All posts by Cocofancy

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Every so often, I’ll attempt a different version of a recipe I have already found my preferred version of. It may not be the perfect version, but it fits my own likings of that particular food just right. There is that curiosity, though: how does that one taste? We all have our preferences, and can get stuck thinking that a particular way of preparing things is the only way to do it right.

When I first travelled to France for two weeks with my mom, I came upon a rather unpleasant surprise (at least at the time) – Chinese fast food in France is waaaaaay different from in the US. It has a different flavor, it’s prepared differently, and it’s kept differently (in a much better way, to be sure – they don’t have hot plates that overcook the food to nothingness – they prepare it, set it out in covered dishes, and when people order it they can just pop it into the microwave either there or at home). At the time, it was toward the end of our trip and we were looking for a little different fare – perhaps something less rich? I’m not quite certain what brought us there. I remember it was somewhere just on the left bank, near all of the little tourist traps. There were a number of little hole in the wall restaurants, but we chose Chinese take-out. Probably because it was late and it was take-out-able.

At any rate, it didn’t taste bad or anything, just different – and I admit I didn’t terribly like it at the time. I also warned my school mates away from that type of thing when I spent a quarter abroad, and I didn’t brave the experience again. But I have come to realize that I most likely did a disservice to myself in not branching out from “traditional” French food on my second trip – who knows what I might have discovered?

Thus I have been trying to be brave and expand my expectations and experiences in trying to make different renditions of recipes I have come to have certain expectations of. Banana bread is one of them. I have a paper copy of a recipe that I love to pieces, and it has all kind of food stains and sugar and whatnot on it, but it’s still in my recipe binder-thinger as a go-to version. On Pinterest one can find almost as many versions of a recipe as on AllRecipes, and I found one from a blogger whose recipes I have tried before and found to be perfectly serviceable. This recipe is similar – serviceable, has a decent flavor, but I still like my go-to a bit more.

Tartine Bread

While I love to make quick breads, pastries and desserts, I have always loved fresh bread – the stuff you get in restaurants in the baskets that’s all warm and crunchy-crusted and decadent. There is something about smelling warm bread and eating it that just makes my day.

I took a sourdough starter course a few months ago after attempting to make my own starter and killing it horribly because I had no idea what I was doing. And by killing horribly I mean I left in the fridge for months, avoiding it like the plague. Yeah, I’m an avoider. But I took this two-hour workshop up in SF from a bread company called Sour Flour. We received a bit of starter for ourselves to take home and feed and make into our own thing. We also made a bit of flatbread, which was good – it was a short workshop, so it’s not like we had hours and hours to let it rise as a full loaf.

That workshop was very enlightening, but at this point the only thing I could say I successfully learned from it was how to keep a starter alive. I have attempted two bread-things from it – one was a loaf of bread from one of the example recipes the workshop referred to, and the other was attempting to integrate the starter into my grandmother’s orange rolls. The first was interesting, as I started the process on the weekend but found that I didn’t have enough time to do the rising and baking (I am working on the whole planning thing, as I have mentioned before), so I let the dough sit in the fridge overnight. And then for the rest of the week until the following weekend. I decided to finally take it out and see if I could salvage it, and it turned out pretty well. It didn’t rise as much as I was expecting, but it had a wonderful sourdough taste because it had sat in the fridge for so long, developing those flavors. Unfortunately, it sat so long that it was still very dense. I wanted a fluffy bread.

I recently started seriously perusing Reddit, and came a cross a sub-reddit called Breadit. I couldn’t resist looking at it, and someone mentioned a book called Tartine Bread. I looked it up and took the plunge and bought it on the iBook store, figuring it would be easier for me to take into the kitchen and such, and not let it get horribly doughed and floured. This was a good idea, as was reading the book, at least through the end of the first section where it tells how to work with an initial loaf, the most basic recipe. Turns out the sourdough I made had been using a modified Tartine recipe, so I had a bit of a step up with that.

This time I started the process Thursday night, and was able to bake the loaves on Sunday. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, because my dough looked less smooth and elastic-y than the pictures in the book, and I was certain it would be very dense once again. I did have to leave the loaves in the fridge overnight, as some of the initial steps took longer than anticipated, but I wanted to make sure things looked right. One of the aspects of baking that the book talks about is being attentive to the dough, and not just working by what a recipe says – each environment is different, and that impacts the dough’s development.

