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.

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.

Danish Butter Cookies

Happy New Year! I have many recipes to share- beginning with the recipes for the holiday cookies that were new to my assortment this year.

My husband could eat Danish butter cookies on a daily basis. 😉 I decided to add them to my Christmas cookie assortment this year after seeing and episode about Scandinavian cookies on Martha Bakes.

This simple and pure version from Martha Stewart is most successful when using high-quality ingredients. I used King Arthur Flour and Plugra European-style butter. I adapted the recipe by weighing the flour and by using a cookie press to make the cookies instead of piping them. Nice.

Yield: about 40 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) best-quality salted butter, room temperature (I used Plugra)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 300 g (2 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla and egg, and beat to combine.
  4. Gradually add flour, 1 cup at a time, and beat until well incorporated.
  5. Transfer dough to a cookie press, I used the wreath disc, or into a pastry bag fitted with a 7/16-inch star tip (such as Ateco #825 or Wilton #4B).
  6. Spritz cookie shapes or pipe dough into 2 1/2-inch rings onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake, rotating halfway through, until lightly golden around edges but still light on top, about 12 to 14 minutes for spritz cookies or up to 20 minutes for piped cookies.
  8. Transfer sheets to wire racks; let cool completely.

Sunflower Birthday Cake (Yellow Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting & Oreo Filling)

My baby celebrated her 13th birthday last week. I officially have two teenagers in my house!

She requested a yellow-themed celebration. Yellow is indeed her favorite color, but I think that it was also an excuse to have vanilla Oreos and goldfish crackers around to nibble on. 😉 Our decor included yellow mums, yellow balloons, yellow streamers, yellow tablecloths and place settings, and “yellowish” birthday cake popcorn. We also had a yellow cake with yellow (sunflower-themed) cream cheese frosting and pale yellow number cookies, our family birthday tradition. It was a solid theme!

The recipe for the yellow layer cake was adapted from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. I used the vanilla cream cheese frosting with Oreo filling from her 12th birthday cake. There was enough frosting for the layer cake and 12 cupcakes- perfect.

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake, generously frosted

For the Cake:

  • 7 oz (1 3/4 cups) plain cake flour, sifted, plus more for dusting pans
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
  • vanilla cream cheese frosting, recipe below
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout. Measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
  5. With the mixture still running at the lowest speed, add the butter, one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, about 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added.
  6. Add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, about 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  8. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow, steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  9. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.
  10. Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans. (about 1 lb plus 2.5 oz per pan) Spread to the sides of the pans and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula.
  11. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 27 minutes. The cakes will mound slightly but will level when cooled.
  12. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  13. Run a knife around the pan perimeter to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate and reinvert onto another wire rack. Repeat for the other layer. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and Oreo Filling & Sunflower Design:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 15 mini-Oreos, crushed in a food processor, plus more for the center of the cake sunflower
  • yellow and green gel food coloring
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
  4. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
  5. Reserve 1/4 cup icing for the green leaves, set aside.
  6. Tint the remaining icing pale yellow with food coloring, mixing well.
  7. Remove 1 1/4 cup of icing for the Oreo filling and place in separate bowl.
  8. Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling icing. Spread on one of the layers.
  9. Place the second layer on top.
  10. Cover cake with a crumb coat and chill briefly, if necessary before continuing.
  11. Using an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with the pale yellow icing.
  12. Tint the remaining icing deeper “sunflower yellow.” Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip.
  13. Tint the leaf icing deep green. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a leaf tip and pipe onto 3 areas of the outside of the cake, or as desired.
  14. Then, starting at the outer edge of the cake, begin piping the dark yellow flower petals. Work in circles moving toward the center of the cake.
  15. When about 3 rows are complete, place a dollop of the dark yellow icing in the center and form the center of the flower with mini-Oreos. (It seemed easier to start by placing the first Oreo in the center.)
  16. Fill the gap between the last piped row of petals and the center by piping an additional row of petals.
  17. Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.

BTW- If you thought that was enough… we had another celebration that required another dessert- this time yellow cupcakes with yellow (also sunflower) frosting. We do love our celebrations and yellow cake over here!

Yellow Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Halloween! Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday. It’s just fun to dress up… and candy is involved. 🙂

She had two friends over for a Halloween themed “dinner party” a couple of weeks ago. I made these moist and delicious cupcakes for dessert. I was very pleased when she announced that they were the best cupcakes she’s ever had! ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It is part of a list named BA’s Best, a collection of essential recipes. I halved the cupcake recipe and doubled the frosting ratio.

We decorated them with candy eyes and sprinkles to make them festive for the occasion. They decorated caramel apples in the same fashion. Fun and tasty.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 T cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2 T pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 T vanilla extract
  1. Arrange rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection. (If doubling the recipe, arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.)
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Add butter, buttermilk, and oil and beat on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth.
  5. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
  6. Add egg mixture to flour mixture in 2 additions, beating well between additions.
  7. Continue to beat on medium speed until mixture is homogenous and very thick, about 2 minutes.
  8. Using a scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling two-thirds full (a level ⅓ cup batter per cupcake).
  9. Bake 5 minutes in the preheated 400° oven, then reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  10. Continue baking, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes have domed and spring back when touched in the center, 14 (on convection for 12 cupcakes) or up to 20-25 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Note: If doubling the cupcake recipe, use 7 egg yolks plus 1 large egg.

Do Ahead: Cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature (unfrosted) or in the refrigerator (frosted).

For the Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  1. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla.
  4. Pipe the frosting on cupcakes.
Note: The frosting recipe can be halved if it’s going to be spread instead of piped onto the cupcakes.

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