Banana Muffins

  
There is something super sad to me about a bunch of browning bananas. No one wants to eat them and they are even too ugly to use in a smoothie. I could freeze them and keep them for banana ice cream but, honestly, they just get lost in the freezer. 

  

The answer is clearly muffins. Turn that frown upside down, bananas! You are going to go from the saddest part of the fruit basket to the most desirable baked good in the house!

  
I’ve made banana muffins on the blog before but that recipe called for more bananas than I had (and I was far too lazy to adjust the recipe), so I google around until I found this one and it turns out it’s much more delicious and banana-y than my other recipe. See kids? Laziness pays off sometimes. 

Banana chocolate chip muffins
1-1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 medium ripe bananas

1 large egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup of chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla and mix well.  Add the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined.  Add the chocolate chips stirring just a few times to distribute. 
Fill muffin cups nearly full and bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean (about 18-22 minutes). Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan then turn out onto a cooling rack. 

  

Chicken Pot Pie

I am of a certain generation that cannot think of chicken pot pie without thinking of Cartman from South Park.  I didn’t even really like that show but yet the most popular lines from the show were basically everywhere for several years.  Good grief, I feel sorry for anyone named Kenny during that time.  In the end, I have to say, I am on Cartman’s side when it comes to pot pie–don’t touch my chicken pot pie.

 

This isn’t a dish I make often because it does require quite a bit of prep and a lot of steps but the elements can be made ahead and assembled just before baking if you want a faster weeknight meal.  Its also a great way to use up leftover chicken.  I always roast two chickens when I’m making one for dinner–it doesn’t require any more time really and then you have cooked chicken ready for a dish like this (or soup!).

The key to making a quick (relatively, anyway) chicken pot pie is all in the mise en place.  Get everything out and ready to go so you can work quickly.  You don’t want your vegetables overcooking while you are trying to get the milk out of the fridge and measured.  That way lies madness–so get everything chopped, measured, and ready to go before you turn on the burner.

 

 

 

If you aren’t using leftover chicken, you’ll need to cook yours up.  It isn’t necessary to fully cook the chicken at this stage though–the carryover heat as well as the 40+minutes in the oven will finish it off for you.  Just get it so the outside isn’t pink any longer.

Then, remove the chicken and cook the rest of the filling.  All the veg and spices go in together with a little bit of vegetable oil.  Let them cook for a few minutes (again, we aren’t looking for done here, just started).  When the onions are translucent, its time to make the gravy.

I like to make a well in the middle of the vegetables so I can keep an eye on the butter.  Allow it to just melt, then dump in the flour.

It will be a pasty mess.  Its ok.  Just stir it around as best you can without mushing all your vegetables up.  Make sure all the flour has been moistened and let it cook for a few minutes to turn it from yucky raw flour taste to a more lovely nutty taste.

Then add your milk/stock mixture and stir continuously.  It will be very soupy for a while and then, like magic, it will thicken.  Its almost ready here.  Once it coats the back of the spoon and holds a sharp line when you run your finger across it, its done.  Turn off the heat because its time to make a Rough Puff Pastry.  Cube your (very cold) butter and add it to the flour/salt mixture.  Try to handle everything as little as possible as we are trying to keep it cold.  I put my bowl for this in the freezer for an hour or so while I was working on the filling.

With a pastry cutter (or a bench scraper), chop the butter into the flour until the pieces are almond sized.  Then, add the ice water 2 tblsp at a time until the dough just barely comes together.  You can do this with a spoon in a cold bowl or on your counter, whichever you prefer.  Working with your bench scraper and rolling pin, you want to roll/beat out the dough into a rectangle (about 8×10), then fold it in thirds as you would a letter.  Then turn it 90 degrees and repeat 3x.  This is what creates all the little layers in your crust.

 


This might get hard as the dough tightens up, just do the best you can.  Once youve made 4 or so folds, fold it one more time to be a small rectangle.  Wrap it in cling film and allow it to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.  While that is resting, you can decide if you want one large pie or several small individual ones.  I opted for a large pie but you’ll need 4 16 oz ramekins for individual sized.