After removing the dough from the fridge and noticing that it hadn’t done terribly much, I further sank into apprehension as to whether it would work. I figured things would turn out the way they had before because I was too hasty and didn’t know what I was doing.

Once I removed it from the pan, though, I was rewarded:

Cocofancy | Tartine Bread
Cocofancy | Tartine Bread

It had bubbles! And was light and airy, while still very moist. A little butter doesn’t hurt, though.

I will post the recipe once I have a moment to copy down the recipe – it’s rather long and has a lot of notes for what to do it x, y or z happens. All good things, but a lot of stuff to go through. In the meantime, though, I am munching on amazing bread, and looking forward to my Valentine’s offering – peanut butter krispy treats.

Cocofancy | Tartine Bread
Cocofancy | Tartine Bread

Happy Birthday to Me!

Another new year, another promise to myself that I will actually post consistently. As the holidays usually are, this season was a bit hectic, though on the plus side I managed to actually do all of the things I had wanted to get done, and also got my gifts taken care of pretty early. I think I managed to actually enjoy more of the holiday season in doing so – something I haven’t really managed to do in a few years. It always seems to go by too quickly, and it doesn’t feel like a proper holiday season like it used to when I was a kid. There’s just something about being an adult that is rather draining.

While the new year is here, I have not made any resolutions. Well, not formally. I have hopes. I hope that this new year brings opportunities to change up my work situation, in the hopes that I can do something that allows me more energy for my own life. If those opportunities present themselves, I have promised myself I will seize them. Though I have enjoyed working in my position and in this industry, I’m the type of person who will invest much of herself into it, and it has gotten to the point where that doesn’t pay off. So here’s to a new year full of excitement.

In other news, my birthday has also come, and with it a new cake. I hadn’t really given much thought to what I would make myself this year when Mikal decided to send me an image of a really awesome-looking cake. It was absolutely beautiful, and topped with Rocher, which I am rather fond of. And by rather fond of, I mean I ate half of a 24-pack the first day I had them. Luckily I only needed a dozen for the cake.

I was a bit apprehensive as the cake turned out to be a chocolate cheesecake. Aside from the one attempt I made at pumpkin cheesecake last fall, I generally only go for naked cheesecake. None of this fruit topping BS. Fruit and cheese….weird. I don’t think I would mind the flavors together, but the texture differences just don’t quite go in my mouth. WEIRD.

Anyway, Mikal wouldn’t let me not make the chocolate cheesecake, so I did it. Turned out pretty well, though a bit more moist than I have generally had my cheesecakes. I can’t tell if it was because I had to substitute Nutella for the hazelnut butter, or perhaps it’s just supposed to be that way.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake with Ferrero Rocher

from Spiced Up Baking

2 cups flour
160g butter at room temperature (approx. 1 1/3 cups)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

800g cream cheese (four packs will give a bit more than this)
4 large eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups sour cream
3/4 cups hazelnut butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate (I used a mix of dark & milk Dove chocolates)
80g butter at room temperature
2 tbsp heavy cream

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp heavy cream

Ferrero Rocher – 8-12 pieces

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine all ingredients in an electric mixer and mix at low speed for 5 minutes, until well-blended. Press into a 12″ springform pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Cut the cream cheese into 1″ cubes and place them in electric mixer fitted with flat beater blade. Combine cheese and sugar until well-blended, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, ensuring each is well-blended before adding the next.

Add sour cream and mix for two minutes. Add hazelnut butter and mix for two minutes. Add vanilla extract and mix for two minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Add dry ingredients 1 tbsp at a time to the wet ingredients, ensuring that the mixture is fully incorporated before adding the next tbsp. After last tbsp, continue mixing until well-incorporated.

Pour the filling into the pan with the cooling crust. Bake at 325°F for 50-60 minutes, until the top is no longer sticky, but the cheesecake still jiggles. (I had to look up what it was supposed to look like on YouTube, because it looked like it was just too under-done with all the jigglies. According to the videos I looked at, it was perfectly fine.)

