Decadent “Oh My Goodness” Banana and Dark Chocolate Bread

I use the word “bread” loosely when talking about this rich, chocolatey bread filled with banana goodness. It hardly needs no backstory other than chocolate makes everything better.

To make one loaf, you’ll need:

2 medium-sized very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients (bananas, sour cream, vanilla, and oil) and mix with whisk or hand mixer until smooth. (As you can see from this photo, we were quadrupling this recipe. My dad loves this stuff!)

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Then, except for the chocolate chips, add the dry ingredients. Mix again until fully incorporated. Finally, add the chocolate chips. Mix these in with a spatula as they seem to get stuck in the whisk or beaters and it drives me bananas. (Ooooh, that was bad.)

Put the batter in a greased 9″x5″ loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Check the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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I love to grill a nice, fat slice of this bread in a skillet with a bit of salted butter. The caramelization and bit of salt really rock the party!

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Scandinavian Franskbrød: French Bread…sort of.

Nearing the end of last year, my boyfriend and I decided to stop purchasing bread from the store. We made a conscious decision to make our own baguettes, sandwich loaves, hot dog and hamburger buns, naan, lavash, etc. Some of the recipes are very difficult and fickle and have to be done completely by hand, and others, like this franskbrød (and although it has an egg in it, it translates to “French bread”) were perfect in our bread machine. I will say, though, that we bought an exceptional bread machine by Zojirushi because we wanted something that would make traditionally-shaped loaves. We didn’t want to have to transfer the dough to a bread pan before baking. While our intentions would be good, we needed something that could do the mixing, kneading, rising, and baking while we’re out in the garden, at work, or where ever. So…if you’re low on time, have a bread machine, and really love delicious bread, this one’s for you.

We found this recipe in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. It’s painfully simple. For a 1.5 pound loaf, you’ll need:

1 cup water
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour (I use high-gluten flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (I use sea salt)
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast (I use rapid rise) OR 2 teaspoon regular SAF yeast

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Add all ingredients to the bread machine pan according to your manufacturer’s directions.

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Because I use rapid rise yeast, I put my machine on the quick cycle. The book recommends using medium for the crust setting. Now hit start. That was hard work, right?

Within two hours, your house’ll smell like a bakery. If you don’t bake bread for any other reason than the smell, I’d understand. But this is the chewiest, fluffiest, crunchiest crust bread we’ve ever made.

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Glorious Grass-Fed, Pastured Beef Makes the Best Hamburger

Sometimes I wake up craving a hamburger. Such was life yesterday. Luckily, my local grocery store carries 90/10 ground beef I really like.

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Also, thankfully, my boyfriend is a wonderful baker. On top of being a full-time grad student who teaches two sections of college composition, he finds time to make buns like these:

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A perfect burger was just the right thing to do. And I never have to convince John (baker boyfriend) to have a hamburger, so it was GAME ON. First thing’s first: make the patties. The package of meat is exactly 16 ounces, so I divided it into three equalish portions (plus a tiny one for the puppy). I seasoned them with Montreal seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika) and a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce.

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I then cut up the toppings: Swiss cheese, local, vine-ripe tomato, romaine lettuce, Vidalia onion, and pickled jalapeños (I often use these in place of pickles). And because I recently had a grill “incident” in which a minor flare up may or may not have singed my bangs, I had John preheat the grill. We use propane, much to his dismay, but charcoal would work fine, too. You could even sear these in a skillet using a bit of butter on medium-high heat if you want. Skillet burgers made Steak and Shake famous. Anyhow…

Slice the buns in half, brush them with melted butter, grab the seasoned patties and cheese, and head outside. By the way, keep the prepped veggies in the fridge, so they’ll stay nice and cold.
I grill burgers over a medium flame. I also only use one of two burners because the eco-nerd in me likes to conserve when possible. Three burgers don’t take up much room. Slap them on the grill.

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I do three minutes on each side for medium with the lid closed andonly flip them once. And, for the love of all that’s good in the world, don’t press the patties down with the spatula! All of the juice will come dripping out and you’ll have an old boot to eat instead of a juicy burger. I use the last 30 seconds or so to add cheese to the burgers.
Remove from the grill and let them rest. Now, grill the buttered buns. This should only take a minute.

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Time to assemble these beasts. John likes cheese. He’s some sort of purist.

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I opted for everything but…

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Happy eating, and enjoy the rest of grilling season while it lasts!

Today’s Impromptu Lunch: The “Not in Public” Turkey Burger

After a morning of running around, I got home, opened the fridge, and realized I had an abnormal amount of leftovers. This could only mean one thing: I wasn’t going to be making anything new until I cleaned out some of the weekend’s goodies. (side note: My grandmother never said “leftovers.” She called them “pre-cooked meals.)

I was in the mood for some sort of sandwich. After all, my honey made delicious Italian herb bread. But I wasn’t in the mood for ham or tuna. Then I spotted the turkey burgers. But I didn’t have buns. Could I? Could I possibly? Could I possibly put the burger patty on bread? I’m a lover of good buns (haha), so eating a patty on bread is nearly sacrilege. But I decided to give it a whirl. I toasted the bread, slathered both sides with full fat Hellmann’s mayo, added the patty, got out the leftover salad, used the lettuce, tomato, and onion, put on some pickled jalapeños, added some ketchup and mustard, and voila! Look, I’m aware this was a sloppy sandwich with maybe far too many condiments, but since i was already using bread, I figured wild accoutrement abandon was in order. And this is why I’ve named this beast the “not in public” turkey burger. If you saw my face after just one bite, the name would make perfect sense. 🙂

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Garlic and Oregano Focaccia Bread…from Scratch!

Today I got a hankering for some focaccia bread. Have I made it before? Nope. Am I willing to try anything at least once? Yep! So here goes…

Make sure to put the ingredients according to the bread machine’s manufacturer instructions:

1 1/8 cups of water
3 1/4 cups of bread flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons of rapid rise (bread machine) yeast

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Mix in bread maker on dough setting.

Meanwhile, mince 6 cloves of garlic and then soak them in olive oil. I put my garlic and olive oil mixture in a small dish and microwaved it for 30 seconds. Voila! Garlic infused olive oil. Using your microwave makes quick work of what you’d otherwise have to do on the stove top in a skillet.

Once the the dough is done, portion it into two equal-ish blobs and then palm press those into whatever amoeba shape you find most appealing. Then coat them, generously, with olive oil. Place these onto baking sheets that have an olive oil and cornmeal coating.

Let rise for 25 minutes.

While rising, preheat your oven and pizza stone to 450 degrees on the bottom rack of the oven.

Then add all of the garlic-infused olive oil and all the glorious nuggets of garlic love that made that olive oil what it is. Spread it evenly over the risen dough.

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Now set the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove your smoldering hot pizza stone from the oven, put some cornmeal on the surface, and put one of your garlicky, doughy amoebas on it. You’ll hear it instantly sizzle. Pop it back on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Wait until it’s lightly browned on the surface. DON’T BURN THE GARLIC!

Repeat the preheating and baking process for the second piece.

Finally, wait until your focaccia is just cool enough not to blister your tongue, rip a hunk off, and chow down. It’s magical…so very magical. Focaccia experience #1: great success.

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