 

Roll out your pastry and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut one large or four small circles about 1 inch larger than your dishes.  Fill the dishes with the filling and then brush the pastry with the egg wash.  put the egg wash side down on the filling and then egg wash the top.

 

Time for the oven!

If you make one large pie, you’ll have to kind of dish out the filling since this is on the thin side.  After opting for a large pie, I wish I had made several smaller ones to avoid the messy filling issue.  The taste however?  Amazing.  Tender chicken, tasty vegetables, and a super flaky buttery crust on top.

 

Chicken Pot Pie with Rough Puff

Adapted from Alton Brown’s Recipe

Filling:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick

4 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 medium celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 ounces all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
6 ounces frozen green peas

Pastry Crust:
10 ounces bread flour
2 ounces whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
10 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
12 tablespoons ice water

Egg Wash:
1 large egg beaten
1 tablespoon water

Directions

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.

For the filling: Place 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set over high heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken, season with 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside but not dry, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside in a medium bowl.

Decrease the heat to medium and heat the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil in the skillet until it shimmers. Add the onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery, green beans, garlic, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, black pepper, dried thyme, and dried tarragon, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Make a well in the center and add the butter and melt. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring continually. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the peas, thyme, tarragon, and reserved chicken. Cover and set aside.

For the crust: Combine the bread flour, whole wheat flour, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Place in the freezer for 1 hour.

Place the flour mixture and butter in a mound on a clean work surface. Use a bench scraper to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and the butter pieces are about the size of almonds. Add the ice water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix into the dough, using the bench scraper, until it just barely comes together. Do not add too much water, it will come together.

Shape into a rectangle and pound with a rolling pin until it is about the size of a sheet of notebook paper, approximately 8 1/2 by 11 inches.

Use the bench scraper to fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. Pound with the rolling pin until the piece of dough is again the size of a sheet of notebook paper and rotate 90 degrees. Repeat the pounding, folding, and rotating 2 more times for a total of 4 turns of the dough.

Pound with rolling pin and fold the shorter sides of the rectangle in towards the center, from top to bottom, and then fold in half, like a book. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the egg wash: Combine the beaten egg and water in a small dish and set aside.

To build the pie: Divide the warm filling into 4 (16-ounce) ramekins and place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  (I made a large single pie and regret not making several smaller ones as the pastry would have been better if it had been smaller and puffed more in the center.

Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator. Divide in half. Return one half to the refrigerator. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll to 1/4-inch thick and, using your ramekins as a guide, cut 2 circles that are 1/2 inch wider than the rim, using a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Refrigerate excess dough for another use.

Brush each dough round with egg wash and place egg washed-side down onto the top of each filled ramekin. Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to 400 degrees F and bake until the crust is puffed and golden brown and the filling is bubbly, another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Hot Fudge Buttercream

I’m not going to lie–its been a crazy few weeks here at chez piehole.  I’ve been in the kitchen-and even taking pictures–but never actually getting them together for posts.  I’ve got a backlog though, so we will be back to our regular schedule asap.

Today, I want to talk about hot fudge.  Not just any hot fudge–the best hot fudge in the world: Sander’s Hot Fudge.  Try it once and you’ll never go back.

 

 

This stuff is really only available in Michigan or areas around the Detroit area.  Thankfully, we life in the future and can order things from the interwebs.  This stuff is actually pretty cheap for hot fudge and, sadly, the shipping is pricey, so I buy the big cans and stock up.  Obviously, its amazing on ice cream (or straight from the can with a spoon) but I was left wondering what else I could do with this marvel of science.  After thumbing through a cookie book, I came up with the idea of Hot Fudge Buttercream.

As it was my first time making it, there were a lot of small additions to get the frosting to come together so the totals below are my best guesses.  Use your cooking smarts and add powdered sugar or cream to even out your frosting to the consistency you want.

