quickbread

Banana Bread with Dates and Figs

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Every Purim I try new hamantaschen from different bakeries. I've also made my own hamantaschen using a variety of recipes.

But so far, after years and years of buying this one and that one, my favorites are the (parve) ones I get at The Bakery, in Plainview, NY. For me, they are the enduring treats of childhood, never failing to please, never changing, even in a world where innovation is honored.

And so -- I will buy my hamantaschen this year. Old fashioned flavors: prune and apricot. At The Bakery.

Which means that for Purim, instead of creating a completely new hamantaschen recipe or even trying a new pastry recipe with old fashioned filling, I am going to bake banana bread as mishloach manot gifts.

I have a zillion recipes for banana bread. Some with streusel. Some dairy-free. Some loaded with chocolate chips, some with coconut. Some all chocolate-y. Some spicy. And on and on.

This is my most recent banana bread recipe, one I came up with while revising my mother's date-nut bread recipe. 

 

Banana Bread with Figs, Dates and Nuts

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Fold in the figs, dates and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18

 

Mom's Date-Nut Bread

Tu B'Shevat is one of the lesser known Jewish holidays, but also one of the more delicious ones. From my childhood I remember it as a time when my mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string.

I ate dozens of them.

It was also when she made her fabulous Date-Nut Bread. She served the slices like a sandwich, with cream cheese slathered between the layers. 

I ate dozens of those too.

My cousin reminded me that her mother and mine baked Date-Nut bread in a coffee can. Yes, of course! Because our mothers were married young women during WWII, when metal -- and therefore loaf pans and other assorted baking equipment -- was in short supply. So they kept the cans from ground coffee and other foods such as fruit cocktail and used those instead.

I recently made a batch of date-nut bread using my mom's recipe. I used a loaf pan and was a little disappointed. Not in the pan. In the bread. It seemed dry. Maybe I over baked it. Not sure, but I always loved this recipe, so I tried again but made a few changes.

I used less flour.

I also thought it might be a good idea to include some figs (or, frankly, any other dried fruit) with the dates and I also thought the flavor would perk up a bit with a small amount of fresh orange peel. 

My mother added Madeira or sherry, but because I had a lovely sample of Cherry Heering that I got at Kosherfest, I used that instead. She also mixed in walnuts but because of allergies, I replaced them with toasted almonds.

Of course, the bread was completely different with all these changes.

I loved it.

Especially when sliced and slathered with cream cheese.

 

Mom’s Date-Nut Bread New Version

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs, apricots, cranberries, cherries, prunes or raisins
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Orange brandy, cherry Heering, Madeira, Port or Sherry wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • cream cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8”x4-1/2”x3” loaf pan (or a one-pound coffee can). Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Add the fruits and nuts and toss the ingredients to coat the fruit with the flour mixture. In another bowl, combine the vegetable oil, wine and egg. Pour the boiling water into the fruit-flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg mixture and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Slice and serve plain or with cream cheese.

 

Makes one loaf

 

Winter Squash and Cranberry Muffins Perfect for Sleepovers

It's December already and I am still sorting through summer clothes and several newspaper articles from last March and April that I was going to read when I had more time.

Why am I always so far behind?

I should be posting about Hanukkah. But somehow I am more focused on New Year's weekend. Probably because I made some unbelievably delicious winter squash muffins recently.

That really isn't a non sequitur. I thought of these muffins because every year we celebrate the coming new year with my brother and sister-in-law and my cousins. The cousins sleep over for a few days. We watch a lot of movies. Watch a lot of British mystery tv (Morse, Endeavor, Foyle's War, etc.). We sit around and enjoy each other's company.

We used to drink a lot of wine but have slowed down over the years.

We used to eat much more too.

(You get older, you can't keep going quite the same way, the same amount, the same speed.)

Still, there are meals to consider.

Breakfasts are usually smoked fish, bagels and stuff like that. 

