I made a loaf of my banana blueberry bread and decided that it needed a little fanciness.

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There’s a sprinkle of ginger in the batter, so I decided to carry that through into the frosting. All you need is a mixer, 8 ounces Neufchatel cheese, 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1-2 teaspoons of ground ginger, and a cup of confectioner’s sugar. Let your standing mixer do the work, and then spread a lovely thick layer of frosting on top of the loaf.

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I can’t wait for breakfast!

Baking is love. Especially for introverts who want to show that they care, but don’t necessarily want to have a long conversation about it. These healthy treats are perfect for sharing: whole wheat muffins that get their moist texture from the bananas and their sweetness from the blueberries.

Ingredients

3 organic bananas, mashed
2 cups organic blueberries
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar (I recommend Zulka Morena Sugar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
10 ounces plain greek yogurt (2 containers)
3 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger

How I Made Them

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your muffin tin with paper liners, or use those groovy paper baking pans like I did.

Combine the bananas, sugars, eggs, and oil together in a bowl. Do not add the blueberries — those come at the end.

In a very large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle the ground ginger over the top, adding as much or as little as you like.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Combine with a rubber spatula as best you can.  Then add the yogurt and continue to stir until thoroughly mixed.  You will have a dense, sticky batter. This is why you don’t stir the blueberries in — they would just mash up and turn everything purple.

Fill the muffin tins/baking pans 3/4 full, adding blueberries as you spoon the batter into the tin/pans.  Bake on the center rack of the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs.

How They Turned Out

These are dense but not dry. Not super sweet, so the banana and blueberry flavors come through nicely. The ginger is very subtle, nicely complementing the berries. Best served warm, with cold milk.

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These easy peasy mixed fruit pies are perfect for picnics and parties. The filling isn’t too sweet and the pastry is soft and flaky.

Ingredients:

3 cups of frozen organic mixed berries (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry), thawed
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons of water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 pinches of sea salt
2 sheets of Pillsbury Puff Pastry dough, thawed
1/4 cup flour for dusting
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with nonstick foil. (These will stick because of the oozy filling, and I’m not sure parchment is good enough.)

Heat the fruit in a saucepan over medium heat until warm through. While that’s cooking, whisk the cornstarch and water together until combined. After about 5 minutes, stir the cornstarch and then the sugar, vanilla, and salt into the fruit. Raise the temperature to bring the fruit mixture to a boil. Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick or scorch.  When it’s bubbly, remove it from the heat and set it aside.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough.  You want it to be thin but not too thin.  Then, cut the dough into 6 squares or rectangles.

To assemble the pies, brush a little egg wash along the edges.  Put a spoonful of fruit not quite in the center but far enough the edge to minimize leakage.

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Fold the pastry over, and crimp the edges with a fork. Cut three little slits in the top and then brush the top with egg wash.

Transfer the pies to the lined baking sheets.  Give them a good margin, because they will leak as you bake them. Bake them for 30 minutes or until a lovely golden brown on top.

Let them cool before transferring them to a serving plate.

How They Turned Out:

Lovely!  You can serve them with whipped cream, ice cream, or just plain.

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One note — I have a friend who is allergic to corn. So, I pulled a half cup of fruit aside before adding the other ingredients. His pies were just as good.

My favorite munchkin is going through a Space Phase. Rockets, Planets, Robots — we are enjoying discovering them all. For his sixth birthday, I attempted a rocket ship themed cake (not my best creation):

Rocket Fail

So when I found a cool space ship cake pan, I had to get it and try again. This time, I used a moist dark chocolate cake and decorated it with whipped cream and berries instead of frosting.

One note: This is my first time baking with Zulka Morena Sugar, a not-to-sweet unrefined sugar from sugar cane grown with no GMOs on small farms that use sustainable farming practices. I was very pleased with the result.

Ingredients:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large brown cage-free eggs
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
7 ounces (1 container) of plain 2% greek yogurt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup very hot water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 cups very cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
assorted berries, washed and sliced

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare two cake pans with baking spray. (This recipe filled the rocket pan and a small loaf pan.)

In a standing mixer, beat the butter and 2 cups of sugar together on medium speed until combined. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, and then the vanilla, beating to combine.  Add the cocoa powder one tablespoon at a time, mixing at a medium-low speed (otherwise it will POOF and make a mess).

Mix in the yogurt at medium-low speed.  Slow the mixer and then add the dry ingredients in three batches (be careful of the dreaded POOF). You’ll have a thick batter.