I ended up adding a few drops of orange coloring to mine and then frosting some basic pumpkin shaped cookies.  All in all, I love this buttercream (which really isn’t a buttercream since there isn’t any butter..) and I can see using it for frosting or a cake.

Hot Fudge Frosting

1/4-1/3 cup of Hot Fudge

4 cups of powdered sugar

1/4 cup of heavy cream

 

Combine the hot fudge and powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Start the mixer and let the two ingredients combine–it will be dry and powdery.  Add heavy cream a few tablespoons at a time until the frosting reaches the consistency you like.

 

Vanilla Butter Cookies

I’ll admit, these are not my usual cookie.  Crisp and sandy are not the adjectives that pull me into a cookie recipe.  That being said–I’m glad I stepped out of my cookie-box.  These cookies are not only easy to make but also delicious.  Rich, buttery, and the slather of chocolate over the side makes these a cookie I can see me adding to my regular rotation.

 

I mixed these up after dinner the other night when the boy wasn’t quite ready to give up on the kitchen for the evening.  There are just a few ingredients (and no eggs!!) that were almost all already in my baking drawer within easy reach.

After an easy “cream the butter and sugars, then add the dry” type construction, these cookies are balled up and rolled in sugar–which is one of my favorite steps to have kids help out on.

 

After placing the sugar-rolled cookies on the sheet pan, you need to smoosh them a little.  The KAF website suggested the plunger of a food processor since it had a nice concentric design.  Mine was within reach, so why not?  You could easily use a drinking glass or, if you are a fancy, you could use a cookie stamp.  (hint hint to my husband…wouldn’t these make a great Christmas present for me??)

These didn’t spread much during cooking but don’t crowd the pan since they do need a little room.  While they are still warm, you’ll need to melt the chocolate chips with a splash of vegetable oil.  I do mine in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring well in between.  The residual heat will melt the last of the chunky chips, so just keep stirring!

Dip the top of one side into the chocolate and put it back on the parchment to harden.  The chocolate on mine stayed a little gooey, so I stashed mine in the fridge between layers of parchment.  I’d like to say putting them in the fridge also kept them out of sight, out of mind but not so much because they are DELICIOUS cold.  If you need them to cool more quickly, you can try singing to them as my son did.  I don’t think it helped as much as the fridge though.

 

Vanilla Dreams

3 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups AP flour

coarse or granulated sugar for rolling

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the dry ingredients in two parts, scraping the bowl down between additions.  Use a small disher to portion the dough, then roll in the sugar and place on the prepared baking dishes.  Press slightly to flatten with a cookie stamp, drinking glass, or the plunger of your food processor.  Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

Mix the chocolate chips with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Heat in the microwave in 15-20 second increments, stirring thoroughly to fully melt.  Dip the cookies into the melted chocolate so half of the top of the cookie is covered.  It is less messy if you manage to keep the bottom of the cookies clean.  Leave to cool on parchment or put directly into the fridge.

Makes 36-40 cookies.

 

 

Rainbow Cake–A food color review.

My son loves rainbows–in the sky, in My Little Pony form, but most of all in cake form.

He has asked me for a rainbow cake for a long time now.  I thought I had it covered when I made him a chocolate cake with rainbow frosting but, apparently, that wasn’t enough.  The other day, he asked again and I folded like a lawn chair.  Ok, kid.  We will make a real rainbow cake. I’ll even try to not complain about dirtying six bowls and spoon mixing all the colors.

I used the Vanilla Cake recipe from Cake Simple.  I changed it in a few ways to suit what I had on hand (why were all my vanilla beans so dry and sad??) so, despite this cake being seriously delicious, I want to make the recipe again before really going into the details.

Instead, I want to talk about the amazingness of these food colors I tried out.  They were just ok in the bowl while I mixed them up; the colors were solid but I still expected them to fade significantly while they baked.  The top layer of the cake was purple, so I couldn’t tell what the outcome was until I unmolded the bundt.