But every once in a while I like to break up the monotony and have at least one different something for breakfast.

This year: those squash muffins I mentioned. I made a few batches recently and I can honestly say that they are the best muffins I ever ate. I've given some out as samples to my usual "tasters." Most of them also said they were the best muffins they ever ate. 

You'll see.

WINTER SQUASH-CRANBERRY MUFFINS

  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup mashed cooked squash (or canned squash or pumpkin)
  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger and whisk the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Set aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for a minute or so or until well combined. Add the eggs and beat them in. Add the orange juice and squash and blend them in thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the squash mixture and stir gently until just blended. Fold in the cranberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins

 

Zucchini Muffins

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This summer I was finally able to grow tomatoes. I had lots of them and there are still more to come!

I feel as if I finally did it right because I have failed every year up to now.

It makes me confident about next year, and not just about tomatoes. I might try to grow peppers and string beans and all sorts of things.

Maybe even zucchini. Now's the time of year that several people I know are harvesting their zucchinis, and some are gigantic! I'd like to see those in my garden.

For now I have to rely on my neighbors' and friends' generosity!

Here's what I did with zucchini this week. These muffins are not too sweet so you can have them for breakfast as well as snack.

 

Zucchini Muffins

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 1 cup raisins, optional 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin tins. In a large bowl whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl combine the vegetable oil, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk until well blended. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the zucchini and optional raisins. Spoon the batter into the tins. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the muffins onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes 12



 

Cheddar Scones and Apple Butter

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I'm still thinking about New Year breakfast/brunch ideas for when my cousins come for our annual sleepover. Shakshuka is a definite. But I am also going to make these cheddar cheese scones and serve them with butter and/or a really special apple butter condiment that I tasted at Kosherfest last November.

You can use any good, sharp cheddar for the recipe, but at Kosherfest I tasted The Cheese Guy’s Double Ale Cheddar Cheese, which won an award for Best Dairy/Cheese, and loved its boozy tang, so if you can find it, you can give it a try.

The company's Vermont Apple and Maple Syrup Butter also won for Best Jams/Preserves and Dried Fruit. I figured -- the sharp cheese and the sweet apple butter -- it's a good combo!

Cheese Scones                          

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek style yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add the butter in chunks and work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the cheese. Mix the egg and yogurt together and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a circle of 1/2" thickness. Cut the dough into eighths. Place the scones on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until scones are browned and well risen.

Makes 8

 

Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins

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It's October, almost Hallowe'en, which means you're going to see "pumpkin spice" everything. Cake. Ice cream. Latte. Whatever.

I decided to get in on the act. Especially because I have been experimenting with mashed pumpkin for a variety of recipes and have (actually, had) loads of it in my fridge.

These Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins are among the tastiest results.

Corn muffins are some of my favorite breakfast breads but sometimes they're too dry or too grainy. I have several good recipes though. 

Adding mashed pumpkin and autumn spices to the batter gives the corn muffins a warm and comfy flavor. In addition, the muffins are dense, moist and tender. Not dry, not grainy. 

Pumpkin Spice Corn Muffins

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/4 cups cornmeal 
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well blended. In another bowl mix the egg, milk, pumpkin and cooled butter until well blended. Pour the liquid into the cornmeal mixture and stir to blend the ingredients. Spoon equal amounts into the muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10

 

 

Blueberry Almond Muffins

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Although I absolutely am capable of eating one of those giant muffins that seem to be the norm in bakeries and coffee places these days, I do realize that smaller is better, healthier and less caloric. So, when I decided to bake some blueberry muffins recently, I calculated baking times and such with a recipe that yielded 8 muffins, but used it to make 10.

I also ran out of flour, so I substituted almond meal, which was lovely, and gave the muffins a vaguely sweeter, but not sugary, flavor. 

