Caribbean Banana Bread

Have you ever been asked about your stance on banana bread? The options are pretty much always plain, nuts, or chocolate.

Why is this? Why limit yourself to these simple, obvious ingredients?

Why not add whatever you want?

Don’t get me wrong: classic banana bread is wonderful. But sometimes you want to shake things up, sometimes you want to try something new, sometimes you realize your shredded coconut is – shoot! – past its expiration date and you could either throw it out or test your immune system’s ability to defend itself against expired coconut (what even happens when coconut “expires”? It just seemed dry to me)…

banana bread

This recipe starts with a good staple version from The Kitchn, and then amps it up. In the easiest way possible. Because I was bored. And hungry. And maybe a teensy bit lazy (what, can’t a girl crave some banana bread with minimal work involved?). A little rummaging in my cabinet lead to a Caribbean-inspired bread that really just tastes like dessert. And happiness. Why wouldn’t you want to add to banana bread?

You can go crazy with this recipe. Banana bread is hard to mess up. Once you get the basics (flour, eggs, sugar, bananas, etc.) then you can play with it (walnuts, pecans, toasted shredded coconut, chocolate chips, toffee bits, raisinettes, butterscotch chips, the possibilities are endless!). I added ~3 extra cups of ingredients to this recipe and it was perfectly fine. So get creative, work with what you have, and report back to me on how it goes!

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CARIBBEAN BANANA BREAD

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar (brown or white; I used half and half)

2 large eggs

2-3 bananas, super ripe

¼ cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup chocolate toffee bits

1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted

¾ cup shredded coconut, toasted

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Instructions adapted from The Kitchn.

1. Heat the oven, prep the pan, and toast the coconut and nuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F with a oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Grease the loaf pan with butter or baking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, spread the shredded coconut and nuts evenly over the top, and toast in the oven while it preheats (~10 minutes, but watch them closely and pull out once the coconut turns golden). 

2. Melt the butter: Melt in the microwave. Or, if you have room temperature butter, you can use that for a fluffier cake.

3. Combine the butter and sugars: Whisk together the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. (Or cream in a mixer until fluffy.)

4. Add the eggs: Crack the eggs into the bowl and whisk until completely combined. The mixture should be smooth.

5. Add the milk and vanilla: Whisk into the batter until combined.

6. Mash in the bananas: For chunky banana bread, peel the bananas and add them directly to the bowl. Using a dinner fork, mash them into the batter. If you want a smooth bread, mash the bananas separately until no more lumps remain, and then whisk them into the batter.

7. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt: In a smaller bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Use a spatula to stir the dry ingredients into the wet batter until they are just barely combined and no more dry flour is visible.

8. Fold in the nuts, coconut, chocolate toffee bits, etc, if using: Scatter everything over the batter and gently fold them in.

9. Pour the batter into the pan: Use the spatula to scrape off all the batter from the bowl. Smooth the top of the bread batter.

10. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes: Place the pan in the oven. Bake until the top of the cake is caramelized dark brown and a tooth pick or cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Baking time will vary depending on the age of your bananas, how many things you add, etc. — start checking around 50 minutes and then every five minutes after.

11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes: Set the loaf, still in the pan, on a cooling rack. Let it cool for 10 minutes so it solidifies and gets easier to remove from the pan.

12. Remove from the pan and cool for another 10 minutes: Place your (clean!) hand gently on top of the loaf and flip it over into your hand. Set it back down on the cooling rack to cool for another 10 minutes before slicing. Leftover bread can be kept, covered, at room temperature for several days or wrapped in foil and frozen for up to 3 months.

