Banana Bread with Crunchy Sugar Topping

I have one more recipe to share from the special baking book, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. (for now!) In the book, this recipe is titled “The Only Banana Bread You’ll Ever Need.” That is a little over the top for me- I always welcome new recipes for banana bread. 🙂

In this version, the super moist bread is topped with crunchy, snowy granulated sugar. The sugar is dampened and clumped together before sprinkling it over the prepared batter. I had never used this technique and I loved it. The topping looked beautiful and had a wonderful contrasting texture.

I weighed the bananas and all of the dry ingredients. I modified the recipe by baking it in a Pullman loaf pan, adjusting the baking time accordingly. We loved it!

Yield: One loaf, Serves 8 to 10

  • nonstick cooking spray for the pan
  • 1 3/4 cups (400g) mashed, very ripe bananas (I used 3 1/2 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T (196g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (112g) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (75g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T dark rum, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 T (272g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 T (38g) granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×5-inch or Pullman loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper with a couple of inches of overhang on the long sides. Lightly coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, eggs, rum (if using), and vanilla.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and fold until just blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  8. Using your fingertips, sprinkle water over the top of the sugar. Work the water into the sugar, pinching it together, until it begins to resemble snow. (It should barely hold together when it is pinched together.) To add additional water, sprinkle water over the top using the opposite (clean) hand.
  9. Sprinkle the dampened sugar over the batter, aiming to get it clumped up together in spots.
  10. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes in a Pullman pan or 60 to 70 minutes in a standard loaf pan.
  11. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: Bread can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap and/or placed in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Donut Loaf

I felt very “out of the loop” recently when I saw numerous posts about this viral donut loaf one morning. I had to make it right away! 😉 It delivered as promised- it tasted like a giant cake donut. Ridiculously good. The freshly ground nutmeg made it exceptional.

This recipe was adapted from Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever, via thekitchn.com. It was reminiscent of a pound cake but had a lighter texture. Fabulous! Next time I plan to try baking it in my Pullman loaf pan.

Yield: 1 (9-inch) loaf, Serves 8 to 10

For the Loaf:

  • nonstick cooking spray for pan
  • 2 3/4 cups (352g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 14 T (197g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T (175g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (225g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature

To Finish:

  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar, divided, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 2 T (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  1. Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 325°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×5-inch light-colored metal loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with 2 perpendicular strips of parchment paper — 1 cut skinnier to fit lengthwise across the bottom and up the 2 short sides, 1 to fit crosswise and up the 2 longer sides. Cut the strips long enough to have a few inches of overhang on all sides.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.
  5. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Beat in 1/4 cup of the flour mixture.
  7. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time.
  8. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and stir in the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk in 5 alternating additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  9. Finish folding the batter by hand to make sure everything is incorporated — the batter will be very thick.
  10. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  11. Bake until the loaf is golden with a couple of cracks on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes.
  12. Let cool in the pan set over a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  13. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf from the pan. Let rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.
  14. When the loaf is cool and firm enough to handle, but still slightly warm, sift 2/3 cup of the confectioners’ sugar all over a large rimmed baking sheet (keep the sieve handy).
  15. Peel the parchment from the cake. Gently turn the loaf over in 1 hand, using part of your forearm to support it.
  16. Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the cake with some of the melted butter. Carefully set the loaf, right-side up, in the powdered sugar.
  17. From there, brush the long sides with the butter, turning the cake from side to side to coat in sugar, then brush and coat the short sides.
  18. Lastly, brush the top with the butter, and sift the remaining 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar over the top of the loaf.
  19. Roll the entire loaf in sugar once more so that it resembles a giant powdered sugar donut. (I skipped this step and my loaf had plenty of sugar.)
  20. Carefully transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving, touching up the loaf with a quick sifting of sugar as needed.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts & Raisins

One of my mom’s best friends shared her recipe for this special pumpkin bread with me. I first tried it last year over the holidays and absolutely loved it. She recommended using olive oil and whole wheat flour. I used olive oil and half whole wheat pastry flour this time. 🙂 It was incredibly moist and delicious.

I made one loaf in a standard loaf pan and the other in my new Nordic Ware fluted loaf pan to make it that much more special. I froze the special loaf to serve over Thanksgiving weekend. I love recipes that make one batch to enjoy right away and another for later- or to share.

Yield: 2 standard loaves

  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 15 to 16 oz can pumpkin purĂ©e (about 2 cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl with a spout.
  4. Blend in the oil and water.
  5. Add and whisk in the pumpkin purée.
  6. In a separate large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder.
  7. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; whisk to combine.
  8. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the pumpkin-egg mixture. Mix until just combined.
  9. Fold in the nuts and raisins.
  10. Using a ladle, disperse the batter between the two loaf pans.
  11. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests clean in the center. (I baked mine for 62 minutes on convection.)
  12. Cool on a rack in the pans; remove when cool.

Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

These muffins were incredibly moist, tender, and delicious. Perfect for a special autumn breakfast. 🙂 I divided the batter between standard muffin and mini-muffin pans. Mini-muffins are such a perfect after school or lunch box snack.

The recipe was adapted from The View from Great Island.com. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour and halved the amount of cinnamon-sugar topping. Amazing!

Yield: 20 standard muffins or 15 standard muffins plus 24 mini-muffins

Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (or 1 cup oat flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3/4 cup applesauce or apple butter
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (corn, canola, safflower)
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Topping:
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter muffins pans or coat with cooking oil spray. (I used standard and mini-muffin pans.)
  3. Place the rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor and process until the oats resemble flour. (Alternatively, use oat flour.)
  4. Whisk the dry ingredients together to combine.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until just combined, being careful not to over mix.
  7. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for about 19 minutes for standard muffins or about 10 minutes for mini-muffins.
  8. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and cinnamon together for the topping.
  9. Let the muffins cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from the pan.
  10. Brush the muffin tops with melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar to coat really well. If necessary, coat twice to get a good coverage.

Note: Muffins keep at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

Zucchini Bread

As if my CSA zucchini wasn’t enough, my friend brought me more beautiful zucchini from her garden. I made four loaves of this bread (two batches) with a single zucchini! Amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I incorporated whole wheat flour. As suggested, I used less sugar and also omitted the add-ins. We ate some, shared some, and froze some for later. This loaf improves with time- perfect to make the night before serving it for breakfast. I imagine it would also be delicious lightly toasted and topped with butter.

Yield: 2 loaves or 24 muffins

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil (can also used olive oil or another vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (can also used half (or even all) turbinado or half light brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups grated, packed zucchini, not wrung out (from about 10 oz zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 to 2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chocolate chips (or a combination), optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease 2 loaf pans (8×4 or 9×5) with butter and flour or with nonstick spray. Alternatively, grease 24 standard muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  3. Whisk eggs, oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bottom of a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients and whisk them in well.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Gently stir in flours, mixing only until incorporated.
  7. Fold in any add-ins, if using.
  8. Divide between prepared pans and bake for 55 to 65 minutes for a loaf, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before inverting and removing from the pans. The loaves can also cool completely in pans.
  10. Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 5 days. Loaves also freeze well.

Italian Easter Bread Wreath

Happy Easter! I made this sweet and tender orange-scented bread to serve for breakfast with our hard-boiled Easter eggs. The texture was similar to panettone without the dried fruit.

As an aside, I have to share a photo of my Easter cat with his catnip carrot. ❀ We are all very festive in my house!

Because I live in fear of overbaking my sweets, I was disappointed that this loaf was slightly overdone after I had already significantly reduced the baking time in the original recipe. :/ Don’t worry! We still gobbled it up, but, I modified the recipe below. The sweet orange glaze made it a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I weighed all of the dry ingredients and used vanilla and orange extract instead of Fiori di Sicilia. I also reduced the baking time and tented the loaf during baking. Pretty.

