Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chocolate Banana Bread


Recently, I've been having trouble eating bananas raw.

I used to love them. But now I can't seem to eat them without gagging. So they need to be baked or blended or caked or cookied or waffled...

You get the idea...

I've made banana bread loads of times but I thought I'd try baking a chocolate banana bread this time.

Adding chocolate can only make things better, right?

I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it was delicious; very chocolaty and very banana-y, both flavours strong but perfectly balanced, neither overshadowing the other.

And it could not have been easier. Dump everything in a bowl, stir, and stick it in the oven.



Chocolate Banana Bread
adapted from smitten kitchen

Ingredients

1¼ cup mashed bananas
4 oz butter, melted
¾ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 cup flour
½ cup cocoa powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (180⁰C).
  2. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf tin with cooking oil or butter, and line it with wax paper (parchment paper).
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In another large mixing bowl, add the mashed bananas, melted butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  8. Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

More loaf cake recipes:

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf

Orange Loaf

Date, Pistachio, and Lemon Loaf

Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cherry Crumb Bars and Snapshots from Skardu


How have I let almost a year pass by without posting anything new?! 

I mean, I sort of know how...

I never thought I'd let this much time go by though.

I had started to stress and obsess a bit over each post. I love working on this blog but I decided not to let it take over my weekends and my life. There's no point if it's adding to my stress levels instead of reducing them. 

So I decided to dial it down a bit. It was okay if I didn't get a post up every week. But one week passed, then two weeks, then a month, and somehow 10 months without a new post.

But I miss it. And I'm getting back to it.

What better way to begin again than with more gorgeous photos from Skardu? 

I was lucky enough to make another trip with my friends this summer (you can read about my trip two years ago here and here). We had been trying to plan this trip for a while and I'm glad we went when we did. It was a much needed break and definitely goes down as one of the best holidays ever.

Masherbrum Mountains



Fresh cherry juice at Khaplu Palace and Residence

Our hotel room at The Shigar Fort Residence
Clockwise from top-right: tea and Zerchoon, fruit for breakfast, fresh garden salad with local cheese, 
and Pharingbath for dessert.

We hiked all the way up to the ruins of the old Khaplu fort (pictured below) as well. Now hiking is quite possibly one of my least favourite things to do (I greatly dislike any sort of exercise really) and I gave up at least five times, but it was so worth it in the end because the view from the top was amazing.

Ruins of the old Khaplu fort

Khaplu Palace and Residence

I brought back a jar of cherry jam and I know this recipe is very similar to the last recipe I posted but, as I was looking through old recipes, I thought the jam would be perfect sandwiched between layers of buttery crumble. 



Cherry Crumb Bars

Ingredients

1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup sugar
a pinch of salt
4 oz cold butter, cut into cubes
1 small egg
¾ cup rolled oats

¾ cup cherry jam (you could use something else too, like strawberry or raspberry)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375⁰F (190⁰C). 
  2. In a large bowl, sift in the flour and baking powder. Add sugar and salt and stir to combine.
  3. Add the butter and egg. Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut the butter and egg into the dry ingredients until the mixture starts to look crumbly and no large pieces of butter remain.
  4. Stir in the rolled oats.
  5. Grease a sheet of foil and press into a 8x8-inch square baking dish or pan. Press half the crumble mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. Spread the jam evenly over the crumb base.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture evenly over the jam filling.
  8. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan before cutting into 16 squares.
  10. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 16.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Apple Crumb Bars



After seeing versions of Smitten Kitchen's Blueberry Crumb Bars on Brown Eyed Baker and Une Gamine Dans La Cuisine in the same week, I was tempted to make them myself. However we don't get blueberries in Pakistan, and as a fan of the classic apple crumble, I decided on good old apples instead.

These little squares of apple-crumbly goodness are just as good as breakfast, a snack, and even as dessert topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Apple Crumb Bars
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

4 to 5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (you should have 4 cups of sliced apple)
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour

1½ cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 oz cold butter, cut into cubes
1 small egg

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  2. In a mixing bowl, add the sliced apples and lemon juice and toss together. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, sift in the flour and baking powder. Add sugar and salt and stir to combine.
  4. Add the butter and egg. Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut the butter and egg into the dry ingredients until the mixture starts to look crumbly and no large pieces of butter remain.
  5. Grease a sheet of foil and press into a 8x8-inch square baking dish or pan. Press half the crumble mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  6. Add the cinnamon, sugar, and cornstarch to the apples and mix well.
  7. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the crumb base.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture evenly over the apples.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  11. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Makes 16 bars.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chocolate Cookies


A few years ago I had a disastrous experience baking chocolate cookies, so I had absolutely no intention of baking Double Chocolate Cookies from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It's heartbreaking when all that good chocolate goes to waste. I was flipping through the book looking for the Chocolate Muffins recipe when my sister persuaded me to bake the cookies instead.

The first time I baked them the batter looked very runny to me, not at all like cookie dough. So I ended up adding twice the amount of flour mentioned in the recipe. Some googling later revealed that the batter is supposed to be a bit thin, less like stiff cookie dough and more like brownie batter, and that I needn't have been alarmed. Both versions of the recipe turned out great though. The cookies made with more flour spread less during baking and so were slightly fatter.

Once the cookies came out of the oven and we finally had a taste, I was so glad I baked them. They turned out perfectly; intensely chocolatey, with chewy edges and soft, fudgy centres.

I have never baked anything that disappeared as quickly as these did.

