Saturday, 23 July 2011

Bananas Make The Bestest Bread!


This banana bread is probably one of my favorite things that my mom made for us while growing up.  She'd always bake two loaves - one with nuts (bleh!) for her and my dad, and one with chocolate chips (yay!) for me and my brother.  I've mentioned before, that I have a horrible habit of buying fruit and not finishing it in time before it goes bad.  This especially goes for bananas.  I like my bananas pretty ripe - with no green what so ever, and preferably all yellow with a tiny hint of brown.  The problem is, is that if I buy 3-4 bananas and wait until they get to the right colour for me to eat, then inevitably there's going to be at least one of two that will get too brown by the time I get around to eating them.  Again, my solution is to freeze them.  Just peel the bananas and throw them in a ziplock bag and then into the freezer.  

I don't really mind having a freezer full of frozen bananas because it means that I can thaw them out to make a loaf or two of this fabulous banana bread.  It really is the best banana bread I've ever had, and I've tried a lot over the years.  Aside from cupcakes, it's probably the thing that disappears the fastest when I bring it into the office.  It's super moist, and loved by numerous people I know that actually hate bananas - including my husband.

One thing to note is that this recipe fills a standard North American loaf pan perfectly, but UK loaf pans are slightly smaller, so there's just a tad too much batter.  If you're using a standard UK pan, then you may need to have a small ramekin on hand to pour the extra batter in, so you'll end up with an extra mini loaf / muffin. And even though it's called banana bread, it's more of a load cake, and not bready at all.


Banana Bread

Ingredients:

2 Cups (250g) Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup (115g) Butter
1 Cup (225g) Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup (250ml) Banana, mashed - about 3 frozen or very ripe bananas
1/3 Cup (80ml) Milk
1 tsp Lemon Juice or White Vinegar
1 Cup Chocolate Chips (or Nuts)

Instructions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  Grease a loaf pan with non stick cooking spray, or butter and line with parchment.  Sift flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  

3.  Measure your milk in a measuring cup and add the lemon juice or vinegar to it.  Stir, and set aside for 5 minutes until it's curdled. 

4.  Alternating between the flour mixture and milk, combine each with the butter, egg and sugar mixture, making sure stir until just combined before adding in the next bit.  I usually dive each ingredient into thirds when alternating and mixing together.

5.  Once everything has been combined, stir in the bananas and chocolate chips (or nuts).  Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan, and bake for 45 - 60 minutes, or until a toothpick that's been inserted into the center of the load comes out clean.  Let the loaf cool completely in the pan before removing to cut.

* I've mentioned before that my oven is basically crap, and because it only has a top heating element, loaves like this take longer to cook and they also brown faster on top.  At around the 40 min mark, I usually cover the top of my pan with foil to prevent further browning, and leave it to bake for another 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes clean.


I'm not sure why, but my family has always eaten this banana bread with butter.  It's totally unnecessary, but it's really good.  This banana bread freezes very well, so it's a nice thing to bake and throw into the freezer so it's ready to bring out an hour or so before company drops by.  Cutting the banana bread while still slightly frozen makes it a bit easier to slice.  I took these pictures while the banana bread was still slightly frozen, so it appears a bit dry in the pictures, but it's NOT!  I promise!  Enjoy!

And now to announce the giveaway winner of the beautiful apron from Cooking Gorgeous!  A big congratulations goes to Nickie who won with her bonus entry for tweeting about the giveaway!  Nickie, I'll be in touch shortly with more details on how to claim your prize! 


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Cinnamon Peach and Ice Cream Waffles


For those of you that have been following my blog since the very beginning, you may remember one of my very first posts, which also happened to be about my first entry in the Iron Cupcake London competition (which was sadly cancelled a couple months later).

The theme for my first contest was fruit, which meant that every cupcake entry needed to incorporate fruit into it in some way.  I choose to do a cinnamon and peach cupcake because the combination of cinnamon and peaches was a favorite ever since I was a little kid back in Canada.  Shortly after arriving at the Iron Cupcake competition I discovered that cinnamon and peaches weren't a very common combination in the UK, so I had convinced myself that the people there that night wouldn't like them.  Well.... I was wrong!  My cinnamon peach cupcake ended up winning the Runner Up prize for best cupcake that evening, and I was glad to have introduced so many people to the wonderful flavor combination of cinnamon and peaches.


My Cinnamon Peach Cupcake (slightly smooshed)

Peaches with cinnamon still remain one of my favorite combinations, and I look forward to peach season every year, although I do find it hard to get a nice ripe peach in most supermarkets these days.  (If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen me tweeting about my search for the perfect peach!) 

One of my favorite desserts that I've been making for years is my cinnamon peach and ice cream waffle.  The hot waffle with cold ice cream, cinnamon and peaches makes for a truly delicious flavour combination.  And best of all, they're incredibly easy to make!



To make this yummy dessert you'll only need a few things: peaches, cinnamon, sugar, ice cream and waffles.

Now, I'm not going to lie - sometimes I cut corners when I can, so rather than taking the time to make my own waffles (not that it's hard) I choose to use an instant waffle mix from Cost-Co that only requires a bit of added water and a tablespoon of oil.  Even though I cheated on this occasion, I'm going to include my favourite waffle recipe that I use regularly because not everyone has (or wants to have) instant waffle mix at home.  If you don't have a waffle iron you can also use store bought ones, it's totally up to you! 

Waffles With Peaches, Cinnamon and Ice Cream 

1 - 2 Peaches
1/2 - 3/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Sugar
Waffle (recipe follows)
Ice Cream 


1.  Since peaches have a fuzzy skin on them that's not very nice to eat, you'll need to peel them.  Peeling the skin off a peach is really simple if you use one little trick - boiling water!  Bring a small pot of water to a boil and submerge your peach in it for about 30 - 45 seconds.  Remove the peach from the boiling water and place it on a cutting board for about 30 seconds, just so it cools down a bit.



The skin on the peach should be very loose when you touch it.  If you gently pinch the skin between your fingers a part of it should tear upwards, allowing you to start peeling the rest of the peach.  The skin should be so loose and slippery that it peels off the entire peach with out any effort, often in one big piece.  You should end up with a juicy slippery skinless peach. 

 

Cut your skinless peach into slices, and put them in a bowl along with the cinnamon and sugar.  Stir them around and set them aside for at least 5 mins to allow a nice juicy cinnamon syrup to form.

2.  Next you'll need to make your waffle.  If you're making your own, pre-heat your waffle iron and follow the waffle recipe below (or the manufactures instructions if you're using a mix).  ** Because I add peaches and ice cream on top of my waffle I purposely fill my waffle iron only about half full so I get a smaller waffle.  Alternatively you can make the full sized waffle and only use 1/2 of it.  Now's also the time to leave your ice cream out to soften up a bit. so it's easy scoop.

3.  Once your waffle is done cooking and your ice cream has softened up a tiny bit, all that's left to do is assemble your masterpiece!  This probably doesn't need explanation, but start out by placing your waffle on a plate.  Next, add a scoop of ice cream (I prefer vanilla or something with a caramel swirl in it), and then spoon the peaches and cinnamon syrup on top.  That's it!  Really simple, but really delicious!



Waffles 

Ingredients:  

1 Egg 
1 Cup (125g) Flour 
3/4 Cup (175ml) + 1 Tbsp Milk
1/4 Cup (60ml) Vegetable Oil 
1 1/2 tsp Sugar 
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Salt 
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions:

1.  Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with hand beater until fluffy. Beat in all remaining ingredients (flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and vanilla), until just smooth. 

2.  Grease your preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the mix onto your hot waffle iron, and cook until golden brown. ** Because I add peaches and ice cream on top of my waffle I purposely fill my waffle iron only about half full so I get a smaller waffle.  Alternatively you can make the full sized waffle and only use 1/2 of it.


The combination of cinnamon and peaches is one of my favourites,  It's so good that I'll often eat a peach (or two) in the evenings with a bit of cinnamon on sugar on it, just as I described in step 1.  In all honesty, they really don't need any added extras like whipped cream or ice cream, but if you're feeling rather indulgent then adding a waffle and a bit of ice cream is definitely the way to go!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundaes and a Giveaway!