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Easy, delicious, and unique. Use any ingredients you have on hand – the only things that really matter are the ripe bananas. Recommandation d’experts: spread some butter on a freshly cut piece of this bread for a perfect, decadent treat. Besides, what are a few more calories anyways?!

caribbean banana bread

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Spiced Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

oatmeal raisinet cookies

Let’s say you’re craving cookies. So you ask the boy what he wants. And he says oatmeal raisin. So you decide to make oatmeal raisin chocolate chip, because (as you know) everything’s better with chocolate. Now let’s say you ask that boy to run to the grocery store for you and pick up raisins and chocolate chips, among other ingredients. What do you think will happen?

oatmeal raisin cookies top

Instead of coming back with raisins and chocolate chips, he comes back with raisinets “because they’re cheaper and amazing.” At first I was appalled – that’s not what I requested! But then I realized his genius: not only were chocolate-covered raisins cheaper than buying both raisins and chocolate chips, but also you get a perfect pairing of chocolate and raisin in every mouthful. No more will you bite into an oatmeal cookie only to get loads of raisins and no chocolate, or vice versa. No, sir! These cookies have the perfect distribution of the recipe’s key ingredients. Believe me: it shows as soon as you dig in. Add the extra spices and instant coffee to highlight it all, and you end up with crunchy-on-the-outside-and-soft-in-the-middle cookies that are absolutely bursting with the best of the best flavors.

oatmeal raisinet cookies cut

I’m quite proud of these.  This is my second time making them (I almost never repeat recipes, mind you!) and they’ve gotten rave reviews both times. They’re inspired by Martha Stewart’s cookies, but changed up enough to call this an original recipe. Does that give me street cred in the baking world?? Although, I suppose the boy should get some credit for the raisinet idea…

oatmeal raisinet cookies stacked

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SPICED OATMEAL RAISINET COOKIES

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. instant coffee, finely ground

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. cloves

¼ tsp. nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup packed light-brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ½ cups rolled oats

1 ½ cups pecans or walnuts, finely chopped

1 ½ cups raisinets (chocolate-covered raisins)

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, instant coffee, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and
sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until combined, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients; beat until just combined. Stir in the oats, pecans, and raisinets.

4. Drop golf-ball-sized scoops of batter about 2-inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake until cookies have spread and are golden brown and soft to the touch, approximately 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the hot sheets and then transfer
to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Not much more to say here, folks. These cookies are nutty, crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, chocolate-and-raisin-y goodness, with hints of coffee, cinnamon, and spices. Absolument glorieux!

oatmeal chocolate raisin cookies

Pumpkin Butterscotch Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Glaze

pumpkin cake

Adam’s birthday is tomorrow, and he asked repeatedly asked for “those pumpkin ball amazing treat things” I brought in last semester. Actually, ever since I made those, he’s been bringing them up and requesting them again. It doesn’t matter what new treat I bring in, he just wants those pumpkin bread balls. Unfortunately for Adam, even though it’s his birthday, that still doesn’t change the fact that: 1) I prefer to try new recipes rather than repeat old ones, and 2) birthdays require birthday cake. Period. Very little room for negotiating here, folks.

Of course, with that said, I’d rather not be a total jerk who ruins birthdays by denying someone their lone, long-standing request. So for a few weeks now, I’ve been brainstorming how to capture all those magnificent flavors from the pumpkin bread balls (pumpkin, cream cheese, chocolate, butterscotch, walnut) and highlight them together in one glorious cake. And you know what? It worked. Really, really well. Even better than I anticipated. So please, for me, make this cake. Try this and share it with your friends and tell me it’s okay that this cake makes me want to run to the grocery store and hoard all the ingredients and never leave my kitchen and not care a single ounce about developing diabetes…

pumpkin cake slice

Give me details, you say; the pictures are nice and all, but what exactly is going on here? I’m so glad you asked! Start with a great pumpkin cake recipe and add more spices, pumpkin, vanilla, and butterscotch chips. Cover completely with my favorite fluffy cream cheese frosting recipe. Whip up a simple and rich chocolate glaze and pour it over the top so it runs over the edges in dreamy dribbles. Finish off with butterscotch drizzles and chopped walnuts, and say “hello” to your drool-inducing, prize-winning, bribe-fulfilling, love-inspiring, debt-erasing, happiness-spreading cake that is shockingly easy to make, though you’d never be able to tell from looking at it. It’s dense, moist, and oh-so-rich, with the most satisfying combination of flavors. Everyone loved it, and in addition to more “normal” accolades, it was described using some rather colorful language that I can’t repeat here. Care to join me at the grocery store? I need to purchase all the canned pumpkin they have in stock…

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PUMPKIN BUTTERSCOTCH CAKE

Adapted from: Diana Rattray at About.com

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ¼ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. clove

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cans (30 oz total) pumpkin puree or cooked mashed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix!)

3/4 bag butterscotch chips (save the other ¼ for the top)

Directions to make the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 9-inch round cake pans: grease the sides and bottom using baking spray or butter, cut out a circle of parchment or wax paper and place on the greased bottom, and grease the top of the paper as well. Dust bottom and sides lightly with flour. Set aside.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well-mixed. Stir in the dry mixture until just incorporated. Gently stir in pumpkin puree, and finally stir in the butterscotch chips.

4. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine were perfect at 30), rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool completely in pans.

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CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

From: Southern Living (minus the pecans)

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup salted butter, softened

1 (32 oz) package powdered sugar (or two 16 oz packages)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions to make the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together until creamy, then beat in the vanilla extract. Add the powdered sugar gradually, stopping when you like the consistency/flavor of the frosting (I always add the full 32 ounces).

Frost according to the instructions in my Cinnamon-Swirled Banana Cake. Make sure you freeze the cake before assembling, and do the crumb coat! This cake is very delicate.

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CHOCOLATE GLAZE

From: Smitten Kitchen

10 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or a bag of chocolate chips)

2 tbsp. light corn syrup

1/2 cup half-and-half

Directions to make the chocolate glaze:

In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth.

Pour over the top of your frosted cake, and gently push small sections of the chocolate off the top so it drips down the sides in long lines.

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FINISHING TOUCHES

¼ bag butterscotch chips

1 tsp. light corn syrup

2 tsp. half-and-half

½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions to make your cake b-e-a-utiful:

Melt butterscotch chips and corn syrup in the microwave for 45 seconds and stir until melted and smooth. Whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Drizzle over the top of the cake (which should already be frosted and glazed). Sprinkle chopped walnuts over the top.

Store in the refrigerator but remove at least 2 hours before you plan to serve it so everything can reach room temperature and bring out the flavors best.

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See, what did I tell you? So simple! The cake layers take ~15 minutes to make, 30 to bake, and 20 to cool (if you’re impatient and throw them in the freezer). The frosting takes ~10 to make and ~20 to put on the cake. The glaze takes ~10 total to make and pour on top, as do the finishing touches. Which clocks you in at well under 2 hours to make this delicious cake. I declare that totally do-able. And if you are anything like me and have an unhealthy obsession with pumpkin, butterscotch, cream cheese, and chocolate (walnuts are healthy – they don’t count), you will love it. Guaranteed.

pumpkin cake side view

Pumpkin Bread Balls

A single one of these is rich enough to turn anyone into a gold digger.

I will never be satisfied with this name… Pumpkin bread balls? Pumpkin bread cream cheese cake balls? Pumpkin bread cream cheese chocolate- and butterscotch-covered cake balls decorated with walnuts? If you think of something, please share!!

I bookmarked this banana bread balls recipe a while back from Vanilla Sugar Blog. But then my wonderful roommate made pumpkin bread for me. A few adjustments to the recipe later, and this recipe was born. Isn’t she lovely?

These flavors (pumpkin, cream cheese, chocolate, butterscotch) blend shockingly well together. Try them. You can thank me later when you can’t stop sighing contentedly each time you eat one.

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INGREDIENTS

Pumpkin bread

1 package (8oz) cream cheese

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

2 tbsp. butter flavored shortening

~3/4 cup chopped walnuts

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1. Mix together pumpkin bread + 8oz cream cheese + 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Roll into 1.5″ balls and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

2. Make the dipping sauce according to this food.com recipe, but use the chips specified above. You could use normal shortening, but the butter-flavored kind will increase the buttery, rich flavor.

3. Dip bread balls in sauce (two forks work well together). Tap off excess sauce and set the balls on wax paper. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top immediately, so the sauce doesn’t harden.

4. Let them harden (you can pop them in the refrigerator after a bit) and then hand these out to anyone you need something from. You’ll get what you want. I promise.