Chocolate Cookies
adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook

Ingredients
50g (1.8 oz) unsalted butter
225g (8 oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eggs
170g (6 oz) brown sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp instant coffee powder
85g (3 oz) flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F (165⁰C).
  2. Line two baking trays with wax paper and lightly grease the paper. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the salt, and set aside.
  4. Add the butter and chocolate to a large mixing bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water in the pan.
  5. When the chocolate has melted, take the bowl off the heat and set aside.
  6. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and coffee to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until combined.
  7. Pour in the warm butter-chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and mix well. 
  8. Stir in the flour mixture.
  9. Using a large cookie scoop* portion out all the batter (the batter will stiffen if it's left to sit, making it harder to scoop it out). Sprinkle a few chocolate chips, if using, on top of each cookie.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking tray for 10 to 15 minutes.
  12. Carefully remove the cookies and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

*I used a regular ice cream scoop (a large cookie scoop will also do the trick) to portion out these cookies. The scoop has a diameter of 2¼ inches and it holds about ¼ cup (approx. 3 oz) of cookie dough, resulting in 3½ inch cookies.

Make 9 cookies.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Crumble

Everybody should have a basic crumble recipe in their back pocket.


Once you have that down (and it's not at all hard to master), it can go on top of anything; fruit, muffins, cakes...

It can also be adapted however you like; add nuts, rolled oats, maybe some dessicated coconut, a hint of your favourite spice(s)...

I prefer to make my crumble by hand because I like the texture of a handmade crumble better. However, it can also be made in a food processor and that is actually the better approach during very hot weather, when the cold butter that the recipe calls for almost immediately turns to liquid. Or, you know, if you just don't want to get your hands dirty, then you could use a food processor too.

I've always made a crumble with the proportions given below and they're pretty perfect, so I've no reason to mess with them (I can't remember where I first saw the recipe; must have been one of my cookbooks). However, I haven't made an apple crumble in ages and recently, as I was attempting one for the blog, I couldn't quite get the quantity of apples right. Finally I came across a recipe on Bon Appetit which had just the right crumble-to-apple ratio.

Apple Crumble
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
2 oz butter, cold and cut into cubes
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar

1 lb (450g) apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (180⁰C).
2. Add the flour, sugar, and oats (if using) to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add butter.
3. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture looks crumbly. You want to try and get the mixture as fine as you can but it's fine if there are some big bits of butter in there. The topping should look something like the photo below:
(To make the crumble in a food processor: Add the flour and sugar to the food processor. Process for 2 to 3 seconds to combine. Add the butter and process for 2 to 3 seconds at a time until the mixture resembles a crumble.)


4. Refrigerate the crumble mixture while you prepare the apples.
5. Peel the apples, halve them, remove the cores, and slice each half into four to six slices.
6. Add the sliced apples to a mixing bowl, add the cinnamon, lemon juice, and flour; mix well.
7. Add the apples to a small baking dish and sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crumble topping is golden brown.
9. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, custard, or cream. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator.
Serves 3 to 4.

For 6 to 8 servings, double the recipe and bake in a 8x8-inch square dish for 40 to 50 minutes.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chocolate Pudding


I had a pretty brutal wisdom tooth extraction last month. 

I couldn't eat anything hot the first day and couldn't chew for quite a few days after that.



One side of my face was very swollen and I didn't really want to go anywhere out in public with my asymmetrical face. No matter how much I tried to hide it with my hair, it still looked like I had stuffed a golf ball in my mouth.

I had taken time off work so I hadn't much to do. 

The only thing I really could do was get into the kitchen to occupy myself.


But what was I going to make that I could actually eat at the end too?


Answer: chocolate pudding.


Chocolate Pudding 
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cornflour 
1½ cups full-fat milk
¼ cup caster sugar
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoons instant coffee powder
4 oz semisweet chocolate (I used Cadbury's Bournville; you can use semisweet chocolate chips as well, or use dark chocolate if that's what you prefer)

  1. Add 1 cup milk, sugar, salt, and coffee to a saucepan and place on low heat, whisking occasionally.
  2. Dissolve the cornflour in the remaining ½ cup of milk.
  3. When the milk mixture in the saucepan starts to bubble at the edges, whisk in the cornflour mixture. 
  4. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted.
  5. Once the pudding comes up to a boil and thickens, remove from heat.
  6. Pour the pudding into ramekins or bowls. To prevent a skin forming, cover the pudding surface with cling film.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Makes 3 servings.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf



I'd been having some trouble getting a banana loaf recipe right, but I've finally got one I'm happy with. Studded with chocolate chips and walnuts, it has a mild banana flavour and it's not very sweet either, so you may want to increase the amount of sugar in the recipe if you want a sweeter cake.

What's more, I used bananas I had frozen a week ago for this recipe. We had some overripe bananas (which are perfect for baking) but I didn't have time to bake with them so I popped them in the freezer. Saturday night I took them out to thaw and used them up Sunday morning. They will blacken further on freezing so don't let that alarm you, they're perfectly fine to bake with. They're a bit watery once they've thawed though so peel the bananas and place them in a strainer for a while to drain the excess liquid. Then mash them up and into the cake batter they go!



Ingredients

3 oz butter
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
⅓ cup milk
½ cup mashed banana
⅓ to ½ cup walnuts, chopped
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
½ tsp vanilla 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F (180⁰C).
  2. Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer, beat together until light and creamy (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well after adding each one.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk.
  6. Stir in the mashed banana, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and vanilla.
  7. Pour the batter into a greased and lined 8x4-inch loaf pan.
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely.