Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Muffins!

I’ve been away for a bit – travelling for work – so haven’t had a lot of chances to bake anything new or crochet anything fancy. But it’s a long weekend here in Ontario and I had some older bananas to use up. One thing led to another and now there are muffins cooling on my counter.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins (not ‘jumbo’, just large). 

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 mashed bananas
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
6 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Spray or grease-and-flour a muffin tray. You could use cupcake liners if you happen to know where yours are at the moment – some of us aren’t that prepared for this whole thing.
  2. Mix together the bananas, egg, oil, vanilla, and brown sugar.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix just ’til everything is combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups.
  5. Bake for 18-22 minutes (test after 18 minutes) – or until the toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Or, y’know, eat them scaldingly hot and burn your tongue. Whatever works for you.
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Bacon Cheddar Biscuits.

Cheddar AND Bacon!

Cheddar AND Bacon!

For some inexplicable reason, I find biscuits difficult to make. They come out too dry. Too bland. Not puffy enough. (Or all of the above.)

My husband loves biscuits.

Of course.

I stumbled across a recipe that sounded easy and I tweaked it a bit for our own tastes. And it is SO GOOD that I’m sure no one in the house would complain if I made them every day. They’re easy, but they’re also crispy and buttery and very, very tasty.

Bacon Cheddar Biscuits

Makes about 20.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of cold butter, cut into chunks
1 rounded cup of shredded old cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of precooked, crumbled bacon
1 cup of whole milk
1 egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In your food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Toss in the chunks of butter and pulse into the chunks turn into crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the egg and the milk.
  5. In a large bowl, dump the contents of the food processor. Stir in the bacon and the shredded cheese.
  6. Pour the egg/milk mixture into the large bowl and stir.
  7. It will be sticky. Very, very sticky. Use your hands to gently combine everything, if needed.
  8. Lightly flour your counter and scrape the dough onto it. Using your hands, press the dough down until it’s about 1/2 an inch thick.
  9. Use a round cutter (I use a 2″ one) to cut out the biscuits. Place them on the baking tray, about an inch apart (they don’t expand much outward, but they do grow upward).
  10. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until they’re crisp and lightly browned.
  11. The original recipe said they could be frozen. I refuse to believe that there could possibly be any left over for that.

T-Rex Cookies.

I adore T-Rex – for reasons that make for too long of a story to tell here. But for Solstice this year, one of my sons bought me a T-Rex cookie cutter. I waited, patiently, for the holidays to be over so we would have room for snacks – and today I made a trial batch of cut-out, flood-iced cookies.

SO CUTE.

SO CUTE.

I’ll be honest – this is the one that turned out the best. It was a learning process to get the eye placed properly and the outline and flooding done reasonably. But I am ridiculously pleased with how they turned out – and sad that I didn’t make more of them (this recipe made 9 cookies).

Here’s the cookie recipe that I used:

1 Dozen Cut-Out Cookies

Ingredients
3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla again)
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a stand mixer,  cream together the butter and sugar. Scrape down the sides frequently.
  3. Once everything is light and fluffy, add the egg yolk and extracts. Mix well.
  4. Sprinkle half the flour mixture into the bowl and continue to mix on a low speed until combined. Add the remainder of the flour mixture.
  5. Mix until no visible flour remains (don’t over-mix!)
  6. Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Squish the dough into a ball. Using a floured rolling pin,  roll out the dough until it’s large enough to make approximately 8 medium-sized cut-outs.
  7. Place the shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Gather the dough scraps,  re-roll, and cut out the rest of the shapes. Put them on the cookie sheet too!
  9. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer and start heating your oven to 350F.
  10. When the oven reaches temperature, remove the cookies from the freezer and put them into the oven.
  11. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just start to turn brown.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the pan for a few minutes and then move them a wire rack to cool completely.
  13. Don’t frost the cookies until they’re fully cooled.

I used this method for doing the outline and flooding. It worked well, but I had to add quite a bit more powdered sugar to my recipe (possibly because I make my own sugar in the blender so it doesn’t contain corn starch?)