Yield: One 10-inch round loaf

For the Starter:

  • 120 g (1 cup) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) cool water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:

  • 269 g (2 1/4 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 67 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed, optional (I omitted it)
  • grated peel of 1 large orange

For the Glaze:

  • 113 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating
  1. To make the bread: Mix together the starter ingredients, cover the bowl, and let rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours.
  2. Next day, combine the bubbly starter with all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead, using a mixer or bread machine, until the dough is elastic and satiny. We don’t recommend preparing this dough by hand, as it’s quite sticky and challenging to bring together. (I used the beater until the dough came together and the dough hook for about 7 minutes on medium speed to knead the dough.)
  3. Grease a large bowl and let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I used a proofing oven.)
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it into three pieces, and shape each piece into an 18″-long rope. Braid the ropes together, and connect the two ends to form a wreath.
  5. Cover the wreath and allow it to rise until puffy, about 1 to 2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  6. Bake the wreath for 10-15 minutes, then tent the loaf with aluminum foil and reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 8-15 minutes. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register at least 190°F. (I baked it at 375°F for 15 minutes, and 350°F for 10 minutes and the internal temperature of the loaf was 205°F.)
  7. Remove the wreath from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool.
  8. To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk or orange juice. Add more liquid 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin and pourable.
  9. Drizzle the glaze onto the cooled braid, then decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Cornmeal Waffles with Greens & Creamy Chicken-Mushroom Sauce

I used to make my husband a dish similar to this WAY back in the day before we were married. He was thrilled with this upgraded version.

I was inspired to recreate the dish after seeing a creamy chicken and mushroom casserole post on Kitchen Sanctuary.com. It just looked like it should be served over waffles! The cornbread waffle recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. They were absolutely amazing. (We will be eating them for breakfast in the near future.) To make it a complete meal, I layered steamed baby greens between the saucy chicken and crispy waffle.

I adapted the sauce recipe by using chicken thighs, cremini mushrooms, fresh thyme, increasing the garlic, and omitting the celery salt. I used sweet onions in the sauce but would possibly substitute shallots next time. To make the waffle batter, I measured the liquid by volume and the dry ingredients by weight. Perfection.

We ate this dish for dinner but it would also be wonderful served for brunch.

For the Creamy Chicken-Mushroom Sauce:
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into big chunks or strips
  • 9 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 yellow or sweet onions, peeled and finely diced (can substitute shallots)
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 5-7 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 300 ml milk
  • 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 24 oz cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 240 ml heavy cream
  • 6 T cornstarch (mixed with 10 T pan sauce – to make a slurry)
  • fresh parsley, minced
  1. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl with 6 tablespoons of the flour plus 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Toss to cover the chicken in the flour and seasoning.
  2. Finely chop the garlic and onions/shallots in a food processor.
  3. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and add the chicken. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.) Brown all over (it doesn’t need to be cooked through at this point). Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
  4. Place the butter in the same pan and melt over a low-medium heat.
  5. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme sprigs and cook for 5 minutes until the onion softens, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Sprinkle on the remaining 3 T of flour and stir for a minute (it will be lumpy).
  7. Pour in a splash of the stock and stir, using a whisk until combined. Continue to add in stock, a little at a time, while stirring, until all the stock is added and you have a smooth sauce with no lumps.
  8. Remove thyme sprigs.
  9. Add the milk, bring to a boil, and continue to stir over the heat until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice.
  10. Add the mushrooms, the chicken and the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid and stir in the cream, then heat through for a further 5 minutes.
  12. Remove the lid and test for seasoning. Add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
  13. If you’d like the sauce to be any thicker, then at this point you can stir in the slurry. Add a little splash at a time, while stirring, until you get the thickness you want. (I incorporated all of it.)
  14. Serve garnished with minced parsley, as desired.

For the Cornmeal Waffles:

  • 1 3/4 cups (397 g) buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 T (85 g) butter, melted and cooled OR 3/8 cup (74 g) vegetable oil
  • 177 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 138 g (1 cup) yellow cornmeal
  • 25 g (2 T) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter or oil.
  2. In a separate bowl, blend together the dry ingredients, then quickly and gently combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  3. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes, to allow the cornmeal to soften.
  4. Drop the batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto a hot waffle iron, and cook it until steam stops seeping from the iron, about 5 minutes.
  5. Set aside on a cooling rack to allow steam to release. Keep warm in an oven or warming drawer until ready to serve.

For the Steamed Greens:

  • 4-8 cups mixed baby greens (kale, chard, spinach)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Microwave greens in a covered glass dish with 2 T water for about 4 minutes, or until wilted. (Alternatively, greens can be steamed on the stove top or sautéed.)
  2. Season with salt and pepper.

To Serve:

  1. Top 1-2 waffles with steamed greens.
  2. Smother with creamy chicken-mushroom sauce, garnish with minced parsley. Serve immediately.

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