Have you got leftover bananas rotting on the counter? This is a delicious and quick alternative to the ubiquitous banana bread baked in a loaf pan. The texture is much finer than a traditional banana bread and for some reason, it’s a much lighter bake, but filling at the same time (well, if you eat two of them in a row, that is. But I’m not naming names.)
The recipe, from King Arthur Baking, says it makes 12 muffins, but I got 11. When I originally made it, I thought the recipe omitted baking powder, so I added 1/2 teaspoon, since it said they don’t rise very much. On a later reading, I realized the original recipe does indeed include baking powder — a full 2 teaspoons, which is not really necessary. They rose beautifully even with only 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. I didn’t have the oat bran called for in the recipe, so I took some old-fashioned oats and whizzed them in the blender to break up the texture. It worked perfectly.
Serve with a cup of espresso or a pot of tea and bite into the crispy, crunchy topping. You’ll won’t miss that banana bread one bit, and you might even find yourself having a second muffin too!
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I’m partial to Neapolitan pizza, but when I saw this on King Arthur Flour’s website as its “recipe of the year” I was more than a little intrigued. The company has one of the best websites for recipes anywhere, and I have found that their recipes always produce optimum results. This may resemble a thick crust Sicilian pizza, or maybe you’re thinking Chicago deep-dish pizza. But it’s nothing like either of those. The dough, although thick, is not at all dense due to the long rising time overnight in the refrigerator. In fact, it’s quite light and easily digestible. It’s a snap to bake at home in a cast iron skillet, a technique that produces a crunchy bottom and side crust that crackles when you bite into it. It uses only a half cup of tomato sauce, which gets dolloped on after you’ve spread a layer of mozzarella cheese, ensuring that the dough doesn’t become soggy.
If you’ve made no-knead bread before, this procedure will seem familiar to you. You can check out the King Arthur page for more explicit photos on how to handle the dough (it’s easy).
Leave the dough in the refrigerator anywhere from 12 hours minimum to 72 hours maximum, allowing the dough to develop flavor and great texture. It also gives you lots of flexibility in case your plans change at the last minute and you want to save the baking for the next day. When you are ready to get down to business, just press the risen dough into an oiled cast iron skillet. It does require proper timing and close attention on the day you bake it and the directions seem long, but if you read through them before starting, and follow them exactly, it’s really easy to make.
Spread the grated mozzarella cheese thoroughly all over the dough, all the way to the edges, to get that crispy, crunchy, cheese-y top. Then dollop the tomato sauce on top, (sorry, no photo for that step but check out the King Arthur website) and add the rest of the mozzarella cheese. I also sprinkled a little grated pecorino cheese over everything for a sharper tang. You could add other toppings if you like as well, but don’t get too carried away or you’ll weigh down the dough too much.
When you remove it from the oven, you won’t be able to resist digging into it right away. It pulls away from the pan easily, and you could even slide it out of the pan onto a plate or board for slicing.
Or not. We couldn’t wait to dig in, so we sliced it right in the pan.
We could have eaten the whole pie by ourselves, but used a bit of restraint and saved half for another night. It could serve four for dinner, with a salad or soup on the side. Or it would make a great appetizer, sliced into smaller pieces and served with some drinks before dinner. It may even have you forgetting all about that Neapolitan pizza you thought was your favorite!
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⅓ to ½ cup (74g to 113g) tomato sauce or pizza sauce, homemade or store-bought
freshly grated hard cheese and fresh herbs for sprinkling on top after baking, optional*
Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
Place the flour, salt, yeast, water, and 1 tablespoon (13g) of the olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer or other medium-large mixing bowl.
Stir everything together to make a shaggy, sticky mass of dough with no dry patches of flour. This should take 30 to 45 seconds in a mixer using the beater paddle; or about 1 minute by hand, using a spoon or spatula. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to gather the dough into a rough ball; cover the bowl.
After 5 minutes, uncover the bowl and reach a bowl scraper or your wet hand down between the side of the bowl and the dough, as though you were going to lift the dough out. Instead of lifting, stretch the bottom of the dough up and over its top.