Yesterday was my 3rd wedding anniversary, and to celebrate I made an extra special dessert that my husband and I fell in love with while on honeymoon at Disneyland.  During our time there we took a break to explore the other areas in Disneyland and went off in search of some food.  We ended up at an ESPN Zone sports cafe (we'd never been in one, as they don't have them in Canada).  I can't remember what we got for lunch, but I sure do remember what we had for dessert.  In fact, I haven't stopped thinking about that dessert for the past 3 years, so finally decided the buy the necessary equipment to make my own mini versions of it.

The dessert I'm talking about is simply called the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae.  It's actually a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie that's been freshly baked in a cast iron skillet.  Just after it's taken out of the oven, and while it's still piping hot, a few scoops of ice cream are added on top along with whipped cream and chocolate sauce to create the ultimate sundae.  

 ESPN's version

The combination of a warm chocolate chip cookie along with the slightly melted ice cream and chocolate sauce makes this sundae one of the most delicious and decadent things I've ever had.  So when I came across these mini cast iron pans at TK Maxx, I just had to get them as I knew they'd be the perfect size to replicate a single serving of ESPN's Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae.  Plus they're just so darn cute!  I'm also slightly obsessed with anything mini, so I just couldn't resist.


To make these yummy little sundaes you can either use mini cast iron skillets like I did, or use a slightly larger one (like the size you'd use for a fried egg) and share it with someone else - or if you're feeling particularly sinful - just eat it all yourself!  I promise I won't tell!

Making these chocolate chip cookie sundaes couldn't be easier.  All you'll need is some chocolate chip cookie dough - I used the same Jacques Torres cookie dough I used for the cookies I made here.  Take enough cookie dough for a single cookie (or double if you're using a larger skillet), place it in the center of your cast iron skillet and cook it at 350ºF (175ºC) for about 8-10 mins (or 13-15 mins if using a larger skillet).  


When the cookie is done baking the edges should be golden brown, but the center should still be nice and gooey.  Let the cookie cool slightly - only a minute or two so your ice cream doesn't totally melt into a liquid pool.  After the minute or so, simply drop a scoop of ice cream on top of the warm cookie, and top with chocolate sauce and/or whipped cream, caramel sauce, sprinkles, nuts etc.  It's up to you, just use whatever you like. 


That's really all there is to it!  Make sure you place the pan on a heat prof surface like a pot holder, wooden cutting board or plate so you don't burn yourself, and eat immediately.  I found that baking the cookies in the cast iron skillets resulted in them having a delicious chewy caramelized edges. SO GOOD!!! Sooo good!!


Now, I understand that eating something like a warm and gooey freshly baked cookie fully loaded with chocolate, and covered with melting ice cream & chocolate sauce may get a little messy, so I've got the perfect solution for you.


The lovely ladies from Cooking Gorgeous have kindly offered to giveaway one of their beautiful aprons to one of my lucky readers.  

The entire range of aprons from Cooking Gorgeous are made in the UK, and they're also expertly designed. 

Their apron waist ties are longer than average (to tie in front or behind), the women's aprons are adjustable (to suit any décollotage) and the men's pockets are tapered (a must for manly hands).  They select high quality natural fabrics with a softness that belies their strength and retains the characteristics of natural fibers.  They don’t compromise on quality or design – everything needs to be up to the job and, naturally, cooking gorgeous. 


The apron up for grabs is from The Bottom Line range, and is valued at £31.99.  It comes in two different accent colours - pink or teal.  I think you all know which one I'd choose!  And don't you just love the cute little bow?  They really are gorgeous!  


If for some reason you'd prefer to have a different apron style other than The Bottom Line, you may choose whichever one you want provided that it is of equal or lesser value.  If you prefer an apron of a higher value you may pay the difference and choose whichever one you'd like.
To enter leave a comment below telling me what Cooking Gorgeous apron you would choose.  Additional entries can be earned by doing the following:
  • Become a follower of Made With Pink using Google Friend Connect
  • Become a fan of Made With Pink on Facebook 
  • Follow Made With Pink on Twitter and tweet the following message: I've just entered to win a #CookingGorgeous apron from @Made_With_Pink and you can too. Enter here: http://tiny.cc/5vfgf
Links to all of the above are in the right hand column.  Maximum of 4 entries per person.  The winning comment will be chosen at random.

Open to Mainland UK residents only.  Contest closes at 11:59pm Friday July 22nd.  Winner will be announced shortly after.  

*** Please note that you MUST leave a comment below in order to be entered into the prize draw, otherwise I have no way of keeping track of who tweeted, followed etc.  If you make a comment anonymously then please leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. You should leave a separate comment for each of the 3 things listed above if you want to be entered more than once.  I will be using random.org to choose a number from all of the comments listed below in order to determine the winner. *** 

Good Luck!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies by Jacques Torres


The instant I saw a picture of these cookies online I knew they were going to be something special.  And they are!  These cookies by Jaques Torres are special enough to be crowned the New York Times BEST Chocolate Chip cookie, and I can see why.  They aren't just studded with dinky little chocolate chips like most chocolate chip cookies, these ones are fully loaded with chocolate.  Seriously!  These cookies use chopped chocolate rather than chips, which really boots the chocolate flavour.  Just as I was about to dump all of the chopped chocolate into the dough my husband gasped and said "You're not going to put ALL of that in there are you?  It won't all fit!"  To be honest I had my doubts as well, and even double checked to make sure I didn't mis-read the recipe.  Nope!  These cookies had 1 1/4 pounds (nearly 600 grams of chocolate) of chocolate folded into the dough!  

So lets face it - realistically these can't really be considered a chocolate chip cookie.  They're more like a chocolate bar with a bit of chewy dough wrapped around it!  Mmmm delicious!  These cookies are a whole lot of amazing wrapped up in a little package.


The key to what makes these cookies so unique and delicious is that the dough is aged for at least 2-3 days.  Yes, that's right - these cookies are like a fine wine, they get better with age.  The only unfortunate thing is knowing that you've got to live with the fact that there's a big batch of cookie dough in the fridge that you can't bake and eat for a few days.  Talk about torture!  The other key to these cookies is that they use 2 different types of flour - bread flour and cake flour.  For some strange reason cake flour isn't available in the UK, but the standard substitute of a little cornstarch (aka cornflour) mixed in with plain all purpose flour works just as well.

There actually is a scientific reason why these cookies get better with age, and you can read about it here if you're interested.  

The recipe below was originally published in the New York Times back way back in 2008.  I made my cookies a bit smaller than the recommended size, so adjusted the cooking time accordingly (see my notes below in grey).



Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

2 Cups minus 2 Tbsp Cake Flour 
or 
1/4 Cup (35g) Cornstarch/Cornflour plus 1 3/4 Cup (225g) Plain All Purpose Flour*  Sift the cornstarch and flour together so they're mixed well and then remove 2 Tbsp of the flour mixture to reach the original required amount.

1 2/3 Cups (210g) Bread Flour 
1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda 
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder 
1 1/2 tsp salt 
1 1/4 Cups (284g) Unsalted Butter 
1 1/4 Cups (250g) Light Brown Sugar 
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp (195g + 2Tbsp) Castor Sugar 
2 Large Eggs 
2 tsp Vanilla Extract 
1 1/4 Pounds (570g) Dark Chocolate Disks - at least 60% cacao content.  I used a combination of chopped 70% dark chocolate squares from about a few good quality chocolate bars, and some giant Cadbury Chocolate Buttons. Each square was roughly 1"x1.5". 
Fleur de Sel or Kosher Salt to sprinkle on top

Instructions:

1.  Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2.  Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. (Best at 36 hours!). Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours. (I ended up refrigerating mine for 72 hours as I just didn't have time to bake them!)

3.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4.  Scoop 6  3 1/2oz (100g) mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.  *Since UK cookie sheets are smaller than North American cookie sheets I made my cookies smaller, and even then I could only fit 3 per sheet.  I opted to make my cookies using dough balls that weighed 75g each and reduced the baking time to approx 12 minutes - just until the cookies began to brown around the edges. My cookies were still pretty big.  I can't imagine how big they would have been if I made them 100g as originally called for.  Eat warm, with a BIG napkin.


These cookies really are the best chocolate chip cookie I've tasted (I mean regular chocolate chip cookies, and not double chocolate chip cookies because my favourite chocolate dough based cookies are my Quadruple Chocolate Chip Cookies that I blogged about in May).


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