18 December 2010

Pear & Banana Nut Bread

Dear Bananas,
I don't like you.  I can smell you (and thus, be disgusted by you) from miles away.  Why are you so smelly?  Why are you mushy?  Why can't you be better at being fruit?  No... I don't like you at all, bananas.

Before I continue, let me assure you that this is actually a very good recipe, and I ate and enjoyed the results. Yummy.  I just wasn't expecting the yummy-ness.

I bet there are people out there who like bananas, love pears, and can't imagine life without peanuts.  To them, this bread must seem almost magical.  I am not one of those people.  I don't like any of those things.  I've already expressed how I feel about bananas.  Pears are less bad than bananas, but I really only like them when poached.  Peanut butter is good.  Regular peanuts?  No, thanks.  Why did I make this bread again?

Oh, yes.  I was about to leave town for a while, and found myself needing to use up a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables, lest they spoil while I was away.  I kind of threw this bread together without much of a thought, since if I had thought about it, I would have... well... not done it.  At least some of my least favourite foods got to hang out together.

Imagine my shock when it was actually tasty!  I ate it for breakfast.  Amazing and true.  I had it with some salted butter, and I bet a nice slather of cream cheese would be just the thing for this.

Pear & Banana Nut Bread
Loosely based on a banana bread recipe from Gourmet, found on Epicurious.

1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 very ripe banana
1 very ripe pear, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in large bowl at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in banana, pear (if your pear is very ripe the mixer should chop it up pretty well - if not, dice beforehand), buttermilk, and vanilla. Using a spoon instead of the mixer, fold in flour mixture and peanuts gently but thoroughly.

Pour into loaf pan and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Tent with foil once the top browns to avoid burning the top and edges.

Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn right side up and cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf.

12 December 2010

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

It's Christmas at KitchenLab - the very first one!

First off, you might notice that KitchenLab has a new look.  It's a little early Christmas present for my blog, which is almost one year old.  That new header/logo up top is fancy.  I made it myself (proud Kristen beams and hugs laptop).  Also, please enjoy the festive holiday background.  My PhD supervisor has me learning a few web design tricks (which are useful for lab things) so I'm applying them, judiciously, to my other little habit here in cyberspace.  I actually edited my own HTML.  It was scary, but I lived.

Secondly, Christmas is coming soon, which can only mean that my kitchen has exploded with cookies.  Holy smokes!  So far, I have made 5 6 kinds of cookies, totalling approximately 300 of the little buggers.  They are supposed to be for gifts, and not for putting into my face, but I am having troubles.  Especially with this one in particular.  They are big and soft and full of deliciousness - but have oats and fresh fruit in them, so they can't be that bad for you, right??

Happy Christmas from KitchenLab!

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
Original recipe from Bon App├ętit

1 cup (120g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 140g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats (porridge oats)
1/2 cup (50g) each milk chocolate, semisweet/plain chocolate, and white chocolate - chopped or chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F/175C. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend.

In another (large) bowl, beat butter and both sugars until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in all chocolate chips and cranberries.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are light brown, about 16 minutes (about 9 minutes for fan-assisted ovens). Cool on sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.

At this point you can also drizzle with melted chocolate; I opted not to do so.

Makes about 30 cookies.

03 December 2010

Plum & Apple Jam

I recently found some plums in the reduced section at the grocery store.  Now, I know it's December, and I know I was at a grocery store in Scotland -- so I did have plenty of fair warning that the fruit might not be at its best.  But I simply couldn't help myself.  Plums have a special place in my heart.  And hey, they were dirt cheap.

These plums were, so sadly (but unsurprisingly) nothing like the plums I had over the summer.  At my friend's country home in Portugal, we took a post-lunch stroll through a little grove of plum trees, and the red globes were so ripe they practically jumped off the tree and into my basket.  We ate as many as we humanly could, then I took a nap in a hammock.  This was my favourite day of the whole summer.

So, maybe you understand how I couldn't sit idly back and allow these plums to be terrible - it would be an affront to my memory and a mar on my idea of plum-ness.  I told my Portuguese friend about my plan to rescue my plums by making a jam.  He has a way of pointing out the oddities of the English language to me, and commented amusedly on the concept of rescuing a plum.  Well, consider me the patron saint of plums, because my plan worked out marvellously.

Apple & Plum Jam
This is a take on my Chilli Jam recipe I blogged about not too long ago.

3 apples
3 plums
150g sugar (3/4 cup)
dash cinnamon
1/2 tea lemon zest

Roughly chop apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a saucepan with some water.  Bring to a boil and allow to simmer about 1 hour, until apples are cooked through.  Strain solids out using a fine-meshed seive, pressing down with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Allow mixture to cool completely (I leave this overnight in the fridge).

Pit and roughly chop plums, and add to saucepan with apple juice.  Bring to a boil, allowing plums to fully cook in apple juice.  When they are transparent, gently smash the plum pieces using a potato masher.  Add sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest.  Simmer, uncovered, until mixture begins to gel.  Turn the heat up and watch the magic happen.  (I had a bit of trouble getting this to gel - make sure the heat is high enough.  It will gel when two things have happened: the water/sugar/pectin ratio is just right - this happens automatically as your mixture loses steam while boiling - and when it reaches the right temperature.)

Pour hot jam into a glass jar and store in the fridge up to one month.

Makes one large-ish jar of jam.