WHAT THE WHAT?  All hail Ateco gel food color, bringer of rainbows!  These colors were amazing! Red is always a problematic color and, even though I could have added a little more to the batter, this was leaps and bounds above any other color I’ve ever used.

I’m a convert.  Rainbow cakes forever.  Ateco food colors forever.  If you are the type that likes fun colored food, I cannot recommend these enough.

Apple Butter Muffnuts

oh, muffnuts. Let me sing your sugary praises. So donutty. So muffiny.  I’ve been thinking about these since the first time I made them about a month ago.  They were amazing but, as I pondered what to do with a big batch of apple butter I’d made, I thought maybe the two were meant for each other.

 

 

As before, the dough came together in a snap and was thick and amazing.  With the extra heavy application of cooking spray, they baked up with a great looking crust and slightly darker than the original version–probably because of the added apple butter.
Then it was time to brush with butter and roll in the cinnamon and sugar.  I didn’t change anything about this step from the original recipe.  My son could barely contain his little muffnut-stealing hands.

 

When I first tried them when they were warm, I was sadly underwhelmed.  The cinnamon and sugar overwhelmed the little bit of apple flavor from the apple butter.  However, they improved as they cooled and the apple started to shine even up against the heavy coating.  If you ever had the great north-midwestern experience of having cinnamon cake donuts with fresh apple cider, these will taste very familiar.

I’m not going to say I’ll never make the plain version again but, if I have my apple butter laying around, I’ll probably opt for this version.

I made just a couple of substitutions to accommodate the apple butter in the recipe:

 

Makes 12

2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup of Apple Butter

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs

COATING

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together in bowl. Whisk buttermilk, melted butter, apple butter and eggs together in separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just combined.

Scoop batter into prepared tin. Bake until doughnuts are lightly browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 19 to 22 minutes. Let doughnuts cool in tin for 5 minutes.

Whisk sugar and cinnamon together in bowl. Remove doughnuts from tin. Working with 1 doughnut at a time, brush all over with melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar, pressing lightly to adhere. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve.

Italian Crackers

After making sourdough crackers a while ago, I thought they were just pretty good. Not amazing or so incredibly easy that they basically make themselves or so different than anything you can buy in the store.  They were just good.  They were also a pain to bake since they baked unevenly and had to be checked constantly.
Then I chatted with a friend of mine who had one of those comments that made so much sense. “Why don’t you spread them out a little?”  DUH.  Why don’t I do that??? Have I even baked before???

So I did, this time with italian seasoning instead of herbs de provence.  It didn’t even take 30 seconds to rearrange them on the sheet pan after cutting. Then I put them in the oven and walked away. No prodding. No taking the outer ring of crackers off. No fussing. Just a quick pan rotation halfway through.

Tada! Perfect crackers. They were…delicious. I can see a homemade cracker problem developing in my future.

I also ended up making yet another batch of these and turning them into breadsticks to go along with a pasta meal. 

  

Apple Butter

It is FINALLY fall–more specifically, October. October–the best month of the year! Cool weather, Halloween, changing leaves, and MY BIRTHDAY! Its also time for amazing apples! I grabbed a large bag last time I was at the store and, true to type, came home to find a large drawer of them still in my fridge. I was up early one day anyway so I broke out the slow cooker and started up a batch of Apple Butter.

6.5 pounds of apples: peeled, cored, and sliced.

Combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and white sugar in your slow cooker.  Set to low for 10 hours.

Wait.  That doesn’t look like apple butter.  You’ll need to use a stick blender or (like I did) work this in batches through your blender.  Then, put it back in the slow cooker and continue to cook with the lid ajar for several more hours (or you can do this on the stove top) until the apple butter is the consistency you like.  This could take 1-2 hours or another 6 like mine did.

Eat with everything.  Muffins, biscuits, pretzels.  Or just a spoon.

Apple Butter

6.5 pounds of apples–variety of your choice.  I used honeycrisp and a couple of fujis.

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

Peel and core the apples and combine with the spices in the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 10 hours, puree, then return to a pot (either the slow cooker with the lid ajar or a large pot on the stovetop).  Simmer until you reach the consistency you like.

 

 

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts

What? Something savory? Other than pizza? Its crazy, I know but I do actually both make and eat things that do not contain sugar.  Sometimes.  Usually every day.

The problem is that I find a lot of savory food kind of boring.  Skinless boneless chicken breasts?  Again? Ugh.  I’d rather have a muffin.  I’m always up for a more interesting way to prepare those things I make for dinner; adding bacon is almost always a no brainer way to accomplish this.

 

 

 

This chicken recipe uses a basic rub–brown sugar, spices, salt, etc on brined chicken breasts.  Then, you wrap them in a few slices of bacon and cook them up!  I had every intention of putting these on my smoker but ran out of time in the day and ended up putting them in the oven.

 

Even with this cop out, they were still delicious!  Dinner guest worthy even!   The chicken was moist and flavorful thanks to the brine and spice rub (and being basted in rendering bacon fat doesn’t hurt!).  I served them with green beans and some garlic toast made from my favorite easy sourdough loaf.

 

The Brine:

4 cups of cold water

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

 

The Rub (makes enough for 4 chicken breasts but make a double or triple batch while you have everything out.  It stores well):

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons brown sugar

The Assembly:

regular sliced bacon (3-4 slices per breast)

toothpicks

 

Brine the chicken for at least 1 hour but preferably closer to 4.  Remove from brine and rub with the spice mixture.  Lay 3-4 strips of bacon next to each other (depending on the side of your chicken breasts).  Roll the chicken, wrapping the bacon strips around as you go.  Secure with toothpicks if necessary.

Arrange on a metal rack on a sheet pan and roast at 350 until the chicken registers 165 and the bacon is crisp.

 

The search for sourdough part 2

My first attempt at sourdough was less than amazing.  It was flat and not as sourdough-y as I wanted.  This time, I wanted a nice crusty loaf with a soft interior that could be used for a solid sandwich bread.  Packaged along with my replacement sourdough starter was a small pamphlet with feeding instructions and a few basic recipes.  The first one was Rustic Sourdough Bread and looked like a super basic loaf and a good place to start.

One of my biggest problems with I first started baking bread was adding too much flour to the dough in order to make it “workable”–whatever that meant.  I’ve since learned that dough will become less sticky as it is kneaded and adding more flour at the beginning will only lead to sadness and a dry loaf.


I added only a touch of flour to this dough and it came together despite being a fairly wet dough.  Just keep working on the dough and trust in the gluten development.  And commit to having nasty dough covered hands by the end of the experience.  Your hands are washable.

After  a couple of rises and a bake, the bread was perfect.  I made these two freeformish loaves but I’ve since made this a few times and am now usually baking it in a 8×4 loaf pan to give myself nice sandwich slices for lunches.

I’ve also been halving the recipe since this bread does not keep for long.  Its kind of a shame but its so delicious we usually end up finishing a loaf in the few days we have with it.  This is also a super easy dough and has become a standard twice a week bake here the last few weeks.

bread

 

The One Loaf Sourdough Option

1/2 cup fed sourdough.  You’ll probably end up discarding another 1/2 cup from your feeding but I find its easier to dump 1/2 cup of starter than an entire loaf of bread.

3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

generous 1 teaspoon salt

300 grams AP flour

Combine all ingredients and knead until the dough comes together and forms a smooth ball.  Place in an oiled bowl to rise until doubled (about 90 minutes).  Turn out and fold a few times to gently deflate.  Shape into a loaf and place in an 8×4 loaf pan.  Cover and allow to rise for about an hour (it won’t double but it will rise a bit). Preheat oven to 425 near the end of the second rise.  Slash tops and bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Remove from oven and turn out of loaf pan and allow to fully cool.