Here they are:

 

Blueberry Almond Muffins

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour (meal)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel
  • 1 cup plain Greek style yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 10 muffin tins. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and lemon peel in a bowl and mix thoroughly to distribute the ingredients evenly. Place the yogurt, egg, melted cooled butter and vanilla extract in a second bowl and beat to blend ingredients thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix just until combined. Fold in the blueberries. Fill muffin tins evenly with the batter. Bake for about 18 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool slightly, then remove them from the pan. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature.

 

Makes 10

I think I could make banana bread in my sleep.

Because I make banana bread so often it's like watching "Dave" for the umpteenth time. I know exactly what's coming next. I know what to expect. I like it.

I always buy bananas and then no one eats them except for maybe on a rare occasion, and then the bananas get brown and then no one eats them ever and I don't want to throw them out.

So, banana bread.

Also, banana bread baking in the oven smells wonderful.

Here's my latest version (I do make a different one each time!). I love how lovely the streusel top looks. Sets it apart from any old banana bread.

Banana Streusel Bread

Streusel:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or coconut oil

Bread:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice such as mango, orange or apple
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.

Make the streusel: mix the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add the butter and work it in with fingers or a knife until mixture is crumbly. Set it aside.

Make the bread: Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and set it aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil with a handheld or electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mash the bananas and add them to the sugar mixture. Beat thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the juice and vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the streusel on top. Bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a cake rack.

 Makes one bread serving 10-12

 

Eggless Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread

Even the most experienced home cooks make mistakes.  Like the one I made yesterday. I decided to bake a Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread and as soon as I put the pan in the oven I realized I had left the eggs out of the batter.  Wow! That’s a biggie.  I did that once before, many years ago and made the big mistake of retrieving the loaf pan, scooping the batter back into a bowl, mixing in the eggs and then baking the bread as if nothing had happened.  Unfortunately, after the bread baked and cooled down, biting into a slice was like chewing day-old used bubble gum.  This time I just let the bread bake with a “let’s see what happens” kind of attitude.  The results were astonishingly surprising. What a boon for people who can’t eat eggs! This Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread is delicious. Firmer, denser than one made with eggs, but tasty and tender without them.  So, here’s the recipe, including the eggs, but for egg-free diets — just leave the eggs out.   Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread   4 tablespoons butter  3/4 cup sugar  2 large eggs (optional)  1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon peel  2 cups all-purpose flour  2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder  3/4 teaspoon salt  1 cup milk  1 cup blueberries  1/4 cup fresh lemon juice  1-1/2 tablespoons sugar  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup sugar at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. (Add the eggs and beat them in). Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat to blend the ingredients to a smooth, even batter. Fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While the bread is baking, combine the lemon juice and 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. When the bread comes out of the oven, pour the lemon juice mixture on top. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.  Makes one bread

Even the most experienced home cooks make mistakes.

Like the one I made yesterday. I decided to bake a Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread and as soon as I put the pan in the oven I realized I had left the eggs out of the batter.

Wow! That’s a biggie.

I did that once before, many years ago and made the big mistake of retrieving the loaf pan, scooping the batter back into a bowl, mixing in the eggs and then baking the bread as if nothing had happened.

Unfortunately, after the bread baked and cooled down, biting into a slice was like chewing day-old used bubble gum.

This time I just let the bread bake with a “let’s see what happens” kind of attitude.

The results were astonishingly surprising. What a boon for people who can’t eat eggs! This Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread is delicious. Firmer, denser than one made with eggs, but tasty and tender without them.

So, here’s the recipe, including the eggs, but for egg-free diets — just leave the eggs out.

Lemon-Blueberry Tea Bread

4 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs (optional)

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon peel

2 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup blueberries

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1-1/2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup sugar at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. (Add the eggs and beat them in). Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk. Beat to blend the ingredients to a smooth, even batter. Fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While the bread is baking, combine the lemon juice and 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. When the bread comes out of the oven, pour the lemon juice mixture on top. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread