basic banana bread

I promised you guys an original recipe, and here it is: my foolproof, go-to, absolute favorite banana bread recipe. Moist, fluffy, just-sweet-enough banana bread that can be enjoyed alone, fresh out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream, or as a base for chocolate chips, walnuts, Nutella swirls, maybe a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg–it’s up to you! Go crazy!

The Food Network Kitchens’ version of this banana bread was the first recipe I ever followed where I had to make anything from scratch–actual flour, salt, butter, baking soda, etc. Since then, I’ve experimented and made my own alterations to it. To this day, it’s one of my favorite recipes ever and without a doubt the one I make most often.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is its resilience. In the dozens of times I’ve made it, I’ve abused it to no end, rushing through and skipping steps, switching out raw and brown sugar for the granulated white I usually use, doubling the salt, using anywhere from 3 to 6 bananas in varying degrees of ripeness, overbaking, underbaking–you name it, and I’ve probably done it. Somehow, though, the bread still comes out delicious. Like today! I don’t know where my head was, but I somehow used the 1/3 cup instead of the 1/4 cup the whole time, and didn’t realize it until the end–meaning excess flour and sugar. Oops. Good thing I went with 4.5 bananas instead of 4! Bananas are good at masking these things. 😉

But enough chit-chat! On to the baking!

IMG_2598

Nothing fancy in these ingredients. Just make sure your bananas are nice and ripe! The ones in this photo aren’t as spotted as the ones I normally use. I’m talking borderline rotten here.

IMG_2604 IMG_2608

IMG_2619IMG_2625

IMG_2640IMG_2652

Please tell me I’m not the only one who peels their bananas from the short end?

This recipe is simple enough that if you make it a couple times, you’ll have it memorized and down to 15 minutes of prep, max. Then just pop it in the oven and let the smell of warm banana bread blanket your house! 🙂

IMG_2654

——

Banana Bread
Adapted from Food Network Kitchens
Makes 1 8×8 loaf or 1 9x5x3 loaf

Ingredients
1.25 cups whole wheat flour (all-purpose works, too)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (salted or unsalted)
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 medium ripe bananas, mashed

Instructions

+Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 8×8 pan. (Pam baking spray is your best friend here!)
+Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
+In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. The more patience you have here, the lighter your bread will be.
+Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add mashed bananas and mix. Your batter will look curdled here; don’t worry about it! That’s normal. Make sure you scrape down the sides and bottom as you mix because the butter will tend to stubbornly stick to the bowl.
+Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. You can do this with just a spatula to avoid over-mixing. Your batter should be lumpy and sticky–thicker than cake batter, but not as thick as actual dough. This is where, if you want, you would fold in about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, walnut pieces, etc.
+Pour batter into pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the edges of the bread are dark brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
+Cool completely before slicing and serving. (Seriously, let it cool. I know it smells great, but this stuff will burn you badly if you’re impatient.)
+Cover or wrap in plastic to store. This bread will keep for up to a week, but it will never taste as good as the day it’s baked. (More importantly, where are you that homemade banana bread lasts an entire week?!)

Notes
I tend to skimp on the sugar. If you’re using really ripe bananas, they’ll bring more than enough sweetness to cover for the missing sugar.

If you make this, let me know what you think! Enjoy 🙂

clementine cake [smitten kitchen]

A while back, a friend of mine showed me a most curious recipe over at Smitten Kitchen.

Full clementines? In a cake? Made almost entirely of almonds?

Hmmm.

I was skeptical, but my interest was piqued, and I knew I had to give it a shot.

IMG_2122

This cake has a soft, nutty crumble with just the right punch of citrus. It’s not too sweet, and I love having a piece of it with breakfast or cutting off a slice when I pass through the kitchen.

IMG_2126

I’ll tell you this doesn’t last long in my house.

There was a bit of guess-and-check with this recipe. I’ve made it twice so far, both times in a 9×13 cake pan. If you do this, 35-40 minutes at 375° will bake it just right, until the edges are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Also, make no mistake: this cake is very moist. You’ll probably want to add some flour to hold it together; I used 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, sifted.

Other useful tips for this recipe:

+ If you have a scale, use it!! Measuring the almonds, sugar, and clementines by mass will make your life easier. Trust me.
+ A quick few pulses in the blender will mush those clementines up for you, no trouble. (The Magic Bullet is your friend!)
+ Dusting the cake afterward with powdered sugar is pretty, but absolutely not necessary for the flavor of the cake.

IMG_2123

In other news, I’m so sorry for posting late! D: I’ve been running around on planes for a couple days. Posts will resume as normal on Fridays from here on!

Coming up soon: original recipe!

Let me know if you try this clementine cake, and if you have any other tweaks!

Happy first weekend of spring 🙂

chocolate peppermint cupcakes [a pumpkin and a princess]

Last week’s candy cane crinkle cookies were just a part of a much larger peppermint kick that I was on right before winter break. Nearly every one of my finals week study breaks involved baking. I knew there was one treat that needed to be part of my week’s menu, more than anything else: peppermint cupcakes.

Much googling led me to this beautiful post at A Pumpkin & A Princess.

Everything seemed so simple, yet so rich: Betty Crocker cake mix, CoolWhip frosting, all infused with peppermint and topped with ample Andes peppermint chocolate pieces and chunks of Ghiradelli peppermint bark.

Boy, did they deliver.

IMG_1975

I spent a couple hours on these, but that is by no means necessary. You can mix, bake, pipe, and decorate in no time–especially if you have actual Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips on hand [which I did not, so I spent a good deal of time beating up Andes Peppermint Crunch Things, as well as smashing mini candy canes for the vanilla-frosted ones].

IMG_1962

I also switched to pre-made vanilla frosting [topped with candy canes, as you can see] when I ran out of the CoolWhip chocolate one. Really, you can use any kind of frosting you want. I’d love to make these again with a thick, creamy homemade buttercream with some chocolate pudding mix and sour cream thrown into the batter, too!

The CoolWhip frosting had a texture almost like ice cream, which was an unusual and pleasantly surprising change from most cupcakes you’ll find. Unfortunately, that also leads me to a major warning: CoolWhip frosting will melt on you! So don’t frost these babies until you’re ready to serve them, unless you plan on refrigerating them.

IMG_1967

These were a big hit with my house. They didn’t last long.

IMG_1974

Say a sweet, minty, wintry goodbye to the cold weather with these delicious cupcakes–and let me know how it goes!

See you next week 🙂