Sunday, July 27, 2008

banana chip loaf

Being raised Mennonite, there's an overwhelming ideology that less is always more. In relation to cooking, the simpler the recipe, the better the end results. Satisfyingly so, many of the crusty passed-down cookbooks found within my family line are jam-packed with recipes that throw together your cupboard's usual inhabitants (think flour, sugar, salt, etc.) for some of the easiest, yet surprisingly addictive desserts and pastries.

And, since I believe that the pairing of bananas and chocolate is heaven sent, I browsed some of my mom's old books for a bread-making tutorial using just that. While I modified the original recipe to meet my preferred tastes, here's the recipe for my delectable 'nana chip loaf, shown above, that's incredibly uncomplicated and flavorful.

Makes 1 loaf

2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup of ripe bananas
1 cup chocolate chips
3 eggs

Simply, mix together the above ingredients and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. It could, quite possibly, be the best sweet bread you have ever tried!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

toasted coconut & cocoa cupcakes

When a close friend from college emailed me photos from her new island residence, the most envious shot was the image of a coconut tree that was planted right outside of her balcony. Although she's been there a few months now, it is about time I whipped up a batch of coconut cupcakes -- in her honor, of course.

This vegan cupcake recipe comes from my most prized baking book, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and mixes the likes of coconut-fiends aside serious chocoholics.

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Mix in a medium bowl flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Melt coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Once melted, turn off heat and leave setting on the stove so it does not solidify.

In a separate medium bowl, mix coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and coconut extract. Stir in melted coconut oil. Add the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Fold in shredded coconut.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full. Bake 24-26 minutes.

Once the deep-brown mini-cakes are finished baking, begin to prepare the suggested coffee buttercream frosting.

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup margarine
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp. coconut milk or soy milk
1 1/2 tsp. coffee extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat shortening and margarine until nicely blended. Alternately add the sugar and milk, continuously beating. Add the extracts and beat until the topping is light and fluffy.

While the icing is to-die-for solo, topping the island treats off with some toasted coconut is sure to please your cupcake-loving crowds. Grab a 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, and after preheating a dry frying pan for about 2 minutes, pour the white flakes inside while you constantly stir with a spatula. Once, the shreds are honey brown, remove the pan from the oven's surface.

Finish the tiny dessert by sprinkling the gorgeous golden flakes atop the already frosted cakes and most definitely, take a massive bite, or two or three.

burnt butter and sugar ice cream

Steve Herrell of Herrell's Ice Cream in Northampton, Massachusetts has been known for years as Mister Mix-in. Credited for being the first to mash in candy bits like Heath bars and sweet treats like Oreo crumbs into his creamy ice, Herrell's paved the way for our now favorite, and entirely loaded, mountainous scoops.

While the entire process of Herrell's is something we are comfortable with — ice cream parlors smooshing in our sugary selections on a marble slab — experiencing it at one of the pioneer hotspots seemed like a necessary action. As my travel companion picked a mint cookies and cream combination, I dug into a heaping dish of burnt butter and sugar ice cream doused in homemade hot fudge that left this girl dizzy in a feeling of complete bliss.

Similar in tastes to fresh French toast slices, Mr. Herrell’s low-air gourmet cream is luscious enough solo without his well-known smoosh-ins. However, with a massive laundry list of add-ins in addition to the overwhelming flavors (think espresso with chocolate chips, Hostess orange cupcake, malted vanilla, white rum, etc.) one may never have to revisit another ice cream shop again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

attractive grains and granola of the hungry ghost

With a sugary soul and baking in my blood, visits to local bakeries are always a given when away on vacation. However, when the bakery's the Hungry Ghost Bread and the lovingly baked grain breads are daily produced in its interior as they are, one's personal experience of baked good-intake will be changed forever.

The exterior, shown above, is an attractive ivy storm in quite an unordinary structure. Stepping foot inside, a large hybrid stove occupies most of the space, which houses both clay brick-lined and wood fired chambers. Following each firing of the massive baker, the team at the Hungry Ghost is then fit to produce over 200-300 loaves of bread, which is suiting for how popular their delectable organic breads are throughout their town of Northampton, Massachusetts.

Since my visit was on a Tuesday, the rundown of their varieties were as follows (each day hosts a list of specific blends): French, 8-grain, spelt, rye and a beautiful blend of cornmeal and molasses for which I selected, known as the annadama. The loaf, a crusty outer shell with a perfectly sweet and soft inside, was most definitely the best use of flours I have ever tasted. And, since I tend to carb-control my diet, I decided to also grab a fabulously nutty one-pounder of their Vanilla Celebration granola, shown below. Mixing almonds, walnuts, sunflowers seeds and raisins amongst tons of ideally toasted oats, I may have to travel to Massachusetts a bit more often.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

doughy popovers & homemade apple butter

After receiving a convincing tip to visit Judie's Restaurant in Amherst, Massachusetts, we knew, without a doubt, that it was our next stop for lunch. While the dinner menu looked to-die-for (consider the drunken scallops with bacon or the roast garlic-crusted salmon), sticking with a soup/sandwich/salad combo meant that we could fully experience what Judie Teraspulsky, owner of Judie's, is known for -- her homemade popovers. Shown above, the popovers are a doughy ball of goodness with an impressively flaky outer shell and moist hollow interior. While there are options to get one pumped with sirloin tips or shrimp scampi, I selected the original just so I could sample her homemade apple butter. Perfectly sweetened and not at all too spicy, the topping just enhanced the already-delicious pastry and acted as an ideal companion to my homey potato and corn chowder.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

an unforgettable goat cheese quesadilla

As a first-timer to Plymouth, Massachusetts' old-time streets, all I heard from past visitors was the disappointment they felt from viewing the "massive" rock. But, if it's the land of the first settlers, let's instead consider what tasty grub they brought to our dear homeland. Located beautifully on the waterfront, Carmen's Cafe Nicole serves quirky breakfast and lunch dishes that beat the average beachside bite. Opting for a cafe special -- a goat cheese quesadilla loaded with sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms, and grilled to an utmost perfection -- I was pleasantly surprised with my dining decision. Sided with a homemade pico de gallo and a dollop of the typical sour cream, the Mexican plate surely allowed me to consider that this pilgrim hotspot has matured into an awesome hungry girl’s haven.

Friday, July 18, 2008

cider doughnuts

Coming from a girl who clocked far too many hours at a local cider mill in her early teen years, a sweet jug of swooshed apples is a must-have for my entire fall season. But, with autumn seeming just too far away in this sticky summer months, biting down on a decent cider doughnut seems almost as perfect.

While vacationing in New England this week, a friend and I made a stop at Russell Orchard's in Ipswich, Massachusetts. As I squealed over the idea of picking my own blueberries and raspberries in the hot July sun, even if I was being eating alive by millions of stinking bugs, I nabbed two doughy rounds to later satisfyingly sink my teeth into. Moist and fluffy, the orchard's bakery excelled at supplying me with red deliciousness, all while providing two out-of-towners with the tastiest mid-morning treat ever.