For my own records, this is what the recipe looked like for me in the end:

Icing for Border & Flooding

For the border icing:

1.5 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring extract
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons milk or water
Food coloring, optional

For the flood icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring extract
2 1/2 tablespoons milk or water
Food coloring, optional

Directions:

  1. Mix the ingredients together for the border icing. It should be quite thick. Spoon it into a squeeze bottle and then make the outlines. Allow the icing to dry to the touch (about 10 minutes, at most).
  2. Mix the flood icing. it should be thick but not too much. Spoon it into a squeeze bottle and then use it like a magic marker to colour inside the border icing. FUN. Allow to dry overnight.

Guest Post: Abby’s Christmas Crack.

This is a guest post from my delightful friend Abby. She made this recipe for our work holiday drop-in; I am pretty sure that all of it was gone into the bellies of our staff before anyone managed to drop in. It’s called “Christmas Crack” but I feel confident that we could rename it “Violet’s Birthday Crack” or “Monday Crack”. Whatever. Here we go. Let’s start with a photo that Abby stole from the internet..

Mmmm.. Crack!

Mmmm.. Crack!

Christmas Crack

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar (use light probably – dark was kinda weird)
about a half a bag of pretzels (mini ones or square ones are best but in a pinch just rough crush sticks or regular pretzels in your hands)
1 bag chocolate chips (mini work best)
coarse sea salt

Directions:

  1. First and foremost – relax! this is kind of a no-brainer type of recipe so don’t freak out about it. don’t go all A-type or freak-out – just make the damn thing. Maybe have a drink to help with the relaxing (this part is optional but recommended).
  2. Start by lining a medium-size/regular cookie sheet with tinfoil. The thing needs to have sides. Don’t be all Martha Stewart-y and think parchment is better here – it will stick. $.50 dollarstore tin foil will do the job, just make sure it covers the cookie sheet (and up the sides) to make for easy clean-up.
  3. Dump the pretzels onto the cookie sheet and give’r a shake. Aim for about a single layer – roughly half of the bags I buy. But again, refer back to step 1.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the sugar in a pot. Again, go back to step one. This isn’t rocket science folks. Melt the butter however you want – hi, medium heat – doesn’t matter. Add in the sugar and stir until the butter is fully incorporated. This takes a few minutes but really, just take a breath (or a drink) and it will happen. Keep stirring til it comes to a pretty decent bubble, then turn down the heat to low. Watch the pretty bubbles and stir for about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the bubbly sugar/butter mixture over the pretzels. You guessed it – refer back to #1. Try to pour it over most of the pan but the stuff will spread out in the oven. Promise.
  6. Pop the pan into the oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn off the oven. Pull out the pan – that delicious goo spread out didn’t it? Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the whole bubbly thing. Pop back into the (now off but still hot) oven for a minute-ish to melt the chocolate. Remove from oven – use a spatula to spread out the chocolate. Some of the pretzels might not be fully covered, some might shift – this ain’t a beauty pageant kids. Relax. Sprinkle with coarse sea-salt – however much you want.
  8. Let sit for a few minutes while you clean up (one pot. nice.) and then pop in the freezer for about an hour. Remove from tinfoil and break into piece. Done!

Store in a container in the freezer. Best served if it’s sit out at room temp for a little bit but I’ve been known to grab a piece every time I pass by the freezer. Ain’t no shame.

Looks like a lot of steps but to review: Line a pan. Dump pretzels. Shake. Let butter and sugar make pretty bubbles. Pour. Oven. Chocolate. Oven. Salt. Freezer. BAM.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Cooooookie.

Cooooookie.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Makes a thick, chewy, 10″ cookie.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups coffee/chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla, mixing and scraping down the sides of the mixer.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt – mix to combine.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and mix just until everything is neat and tidy together.
  5. Firmly press the dough into a 10″ cast iron skillet.
  6. Bake for  about 20 minutes (until golden and  set)
  7. Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Notes:
I used coffee-flavoured chocolate chips – the local grocery store had them available just before Christmas, so I figured I’d try them. You can use whatever kind of chocolatey-chip-like thing you like best. Adapted from this recipe.

1 Hour Focaccia Bread.

SO GOOD.

SO GOOD.

When I bought my cast iron skillet, a friend sent me a bunch of links on Pinterest to various foods – made in cast iron skillets. This one intrigued me in no small part because the claim was that it could be made in an hour (or less) and because it’s bread. Also, I’m a fan of focaccia bread.

