Sunday, August 31, 2008

Banana Bread

Can you believe I made this in my toaster oven? The little loaf pan looked so small and lonely in the big full-sized oven that it decided to try to use the toaster oven - and it fit! However, I don't know if it's the recipe of the toaster oven or some other problem of my own (I'm not exactly the best baker out there after all), but the bottom was on the verge of burning and the banana bread was a bit on the dry side. So I cannot recommend this recipe, nor can I recommend baking banana bread in the toaster oven, but I also don't NOT recommend them. =P

At least it looks good, right?

I used a recipe from Joy of Baking in case you want to give it a try. Hopefully yours will turn out better than mine!


1 cup (115 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

1 3/4 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 ripe large bananas (approximately 1 pound or 454 grams), mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Set aside.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nuts. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.) Scrape batter into prepared pan and place the slices of banana on top of the batter for garnish. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. This bread can be frozen.

Makes 1 - 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chicken Fajitas

First of all, I apologize for the lack of posts lately. Work and life have been busy, but I have lots of pictures in my backlog that I'll hopefully get around to posting about one of these days. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like work or life is gonna let up for a while, but here's a quick and easy fajita recipe for now...

I grew up in a Chinese household that ate mostly Chinese food. I learned to cook various Chinese dishes and spaghetti out of a jar. Fajitas were my first attempt at something that was non-Chinese and non-spaghetti. It seemed like a simple enough dish to use as a means of "popping my cherry" into the world of western cooking, but guess tasted like Chinese stir fry! What the heck? I didn't use any soy sauce or chili paste or anything else remotely Asian, I swear!

After that experience, I shyed away from western cooking and tried to stick to what I knew, happy to live in culinary ignorance. After all, that's what restaurants are for, right? Then one fateful day, after years of cooking Chinese food day in and day out for my man, the hubz (boyfriend at the time) mentions to me in casual conversation that he's not really a fan of Chinese food and would much rather eat Western food. What?!?! NOW he tells me this??? I had no idea! He ate everything I made without complaint for years, how was I supposed to know? I guess that just goes to show you how much loved me, not wanting to hurt my feelings and showing support for my efforts. What a sweetie pie, huh? I guess he was just being sweet like that...smiling his way through torturous meals.

Well, wanting to be a good girlfriend and make his tummy happy, I started to branch out a bit. It's been a long road and I still have much to learn and am continuously improving, but I'm having lots fun in the process! I also finally figured out how to make fajitas that don't taste like stirfry!

- tortillas
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 bell pepper (sliced thinly)
- 1 onion (sliced thinly)
- salt or seasoned salt
- pepper

Optional condiments:
- salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, mexican rice, beans, etc.

Salt and pepper the chicken and grill. Let rest and slice.

Grill the peppers and onions or sautee with a bit of oil, salt and pepper.

Stick everything in a tortilla and add condiments as desired.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Wow, this was definitely a labor of love! One 14 hour rise for the starter, 3 hour-long rises before shaping the dough, then one last 60-90 minute rise after shaping. Granted, it's mostly a lot of waiting around, but you gotta really plan ahead and probably shouldn't stray too far since you gotta come back and tend to it pretty often.

Was it worth it? Most definitely! But I think I'm going to try to make extra and freeze the dough next time? If you have any experience with this, please let me know if that's a bad idea. Otherwise, when I eventually get around to trying it out, I'll let you know if it's a bad idea or not...

Another thing that I'd like to see is more/bigger air bubles like a store-bought baguette. Maybe a baking stone would've helped with that? So would using bread flour instead of all purpose? Guess who's going shopping!

Anyway, I found this recipe on King Arthur's blog. I wonder if I could shortcut the recipe and add more yeast and shorten the rising times, but I probably shouldn't press my luck. I've come a long way from messing up cupcakes out of a box and have no desire to go back to my old ways of not following directions and screwing everything up.


Note: I actually made the baguette before I made the bruschetta (I just hadn't written up the post yet) and used it for the bruschetta. Yummy yummy!

1/2 cup water
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
All of the starter
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients together till smooth, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
Preparing the Dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix and knead them together -- by hand, mixer or bread machine -- till you've made a soft, somewhat smooth dough; it should be cohesive, but the surface should still be a bit rough. Allow the dough to rise, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap, for 3 hours, gently deflating it and turning it over after 1 hour, and then again after 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces (if you're using our Steam Baking Master, or three pieces, for longer, thinner baguettes. Shape each piece into a rough, slightly flattened oval, cover with greased plastic wrap, and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, fold the dough in half lengthwise, and seal the edges with the heel of your hand. Flatten it slightly, and fold and seal again. With the seam-side down, cup your fingers and gently roll the dough into a log that would fit whatever pan or baking stone you'll be using to bake in. Place the logs in the folds of a floured couche, which you've set onto a sheet pan or pans, or directly onto the pan (lightly greased or parchment-lined). Cover them with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the loaves to rise till they have just about doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Note: For the best, most crispy-crackly crust, cover the shaped baguettes in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, covered, while you preheat your oven.

Preheat your oven to 425°F; if you're using a baking stone, place it on the lowest shelf. Roll the risen baguettes from the couche onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined pan of your choice -- or onto a peel, if you're baking directly on the stone. (If you're using the Steam Baking Master, follow the manufacturer's baking directions.) Place the baguettes in the oven.

Bake the baguettes for 25 to 30 minutes, until they're a deep, golden brown. Turn off the oven, crack it open about 2 inches, and allow the baguettes to cool in the oven. Yield: 2 shorter, fatter baguettes or 3 longer, skinnier baguettes.