Repeat three more times, turning the bowl 90° each time.
This process of four stretches, which takes the place of kneading, is called a fold.
Re-cover the bowl, and after 5 minutes do another fold.
Wait 5 minutes and repeat; then another 5 minutes, and do a fourth and final fold.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rest, undisturbed, for 40 minutes.
Then refrigerate it for a minimum of 12 hours, or up to 72 hours.
It'll rise slowly as it chills, developing flavor; this long rise will also add flexibility to your schedule.
About 3 hours before you want to serve your pizza, prepare your pan.
Pour 1½ tablespoons (18g) olive oil into a well-seasoned cast iron skillet that’s 10” to 11” diameter across the top, and about 9” across the bottom.
Heavy, dark cast iron will give you a superb crust; but if you don’t have it, use another oven-safe heavy-bottomed skillet of similar size, or a 10” round cake pan or 9” square pan.
Tilt the pan to spread the oil across the bottom, and use your fingers or a paper towel to spread some oil up the edges, as well.
Transfer the dough to the pan and turn it once to coat both sides with the oil.
After coating the dough in oil, press the dough to the edges of the pan, dimpling it using the tips of your fingers in the process.
The dough may start to resist and shrink back; that’s OK, just cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes, then repeat the dimpling/pressing.
At this point the dough should reach the edges of the pan; if it doesn’t, give it one more 15-minute rest before dimpling/pressing a third and final time.
Cover the crust and let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature.
The fully risen dough will look soft and pillowy and will jiggle when you gently shake the pan.
About 30 minutes before baking, place one rack at the bottom of the oven and one toward the top (about 4" to 5" from the top heating element).
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
When you’re ready to bake the pizza, sprinkle about three-quarters of the mozzarella (a scant 1 cup) evenly over the crust.
Cover the entire crust, no bare dough showing; this will yield caramelized edges.
Dollop small spoonfuls of the sauce over the cheese; laying the cheese down first like this will prevent the sauce from seeping into the crust and making it soggy.
Sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella.
Bake the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom and edges of the crust are a rich golden brown (use a spatula to check the bottom).
If the bottom is brown but the top still seems pale, transfer the pizza to the top rack and bake for 2 to 4 minutes longer.
On the other hand, if the top seems fine but the bottom's not browned to your liking, leave the pizza on the bottom rack for another 2 to 4 minutes.
Home ovens can vary a lot, so use the visual cues and your own preferences to gauge when you’ve achieved the perfect bake.
Remove the pizza from the oven and place the pan on a heatproof surface.
Carefully run a table knife or spatula between the edge of the pizza and side of the pan to prevent the cheese from sticking as it cools.
Let the pizza cool very briefly; as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, carefully transfer it from the pan to a cooling rack or cutting surface. This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.
Serve the pizza anywhere from medium-hot to warm. Kitchen shears or a large pair of household scissors are both good tools for cutting this thick pizza into wedges.
Doughnuts, doughnuts and more doughnuts. More doughnuts that we could possibly eat in one sitting, but with my decision to abstain from eating desserts for 40 days starting Wednesday (the beginning of Lent), I figured it’s time to indulge these last few days.
The period before Lent that is called Carnevale in Italy is called Fasnacht in Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France, when doughnuts and other fried foods are traditionally consumed. Many descendants of Germans who live in Pennsylvania, (called the Pennsylvania Dutch – although they probably misappropriated the word Dutch from the word Deutsch, meaning German) also celebrate the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as Fasnacht Day, and eat doughnuts, which they refer to as fasnachts.
The doughnuts my daughter-in-law and I made weren’t fried, but baked, and hopefully contain fewer calories. But no promises here.
If you want calorie-free doughnuts, take a look at these — they’re painted by Wayne Thiebaud, an American artist known for his colorful paintings of pastries, cakes and other foods.
