Recipe: Vegan Whole Wheat Banana Bread

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Vegan. Whole wheat. Sugar free. Oil free.

Flavor free? Not at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Let’s just say, when I stumbled across this bread recipe, I was expecting something that I would consume for sustenance alone; I was sure it would be permeated by the taste of “health,”  that it would prove binge-proof. Upon biting into it, however, I saw just how wrong I was. And I bit into it again, and again, and again, and now it’s gone.

Tragic, right?

And yet, I don’t feel nearly as guilty as I would have after eating an entire loaf of normal banana bread in a mere 24 hours. That’s right, I admit it, I ate the whole thing in a day. All this bread calls for in terms of flavor is bananas, dates, and cinnamon; the baking powders, flour, and flax seed manage to give it a wonderfully moist and dense texture. It even cooked through much more evenly than the dairy, egg, sugar and oil filled white flour banana breads I’ve made in the past!

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Time: Active: 20 minutes

Inactive: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups mashed banana (approximately 4 large bananas, preferably overripe)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dates (I used dried)
  • 2 tbsp flax seed powder + 6 tbsp water
  • Optional: 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Mix together the flax seed and water, allow it to set, stirring occasionally, until gelatinous.

2. Mash the bananas. My preferred method is to mince them by slicing them, spreading the slices out, and tapping lightly and rapidly with a knife horizontally. Then, turn the cutting board 90 degrees, and tap horizontally again; repeat as necessary. The key is to leave very little space between cuts, and you’ll soon have nearly mashed bananas, no matter how firm they were to begin with!

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3. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

4. Add the chopped dates and mix together. I had trouble keeping my dates from clumping up, so I used my fingers to “rub” the dates into the flour as I would butter, breaking up clumps when I found them.

5. Add the bananas and flax seed/water mixture to the bowl, and stir until combined. It may seem too dry or doughy, but trust me, there’s no need for more liquid!

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6. Place dough into a loaf pan, sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired (I omitted them), and bake in oven for 45-55 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean; it should be risen, subtly golden, and slightly crusty on top when it’s done. And as an added bonus, the whole house should be filled with the aroma of bananas!

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Next time, I’m going to try adding sliced almonds and dried cranberries–this recipe is just begging for other equally delicious variations. Hope you guys like this healthy treat as much as I did!

Thanks for reading,

Michelle

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Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

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I didn’t think it was possible, but it seems as if chocolate chip cookies actually taste better in cake form. Don’t believe me? Read on.

First of all, when a cookie is in cake form, your eaters can choose which part of the cake to eat based on how they like their cookies done. I, being a lover of all things doughy, find myself preferring the lighter, less done middle. Those who like the crunchier, chewier aspects of your typical chocolate chip cookie, however, have plenty of edge pieces to choose from. With a chocolate chip cookie in cake form, everyone wins.

Secondly: no dough-ball forming necessary. Why spend your precious time making individual balls of dough when it’s so easily spread into a pan in a matter of seconds? I don’t know about you guys, but I always seems to be short of time (that could just be the college student self pity syndrome talking, though).

A third appeal to time-saving: just one batch. In fact, I fit both of my cakes in the woefully small communal oven at once, and was able to watch TV study as they both simultaneously browned to perfection.

Let’s just say I’d never taken the chocolate chip cookie cake seriously until I tried it myself, and now, I’m hooked. What I once considered a perversion of a classic, I now see as a great stride in the world of baking.

So, on to the recipe!

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Based on a recipe from Foodnetwork.

Time: Active: 10-15 minutes

Inactive: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  •  2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Sweetened cocoa, for garnish
Sweetened whipped cream, accompaniment

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Depending on what you’re going for, a) line a 14-inch round pizza pan with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper or b) line and grease a 13×9″ or 2 – 8″ pans. (I chose the latter because I don’t have a pizza pan at school!)

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, and beat well after adding each.

3. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Add to the butter mixture, mixing to incorporate, and stir in the vanilla extract.

4.  Spread across the bottom of the prepared pan and bake until the edges are golden and the cookie is set but the center is still slightly soft, 20 to 30 minutes.

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5. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

So simple, so good. I suggest trying it both warm and refrigerated–something about the cold chocolate chip cookie flavor was just to die for!

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This one’s for laughs, and is perhaps the most awkward presentation possible. And yet, some seem to find my lack of dorm room cutlery endearing.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this quirky concoction as much as I did!

Michelle

Recipe: Poached Pear with Spiced Caramel Sauce

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Being an aspiring cook in a perpetually dieting household is a daunting task. Particularly calorific dishes will inevitably be vetoed, griped about, and, in some cases, even looked upon with apprehension.

The people I cook for aren’t the only ones, though; most of us are, in some way or another, looking to cut away calories where we can. So after planning a full course dinner that was already perhaps heavier than necessary (I subbed half and half for heavy cream wherever I could, though, I promise!), I decided I needed to go light on the dessert. Instead of my usual pastries, I came up with something a little bit more sophisticated: poached pear with a spiced caramel sauce.

It’s an easy dish that can be for the most part kept on the back burner (literally!), and is a refreshing way to clear the palate after a wide variety of meals.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.

Time: Active: 10-15 minutes

Inactive: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • For Poached Pears
    • 4 oranges or 1.5 – 2 cups orange juice
    • 1 lemon, halved
    • 8 cups water
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 6 firm-ripe pears (Anjou are recommended)
  • For Caramel Topping
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • 1 whole clove
    • 5 cardamom pods
    • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
    • 3 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds or hazelnuts


Directions:

Poach pears:
1. Zest the oranges unless you’re using juice only; a zester is preferable (for obvious reasons) but a vegetable peeler can be used if necessary. Juice the oranges and the lemon halves into a pot, and add the lemon halves, zest, water, and 2 cups sugar.

2. Peel the pears with stems attached and add them to the pot. Simmer 25 to 35 minutes (here’s that back burner part I mentioned!), or until just tender, and cool in liquid.

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Make caramel:
3. Put 1/2 cup white  sugar in a small pot and sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Melt them over medium heat without mixing until the white sugar is nearly melted, then begin to stir occasionally until the mixture is a deep golden color.

4. Pour in the cream (which will result in some crazy fizzing, bubbling, and then hardening), then stir in the clove, cardamom pods, fennel, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks.

5. Simmer, stirring, until the caramel dissolves completely and the sauce has reduced to about a cup; about 10 minutes.

6. Pour the sauce through a strainer and let it cool until warm.

Assemble dessert:
7. Drain pears and pat dry, then transfer to plates. I found that slicing them first resulted in a more even coating of the caramel and nuts. Serve drizzled with sauce and sprinkled with chopped nuts.

And now that you’ve made it to the end, I have a little secret for you: not only is this sauce amazing on its own, but it has the potential to go with a lot of other desserts. I’ve tried it on apple and raspberry tarts, and even found that it could spice up an old sopapilla!

So have fun with your light dessert, and let me know if you come up with any caramelly creations of your own!

Thanks for reading,

Michelle