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.

After-School Specials

After making the amazing Donut Loaf from this special book, I had to try a cookie. My husband picked this cookie which is a chocolate chip, oatmeal, and snickerdoodle cookie “rolled into one recipe.” Each flavor was distinct! They were definitely a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. I weighed the dry ingredients, used semi-sweet chocolate chips, scooped the cookie dough prior to refrigerating, and modified the baking time.

By keeping the cold (pre-scooped) dough tightly wrapped in the refrigerator and baking the cookies in small batches just prior to serving, we ate them warm from the oven every time. Despite the title, I served them after-dinner instead of after-school. 😉 Great!

Yield: about 40 cookies

For the Dough:

  • 225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 57g (1/4 cup) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 250g (2 1/2 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 256g (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, weighed or spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda, sifted
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt such as Fleur de Sel or Maldon
  • 256g (1 1/2 cups) semi-sweet or bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips

For the Coating:

  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the granulated and brown sugar and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until aerated and noticeably fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, giving each about 30 seconds of beating time to incorporate fully.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and fine and flaky salt.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly stir in the dry ingredients.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Using a large cookie scoop, form the dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place on the prepared cookie sheet.
  8. Cover the cookie sheet tightly with plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  9. Position 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  10. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt to make the coating.
  11. One at a time, form the refrigerated scoops of dough into balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar coating.
  12. Evenly space the dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (I placed 8 cookies per sheet.)
  13. Bake until golden and puffed, about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time.
  14. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature 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.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Admittedly, I love all types of chocolate chip cookies. 😉 That being said, these might be my ultimate favorite chocolate chip cookies. They are thick, crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and are loaded with both semi-sweet and dark chocolate. SO good.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Leite. I weighed all of the dry ingredients, modified the cookie size and baking time, and used a mixture of chopped bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate as well as semi-sweet chocolate chips. The original recipe uses disks of chocolate because they melt differently than chocolate chips; the chopped chocolate had the same effect.

Prior to baking, the dough is refrigerated for 24 to 36 hours. This results in a firmer dough because the dry ingredients absorb the wet ingredients. I also froze scoops of this cookie dough with great success.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves (at least 60 % cacao)(I used a combination of semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate)(see note below)
  • flaky sea salt
  1. Sift or whisk flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.
  6. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them.
  7. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
  8. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  9. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop mounds of dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. (I placed 8 cookies per sheet.)
  10. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 14 to 16 minutes.
  11. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more.
  12. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Serve warm.

Chocolate: Bittersweet chocolate disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are sold at Whole Foods.
Note: The dough can be scooped into portions and frozen. Bake directly from the freezer adding 2 minutes onto the baking time.

Butter Pecan Blondies

Butter pecan is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. This flavor combination is also absolutely perfect in a buttery blondie. This easy recipe uses pantry staples to create a quick dessert without even using a mixer!

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I omitted the rum and substituted an additional teaspoon of vanilla extract in its place. I baked mine long enough to achieve light golden brown color but may increase the baking time next time to heighten the depth of flavor.

  • 1 1/2 cups whole raw pecans
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups light-brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum, optional (can substitute 1 additional tsp of vanilla extract)
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, 6 to 7 minutes. Let cool, then chop.
  3. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter (or coat with cooking oil spray), then dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together butter and 2 cups brown sugar until combined.
  6. Add eggs to the butter and sugar mixture; whisk until combined. Add vanilla and rum.
  7. Fold in flour mixture with a spatula until just combined (do not overmix).
  8. Fold in half of nuts.
  9. Transfer batter to prepared dish; smooth top with an offset spatula.
  10. Sprinkle top with remaining nuts and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
  11. Bake until golden around edges and a tester inserted in center comes out with very few crumbs, 22 to 24 minutes. (Watching carefully- Next time I may increase the baking time up to 28 to 30 minutes.)
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Note: Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Variations: If you’d rather not use rum, increase the amount of vanilla to 4 teaspoons.

Flourless Cocoa Cookies

Yes! More cookies and ice cream. In fact, I have several cookie drafts waiting to be shared. All of a sudden, it just feels like it’s finally time. 🙂

These cookies are a fabulous hybrid of a fudgy brownie and a cookie. This recipe was adapted from The Fearless Baker by Erin Jeanne McDowell via The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I weighed the dry ingredients, included the cinnamon, and used 70% cacao dark chocolate chopped into chunks. Great.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups/340 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ cup/106 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/140 grams bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used 70% cacao dark chocolate)
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (I used Fleur de Sel)
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended.
  3. In another large bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Whisk into eggs, changing to a spatula when the batter becomes too thick to whisk.
  5. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chunks.
  6. Use a large 2-tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop cookies onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 inches between them. (I baked 9 on each baking sheet.) Sprinkle with flaky salt.
  7. Bake, rotating front to back, and top to bottom, halfway through, until set around the edges, cracked on top and slightly underbaked in the middle, 10 to 13 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely on the baking sheets. Store carefully in an airtight container.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies

My son is becoming more interested in cooking! 🙂 He actually made this cookie dough almost completely on his own.

This recipe is from Food 52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes that will Change the Way You Cook by Kristen Miglore. We modified the size of the cookies, used semi-sweet chocolate, and refrigerated the dough prior to baking. As they were best served warm from the oven, we baked each batch separately just prior to serving. We also served them with vanilla ice cream, which I would highly recommend!

The cookies had a deep toasty flavor with caramelization of the dark brown sugar on the edges. My husband was absolutely in love with the texture- a little bit crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Yum.

Yield: Makes about 48 cookies

  • 3 cups (360g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (230g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) pieces
  • 1 cup (220g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz (225g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch (6mm and 1.3cm) pieces (I used 10 oz semisweet chocolate chunks from Trader Joe’s)
  • ice cream, for serving, optional
  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Put the butter and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low-speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes.
  3. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined.
  5. Mix in the vanilla.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low-speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds.
  7. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  8. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low-speed until the chocolate is evenly combined.
  9. Use a spatula to scrape down the the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  10. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop mounds of dough about (1 1/2 tablespoons in size) and place on a plastic-wrap lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour to overnight. (I kept some of the dough refrigerated for an entire week prior to baking with perfect results.)
  11. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  12. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  13. Place the cookie dough on the prepared sheets, leaving 2 inches between them, about 8 to a sheet.
  14. Bake for 16 minutes (one pan at a time) or 18 minutes (two pans at a time), rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown.
  15. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Note: These cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or later the same day. They will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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