Turn the mixer off before slowly pouring the hot water into the batter. Turn it on the lowest speed so the hot water doesn’t slosh out. You can speed it up a bit as it combines. Now you’ll have a thin, watery batter.  Add the chocolate chips as the last step.

Pour the batter into the cake pans. Bake them in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool completely before decorating.

Don’t make the whipped cream until right before you want to decorate and serve the cake. Chill the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the whipped cream.  Assemble the bowl and whisk on the mixer, and then pour the whipping cream into the mixing bowl. Whip the cream on high speed until it starts to peak. Sprinkle the cream with the two tablespoons of sugar and continue to whip it until it reaches a thick consistency.  Be careful not go too far or you’ll end up with butter.

Top the cake with whipped cream and decorate with the berries.

How It Turned Out:

Out of this world!

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Okay — really it’s just a yummy chocolate cake with sweet fruit and cream. Getting to share it with such a bright star is what made it special.

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I thought I’d found the perfect bread recipe. I was wrong.  This recipe from Stephanie at Girl versus Dough resulted in the most glorious loaves of bread yet.

I made these loaves without the oats, and I used my trick of letting the dough rise in the oven.  This is before baking:

Bread Before Baking

And this is after:

Bread After Baking

Lovely!

These brownies are a delightful concoction that benefited from a lack of planning.

A friend asked for something super chocolaty to inspire us at our annual independent living center board retreat, so of course I agreed to whip something up. Assuming I had all the necessaries, I woke up early to bake before our meeting — only to discover a serious lack of white sugar and no brown sugar.  What is a girl to do in such dire straits?  Improvise!!  And so were born these Dark Chocolate Maple Cinnamon Brownies.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
6 cage free organic eggs
18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a large 9×12 glass baking dish with baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, sifting together with a fork until thoroughly combined.  Put the chocolate chips in a very large mixing bowl. In a glass bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.

Pour the melted butter over the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  (You may need to microwave the chocolate a bit to get all the way to smooth.)  When the chocolate and butter are smoothly combined, add the sugar and then the maple syrup. Stir until combined before adding the eggs in two batches, stirring to mix everything well between the two. Add the vanilla and give it one more stir.

Mix the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture in three batches, combining thoroughly in between each batch. You will have a thick batter.

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes away with a little chocolate crumb. Let the brownies cool a bit before serving.

How They Turned Out:

Dense, very chocolaty, not too sweet — the perfect base for a fudge sundae or a pile of homemade whipped cream.

Brownies

I have a friend who only eats food from the four basic food groups — pizza, hamburgers, cashew chicken, and chocolate cake. So for his birthday we went for pizza and I made this great cake.

It’s a basic, no-fail chocolate cake recipe with an accidental twist. The ganache turned out to be a “chocolate chip ganache” because I let it harden too much before whipping, which resulted in little crunchy bits of chocolate throughout the creamy frosting.

Ingredients:

Cake

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups organic granulated sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbs instant espresso dissolved in 1 cup very hot water

Ganache

12 ounces Guittard chocolate chips
1 cup of heavy cream

How I  Made It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare two 9 inch cake pans with baker’s spray and/or parchment.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  While that’s going, put all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, sifting with a fork to combine thoroughly.

When the butter is light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time. Then add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. When that’s all combined, turn the mixer to low speed and slowly pour in the hot coffee. The bowl of the mixer will be full, so be careful not to splash yourself with hot cake batter. (I speak from experience.)

Transfer the batter to the cake pans, filling each 3/4 full. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes away clean but for a few crumbs. Let the cakes cool about 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to come to room temperature.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate chips in a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a glass bowl in the microwave in 15 second bursts until it is very hot but not boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit a minute or two before whisking the chocolate smooth. Chill the ganache in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or more if you want to recreate my accidental chippiness).

With a rubber spatula, transfer the ganache to the standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. On medium-high speed, whip the ganache into lovely frosting.

To assemble the cake, carefully level the top of one of the layers with a long serrated knife. That is the bottom layer. Spread 1/2 of the whipped ganache on the bottom layer. Put the top layer on and frost with the rest of the ganache.  Decorate as you please.

How It Turned Out:

Brians Cake

Yummy! Not too dense, not too crumby, and not too sweet. Just wonderful chocolate goodness. (It is probably even better with vanilla ice cream.)

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