There’s one huge problem with this bread – it was gone, completely, within 10 minutes of coming out of the oven. And then we were sad. It’s soft, buttery, covered in melted parmesan cheese (or clumps of parmesan, if you’re like me and can’t quite brush things on evenly) and the bottom is lightly crispy.

It took a lot of self-control to not make another one right away.

1 Hour Skillet Focaccia Bread.

Makes one 10″ focaccia bread.

Ingredients

3/4 cup warm water (~100F)
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted + extra for greasing the skillet
1 Tbsp grated parmesan
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Instructions:

  1. Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer and add sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir gently to mix.  Wait for the yeast to foam – yay yeast!
  3. With the mixer on low, add 1 cup of flour and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  4. When flour is incorporated, add the olive oil and continue to mix.
  5. Slowly add the remaining cup of flour – until the dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl.

  6. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees F and when it’s ready turn it off (leave the door closed). If your oven has a proof setting, you can skip this step.
  7. Grease the skillet with a bit of butter.
  8. Dump the remaining flour onto your counter. Dump the dough onto that flour! Knead gently until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
  9. Roll the dough into a circle that’s about 10″ – the size of the skillet. Place the dough into the greased skillet and, using your fingers, stretch the dough upward on the sides.
  10. Cover the dough with a cloth and place into the warm oven (or in the oven with the ‘proof’ setting on).
  11. Wait 20 minutes.
  12. Take the skillet out of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F.  Using your fingertips, jab the dough to make some dents (these will collect the butter and the cheese and the spices.. oh yeah.)
  13. In a small cup, mix the melted butter, parmesan, and Italian seasoning. Brush the dough with half the mixture.
  14. When the oven has reached 400F, put the skillet back in there and bake for 20 minutes (or until golden brown on top).
  15. After removing the bread from the oven, brush it with the rest of the butter mixture.
  16. Cool slightly, slice, and eat. (Good luck making this last more than 10 minutes.)

Notes:
You can easily mix the dough by hand – no need to use the food processor.  Just knead it!

“Artisan” Bread.

Crusty, tasty bread.

Crusty, tasty bread.

Everybody loves this recipe because it really and truly is as easy as it looks. And everyone makes it and says, “I think I did it wrong..” because of the wet dough and the fact that it just seems WAY too easy for anyone who’s ever made bread before (or who has decided not to make bread because it seemed too difficult).

“Artisan” Crusty Bread
Makes one lovely loaf.
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
Directions: 
  1. Combine flour, salt, and yeast into a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and mix (by hand) until everything is combined and rough looking.  The dough is very, very soft – you won’t need to put much effort into mixing this up.
  3. Put a lid on your bowl, or cover with plastic cling wrap. Set it aside for a minimum of 12 hours (and as many as 24). The dough blob will get much larger, look very bubbly and wet, and you’ll be concerned that you have done something wrong. Don’t panic.
  4. Heat the oven to 450F.  While the oven is preheating, place a cast iron Dutch oven (and lid) inside. Once the oven has reached 450, start timing for 30 minutes. (The Dutch oven is empty. No bread dough in there.)
  5. While the oven is heating, heavily flour your counter and dump the dough on top. It will be very sticky, wet, and goopy. You will again be concerned that you have done something wrong. Don’t panic.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball – not kneading, just sort of prodding it into shape –  and cover the ball with plastic wrap. Set aside until the 30 minutes of Dutch oven-heating are finished.
  7. When the oven has heated, and the Dutch oven has been inside for 30 minutes, pull out the Dutch oven and plunk the dough into it. You can use a layer of parchment paper if you like (I did) to make it easier to transfer the dough from the counter into the really, really hot Dutch oven.
  8. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and put it back into the oven for 30 minutes.
  9. After 30 minutes,  remove the lid.. and bake an additional 15 minutes.
  10. Remove bread from oven, pull it out of the Dutch oven, and place on a cooling rack to cool.
  11. Cool fully before slicing. Enjoy the crackling noises!

Updated to add:
You can make this in a Dutch oven that’s as small at 3 quarts, apparently. I used a 6 quart and the loaf sat in the middle and didn’t get anywhere close to the sides. All good!  You can also make it in any oven-safe pot with a lid, according to the internet.