Tally Me Banana Bread

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The other day, at the end of the work day,  I was sitting in my cubicle and heard people laughing and talking about banana bread.  So of course, I assumed there was some banana bread to be had and made a B-line for the office where the laughing and talking was coming from.  I was a little disappointed to see only a big box of past-their-prime bananas that were definitely ready to be made into banana bread.  I actually had been thinking about Smitten Kitchen’s “jacked up banana bread” and the following day we were having one of our monthly potlucks, so I grabbed a couple of bunches.   I didn’t catch the story of why or where the bananas came from, but when someone else asked the banana bearing coworker why she had so many bananas, naturally, I broke into my best Harry Belafonte “come Mr. Tally Man…tally me banana!”  Lol.  Hey.  It was the end of the day.

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So I get home with all of these bananas and Tony asks what I’m planning on doing with them.  I told him I’m going to make banana bread for the potluck.  He says, “you know how much I love banana bread, why don’t you ever make it for me?  You always bake the good stuff for work.”  (Right.  Same man who rolls his eyes and says things like, “what are we supposed to do with so many cookies/brownies/a whole cake?”)  Well…lucky for Tony I just happened to have a package of little aluminum foil mini-loaf pans.  I made three mini loaves, took two to work and left one just for him.  He was a happy camper.  (And, I still have a bunch of bananas in the freezer…Acai bowl????)

SK’s recipe is just about the best banana bread I’ve ever had.  And its really easy.  One bowl and a wooden spoon.  The only thing I change is that I add walnuts.  And name given this recipe by Deb of SK is “Elise’s Friend Heidi’s Friend Mrs. Hockmeyer’s Banana Bread, As Jacked Up by Deb (adapted from Simply Recipes)”.  That’s a little long.  Let’s just call it Tally Me Banana Bread.

Tally Me Banana Bread

INGREDIENTS

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed

1/3 cup salted butter, melted

3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer)

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of ground cloves

1-1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (divided use)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. If using walnuts, stir in 1/2 cup now.  Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup walnuts on top. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

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No-Knead Artisan Bread

Oh, the aroma of freshly baked bread!  Can there be anything better?  Bread is our most basic, yet one of the most delicious and satisfying, foods.  In the words of Robert Browning, English poet and playwright, “If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”  Okay, so maybe that’s a little over the top, but bread is a very good thing.  And what could be more rewarding than baking your own?

What I’m about to share with you is a really easy bread recipe.  Really.  Easy.  Bread.  Recipe.  And delicious.  AND you can make the dough, use as much or as little as you want, and then keep the rest in the fridge for up to two weeks (though I doubt it’ll actually last that long.  Even with just the two of us, we went through the whole thing in a week.  It is so good!!)

The recipe comes from Kathleen Flinn’s book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Women into Fearless Home Cooks.  I had the pleasure and honor of meeting and baking bread with Kathleen at a fun Adventures by the Book author event not too long ago.  She was so knowledgeable and so inspiring!  Kathleen also wrote The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, a memoir, with recipes, about her experiences leaving the corporate world to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School explores a project in which she tries to understand why people rely on convenience foods and what kinds of cooking lessons make an impact on inexperienced cooks.

I personally learned more about cooking from these two books than I have from any cookbook in my expansive collection.  I mean, we all know how much I love Smitten Kitchen, but Kathleen shares some good basic information…not only useful hints like the proper way to hold a knife, but good nutrition information and reasons why its less expensive and healthier, to cook, rather than buy, frozen or pre-prepared packaged meals.  Did you know that a basic Fettucini Alfredo sauce has basically only two ingredients…heavy cream and Parmesan cheese?  So why would you buy a boxed or frozen variety that’s loaded with all kinds of preservatives and ingredients you don’t need?

Okay, so I digress.  I’m going to say it again…the bread is really delicious and really easy.  And I’d like all of you to give it a try.  I’ve got a batch of dough in the fridge waiting to be baked.  You can mix it up a little by using half whole wheat flour.  Or stirring in a bit of your favorite fresh herbs.  And I’m telling you, once you’ve baked and tasted bread that you’ve made from scratch, it’ll be really difficult to rationalize buying a little loaf of artisan bread at the supermarket for $4!  (Plus, really, just the aroma of bread baking in your oven…wafting from your kitchen??!?!?)

No-Knead Artisan Bread

(makes four 1-pound loaves)

The original recipe is adapted from www.artisanbreadinfive.com

INGREDIENTS

3 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon yeast

1 tablespoon kosher salt

6-1/2 cups unsifted unbleached all purpose white flour (or you can use half whole wheat flour)

Additional flour to create loaves

Cornmeal

DIRECTIONS

Combine water, yeast and salt in 5-quart bowl or plastic container. Stir to mix. Add all flour at once and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is wet and sticky with no dry patches. Cover with plastic wrap or lid (but do not seal airtight…you want the gases from the yeast able to escape) and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. If you are not using immediately, you can refrigerate the dough, covered, for up to 2 weeks.

To make a loaf, lightly sprinkle flour onto dough’s surface. Scoop a handful about size of grapefruit and tear away from the rest. Rub the dough with flour while gently stretching the top around to tuck the sides into the bottom to form a round, smooth blob.  Note:  Tonight, at this point, I chopped a couple tablespoons of fresh rosemary and “kneaded” it into the dough…it was amazing!  Put the loaf on a pizza peel or cutting board dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking.  Let it rise, uncovered,  for at least half an hour or up to 90 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450°. Place a broiler tray or other flat metal pan on the bottom rack of oven. Put a cookie sheet, pizza stone, or cast iron skillet on middle rack.

Dust the loaf liberally with flour. Slash top with “X” or  3 lines. Slide bread onto pre-heated cookie sheet, pizza stone, or cast iron skillet. Carefully pour one cup of water into broiler pan. Close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for 30 minutes, until the crust is brown and the loaf feels light and hollow. Cool to room temperature.

Keep the remaining dough in the fridge. Use as desired. So good.  And really delicious toasted!

The Fish Market’s Cheezy Garlic Bread

Tony & I started going to the Fish Market restaurant in Del Mar way back in our college days at SDSU.  We’d go to the race track with a group of friends and then head over to “the market” (as we used to call it back then) for a few beers and a lot of oysters and their Cheezy Garlic Bread.  Truth be told, I’m not so much a fan of oysters any more, but the Cheezy Garlic Bread is still to die for.  We’ve passed on our affection for “the market” to our son Kyle who is a seafood addict.  He insists on going just about every time he’s home.  Now we usually go to the one downtown, a beautiful setting, right on San Diego’s bayfront.  They order seafood.  I order the Cheezy Garlic Bread.

Definitely not a low fat item, but oh-so-delicious…sourdough bread topped with a layer of oozy, melty Romano cheese gooeyness.  I clipped the recipe from the Union-Tribune many, many years ago and have made it numerous times since.  I’ve actually “lightened” it up just a tad by reducing the amount of mayo and Romano cheese…still not low-fat by any stretch, but worth every single calorie!

The Fish Market’s Cheezy Garlic Bread

INGREDIENTS

1 loaf sourdough bread (I’ve used the long loaves and the round ones)

Garlic butter

1 stick butter, softened

1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Romano sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise (the original recipe called for a full cup! And, sorry, don’t use low-fat, it will not brown)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups Romano cheese, grated medium (the original recipe called for 3 cups!)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare garlic butter by combining softened butter, parsley and garlic.  Reserve.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the Romano sauce by hand.  Blend the mix to a smooth, paste-like consistency, but do not break up the cheese.

Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise (horizontally).

Spread the garlic butter over the loaves on the non-crust side, then spread with the cheese mix.

Bake on a baking sheet until golden brown.   Let cool for a bit until slicing and then ENJOY every single melty, oozy, cheezy bite!