December 18, 2012

Banana Pancakes

This is the story of two sad bananas.  They were gorgeous when I brought them home.  Then they sat there as they watched the other bananas in their bunch get picked, only to be left behind.  Their skin went from bright, sunny yellow to brown and spotty.

Once bananas pass a certain stage in their ripeness, I won't eat them.  It's a texture thing, I don't like mushy food and these were about as "mushad" as one could possibly get. 

Normally I would freeze them for smoothies or wait until I had one or two more for banana bread.
But,  I felt the need to rescue them and do something with them other than relegating them to the dark, frozen tundra that is my freezer.

Pancakes are not usually what I crave for breakfast.  Generally I find them to be too filling, but these are not.  After eating more than my fair share I am happy to report that I did not have that "blegh" feeling after eating.  You know that feeling...  Rewind back to Thanksgiving.  Yeah, that one.

As usual when I am looking for a recipe I know I have, I can't find it.  Luckily I found a good jumping off point on allrecipes and then tweaked it to suit my tastes.

mashing bananas!
Banana Pancakes
1 cup AP flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp melted butter, cooled
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.
In a medium bowl combine egg, milk, butter, vanilla and bananas.
Add dry ingredients to wet, mix until just combined and all flour is incorporated.
Batter will be lumpy, do not overmix. 
Ladle about a 1/3 cup batter into pan on medium heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

December 11, 2012

Pour Some Sugar on Me!

It's Christmas cookie time again and that means the cookie exchange!  However, if you are buying jar after jar of colored sanding sugars to sprinkle on your creations it can get very costly rather quickly.

Working in this business has made me acutely aware of what things REALLY cost.   Walking through stores and seeing someone pay $4.50 for a tiny 3 ounce bottle of colored sanding sugar for example...   I know that they could make huge bags of it for $4.50.

I have a drawer full of them, I'm not immune to be sucked in by all the pretty colors... but no more!

It's not that I'm cheap;  I prefer to think of it as frugal, but what gets under my skin is paying an exorbitant amount of money for what I'm getting.
It's all about getting a decent value for your money. 
So, with that said:  We are going to make our own sanding sugars this year for a fraction of what we would pay at the grocery store.

DIY Sanding Sugars

clear sanding sugar, can be purchased here
gel food coloring  (I don't recommend liquid)
pinch of cornstarch (optional)
wax or parchment paper lined sheet pan

gel color in squeeze bottles
The easiest way to do this is in a zip-top quart or gallon bag.  You can smoosh (yes, that's the technical term) it around inside the bag with your hands and there is virtually no mess to clean up.
gel colors in little pots

I tend to make it in large batches, so I usually use a bowl and a whisk to get started and then mix with my hands.  Unless you are making a few pounds at a time, the zip-top bag would be the way to go...

For a normal batch of cookies or cupcakes, start with 1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar.

Pour sugar into bag and add 1 drop at a time of gel food coloring.

Starting to look like sea glass!

Mix it around in the bag until color is consistent throughout.  If color isn't dark enough, add another drop and repeat until you reach desired shade.

IF you find your sugar is a bit clumpy or sticky from the food coloring, add a pinch of cornstarch and mix thoroughly.  I only do this when I have added quite a bit of color.   
The cornstarch helps to keep the sugar from clumping together, but it also makes it less shiny. 

Once you have reached your desired color, pour the sugar out onto your lined sheet pan and spread it out into a thin even layer so it can dry out a bit.   When sugar is no longer "tacky", store in airtight jars.   It will keep for months!

December 07, 2012

Gingerbread Cakes

Gingerbread and a cup of tea. 

This is what comes to mind when I think of my father's mother.  Sitting in her kitchen, eating a slice of gingerbread and having a cup of tea while she leaned against the sink with the sunlight shining in through the window on her smiling face.

The memories I have of her are few and far between.  She lived in Newfoundland and I lived in Ohio.  Spending time with her and getting to know her wasn't very easy given the 1600 mile separation.  I was about 16 years old when I asked her for this recipe, somehow even back then I related through food.

If you know nothing at all of Newfoundland,  this is one thing I experienced over and over:  
Visiting is practically an Olympic sport and they excel at it.  You are offered a cup of tea as soon as you cross the threshold and of course something to eat with the tea... whether it be toast, cookies, cake, etc.

At first I thought this was just something that my relatives did.  Then I quickly realized after nearly bursting out of my jeans, it was what everyone did.

The recipe below is slightly tweaked (although not much) from Nanny's original recipe. I had thought about adding a ganache or a creme anglaise to it, but decided to leave well enough alone.  

As you go "visiting" this holiday season, take a few of these with you to share as you make the rounds... 
Put the kettle on, stay for a cup of tea and make some memories.

Gingerbread Cakes

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup strong tea
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a mini bundt pan (or muffin pan) and set aside.
In a small bowl, add baking soda to tea, stir and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

Using paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add egg and beat until incorporated.  Add molasses and tea mixture.

At this point, the batter will appear broken.  Don't panic, it will come together once flour mixture is added.

Scrape down bowl, add flour mixture and beat until combined.

Divide batter evenly, filling about 2/3 up.  Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until knife comes out clean, about 15 - 18 minutes.  Let cakes cool slightly in pan.  Remove cakes and place upside down to cool completely on wire rack.

Dust with powdered sugar.


December 01, 2012

Tom & Jerry

It has come to my attention recently that some of you only know this pair of names as a cartoon duo.

As soon as there is a chill in the air, I start craving this drink.  Think of it as a warm, boozy milkshake. Doesn't that sound amazing?! It's even better than you think...

I won't lie, it isn't one of those "Oh, I'll just pull a bottle down and shake" kind of drinks.  It takes a little planning and effort, but the end result is worth the 10 minutes of energy it requires.

This drink has such a loyal fan base that there are special "Tom & Jerry" punchbowl sets with matching mugs.  I kid you not...  Here's a pic to prove it:

In all its retro glory!
Everyone knows eggnog.  It's predictable and commonplace at holiday parties, but make a batch of this and people will stand up (although not for long...) and pay attention.  You may be inundated with recipe requests, so be prepared!  
I may not have been legal drinking age the first time I had one, which may have bolstered its appeal to me at the time, however in an effort to keep my parental units out of the clink, let's just say for arguments sake that I was 21. 
The point of this divulgence of info is not to horrify my lovely mother, although I can say with certainty that I have more than likely succeeded in spades, was to show my long standing loyalty to this holiday libation...  and with that said, I'm off to partake!

Tom & Jerry
-makes 4

3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch baking soda
1 cup + 1 tbsp Jamaican rum
2 oz. brandy
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg + extra for garnish

(because this recipe calls for raw egg, I recommend using the best quality eggs you can find)

Beat egg yolks until light in color. Add powdered sugar, baking soda, 1 tbsp rum, cinnamon and nutmeg to yolks and beat again to combine. If needed, add another tbsp of powdered sugar.  The batter needs to be thick.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and slightly frothy.  If you own an immersion (stick) blender, break it out.  Those egg whites will be fluffy in 30 seconds.
Fold whites into yolk mixture and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat milk over low heat until it begins to simmer.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Warm mugs (I usually pour in hot water from a kettle, then dump it out) and add 1 1/2 tbsps of batter to each mug, top with a few tbsps of hot milk.  While stirring constantly, add 2 ozs rum then top with more milk to 1/4" below rim of mug.  Stir to combine.  Top with brandy and sprinkle nutmeg for garnish.