are a rich golden brown.  Turn the kouign amann out immediately when baked so they easily unmold from the muffin pan.

14. Eat and enjoy!!! And don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need any assistance.  Laminated doughs can be tricky the first time around!

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Pecan Sticky Buns

Wow, the first entry of my blog! This blog is dedicated to my exploration of food and pastry and most importantly, butter.  You see, I just love butter.  Real, unadulterated butter.  I put butter on everything and I bake butter in everything.  Yes, I am a butter fiend.

So I feel there is no better way to start off a pastry blog devoted to my favorite fatty substance than to think of the most buttery dessert I can – pecan sticky buns.  I make my sticky buns with brioche dough that is loaded with butter and topped with, you guessed it, a brown sugar topping made with more butter.  These ooey-gooey treats will leave your mouth watering for more. And they are so perfect for breakfast!

As we begin dear readers, tell me your favorite buttery dessert.  I would love to hear from you.  Stay tuned for my secret brioche recipe in a later post. Until next time, eat more butter!