Allow to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes while you prepare the ganache.

In a small saucepan, heat all ingredients together over low heat, whisking until smooth.

Reserve 3 tbsp of the ganache mixture, and pour the rest over the cheesecake mixture after removing the sides of the springform pan. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. (I would put it in the fridge – that way the coating sets nicely before adding the drizzle. Mine was still rather warm, so the drizzle integrated into the ganache and just made vague lines.)

Drizzle the remaining ganache mixture over the cake in zig-zags or whatever pattern you choose.

Icing & Decoration
In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, combine powdered sugar and cocoa powder at low speed. Add butter and mix at low speed for 3 minutes. Add vanilla mixture and mix for a few minutes. Add heavy cream in tsp increments until you achieve the desired icing consistency. (My butter was at room temp, but the icing just wasn’t creaming up the way it was supposed to. The original recipe does not call for the heavy cream, but I found it quite useful to make it properly icing-ish.)

Spoon the icing into a piping bag outfitted with a star-shaped nozzle, and pipe mounds in even increments around the edge of the cake – you want them large enough to pillow the Rocher, but you don’t want it to be so big that your cheesecake slices are too large. Unwrap the Rocher and place atop the icing mounds.

Allow cake to set for 6+hours in the fridge before serving.

Country Apple Fritter Bread

Sadly, it has been a busy enough couple of months that I haven’t been posting, though I have been doing some baking. This particular recipe I made in September when I was still looking forward to fall and the weather wasn’t quite autumnal yet. At this point, it is now deep into fall, but I cannot remember for the life of me anything outside of an impression of awesomeness from this bread. Obviously I will need to make it again.

The pan, however, was an acquisition from Cost Plus World Market, and is absolutely lovely and amazing.


Country Apple Fritter Bread

from The Baking Chocolatess

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 apples, peeled and chopped, mixed with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a 9×5″ loaf pan and spray with non-stick spray.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl; set aside.

In a mixer bowl, beat granulated sugar and butter together until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time until blended in, then add vanilla extract.

Whisk flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl, then add to the creamed butter mixture and stir until blended. Mix milk into batter until smooth.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half of the apples and half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat apple mixture into the batter.

Pour remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apples and brown sugar mixture, and again pat apples into batter. Swirl brown sugar through apples using knife or spoon.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Slice and enjoy.

Caramel Apple Streusel Muffins

As I have undoubtedly mentioned before, I forget the wonderfulness of certain things – usually fruits. I like fruit, but I don’t burn for it every day like other people. So I forget how good a good apple can be.

Mikal bought some apples at Sprouts, and cut one up for me. I realized how good apples are again. They taste like fall to me. Pair that with caramel, and you have the most magnificent flavor combination I can think of.

I needed a recipe I could complete with just one egg and ~3/4 cups granulated sugar, as I was down on supplies. It’s really rather difficult to bake without both granulated sugar and few eggs, apparently. I didn’t realize it would be quite so difficult. But in the end, it worked out.

Below is a bit of a variation on the recipe I found at Oh Sweet Basil to include some of the caramel sauce I had in the fridge. Made a wonderful recipe just that much better with the addition.

Caramel Apple Streusel Muffins

adapted from Oh Sweet Basil

1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
10 tbsp butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peeled, finely chopped apple
caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, combine chopped walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon; mix well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut 8 tbsp butter into the flour mixture until butter is oat-sized. Remove 1 cup of the flour/butter mixture and stir into reserved brown sugar mixture until combined to make streusel; set aside. Add baking powder and baking soda to flour mixture and stir to combine.

Whisk together sour cream, egg and vanilla in a separate bowl, then add liquids to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add 3/4 cup streusel mixture to flour mixture and stir until just distributed throughout better. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter and stir into streusel mixture until it resembles a crumble. Gently fold apples into batter.

Fill muffin cups half-full with batter, then spoon a bit of caramel sauce into muffin cup, and fill to 3/4 full with more batter. Swirl caramel sauce in if you would like – it’s a bit difficult. Crumble the streusel topping onto each muffin cup, and sprinkle with more caramel sauce.

Bake 22-24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.