Fellow blogger Stacey Snacks gave me the idea to make baked doughnuts after she showed the pan she used when she made them. I quickly ordered one online:
But Thiebaud’s art was the inspiration for glazing my doughnuts in a medley of colors and flavors – from cinnamon sugar coated, to chocolate glazed, to powdered sugar coated, to lemon glazed, blueberry glazed and blood orange glazed.
My daughter-in-law Beth piped the doughnut batter into the greased doughnut pan using a pastry bag. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a plastic baggie, cutting off a tip at one corner.
They take only 10 minutes to bake and you might be tempted to leave them in longer since they’ll be quite pale on top. Don’t. The bottoms are much browner and if you leave them in longer, they’ll be overcooked and dry.
You also don’t want to fill them too high, otherwise you risk losing the “hole” of your doughnut.
Flip them over to cool a bit, and then go to town with the frostings and toppings. I can just imagine sprinkling some chocolate “jimmies” or chopped nuts on top of this doughnut, couldn’t you? Why didn’t I think of it when I was frosting them?
Or maybe some coconut on top of this doughnut glazed with confectioner’s sugar and the juice of a blood orange.
Invite a crowd over when you make these (or give some to the neighbors as I did), because this recipe gave me about two dozen doughnuts, even though it said it yields 12.
But who’s counting? You’ve still got a couple of days left before Lent. Make merry and indulge.
And for those of you who don’t observe Lent – you have no restrictions. What are you waiting for?
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In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until smooth.
Add the eggs, beating to combine.
Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.
Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.
Spoon the batter into the lightly greased doughnut pans, filling the wells to about 1/4″ shy of the rim.
Bake the doughnuts for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 to 7 minutes before turning them out of the pans onto a rack.
For cinnamon doughnuts, shake warm doughnuts in a plastic bag with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar. For sugar-coated doughnuts, shake doughnuts in a plastic bag with about 1/2 cup non-melting topping sugar (for best results), or confectioners’ sugar.
For the chocolate frosted doughnuts, place 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 2 T. butter, 1 T. plus 1 t. light corn syrup and 1/4 t. vanilla extract into a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is blended. Microwave for a few seconds longer, if necessary. Add extra corn syrup if needed to make a smooth, shiny glaze. Yield: about 1/2 cup glaze.
For the paler pink glazed doughnuts, I mixed confectioner’s sugar with the juice of 1/2 blood orange, adding enough liquid until it reached proper consistency. For the more vibrant pink color, I mixed confectioner’s sugar with some blueberry syrup I made by cooking blueberries, water and a little sugar with a little cornstarch and a squirt of lemon.
For the white glazed doughnuts, mix some confectioner’s sugar with lemon juice until proper consistency. For the white powdered sugar doughnuts, put some powdered sugar into a small brown paper bag, add the doughnuts and shake.
Sometimes you try a new recipe and it’s such a disaster, it goes right into the trash. But sometimes you try a new recipe and it’s destined to become one that you return to over and over again. This is one of those.
Maybe it’s because it’s from the website of King Arthur Flour, whose high quality products are always reliable.
Maybe it’s because this cake is so flavorful, moist and the crumb is so unbelievably tender.
Maybe it’s because the crunchy and sticky pecan coating is so irresistible.
Or maybe it’s because this recipe makes enough to feed a crowd!
For all those reasons, you’ve got to try this recipe. I’ll bet you’ll find it becomes one of your go-to cake recipes too.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ cake pan. (I used two 8″ square pans instead)
Beat the butter and brown sugar together till smooth.
Add the eggs, beating till smooth.
Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
Add the baking soda, salt, and flour to the wet ingredients, beating till thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for 35 minutes. (Mine needed closer to 45 minutes) Towards the end of the baking time, prepare the topping.
Stir the butter and the sugar together. Add the milk, pecans, and salt. The glaze will be thick but pourable.
Top the baked cake with the topping, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven. The topping will look very runny. You can eat the cake hot, with the glaze still gooey; or let the cake sit at room temperature for a few hours, by which time the glaze will have set.