Saturday, February 26, 2011

Banana Bread

A friend of ours was moving this week, and I wanted to bake something that said "Happy New Home" for when I stopped by to visit. I had already shared the bacon chocolate chip cookies and truffles with her, so I needed something else. Immediately I thought of my mom's banana bread.

There's nothing like baking on a cold, stormy day. And banana bread is especially great because it's so crazy quick to throw together, gets rid of some over-ripe bananas along the way (usually some I've thrown in the fridge or freezer that look nasty and brown, but are perfect for this recipe), and it makes the whole house smell amazing.

Batter ready to go into the oven!
That's actually the exact association I have with this banana bread - throwing the door open after school on a cold, rainy day, and having the warmth of the house and the aroma of banana bread envelope me immediately. You better believe those raincoats and galoshes were thrown off into a heap in the corner in a hurry! That's happiness - biting into a warm, moist, buttery, thick slice of banana bread. And let me just say this now - banana bread is not meant to be sliced thin. You need a good, thick piece to sink your teeth into. And definitely err on the side of under-baking instead of over-baking, because no one wants dried-out, crumbly banana bread - unless you've never had anything different, in which case, make this recipe and then see if you're not a convert.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Musings and Feedback

After having lived with the bacon chocolate treats for a week, let me just give a little feedback on them. First off, they both turned out quite tasty, but extremely rich. And as much as I love bacon, I think I probably would not make either the cookies or the truffles with the bacon in them very often. The hubby agreed with this. It's just almost too rich to enjoy (I said almost!). That said, I would certainly consider using the bacon fat without the added bacon pieces. It added a depth of flavor to both the cookie and the truffle, that you just don't get with butter. Let me clarify a little on that, too. I used half butter and half bacon fat on the cookies, and I would keep that ratio or even a smidge more butter than bacon fat if you don't want a little bacon flavor in the cookies.

All the truffle versions had the bacon bits in them, and the ganache was made with the bacon bits cooked in the heavy whipping cream (cooked in the same pan the bacon was cooked in, in fact). That mixture on its own, by the way, was ridiculously rich and amazing. I could have that over pasta and die (of a heart attack, most likely) a happy woman. I would happily do the bacon fat in the ganache again, and I spoke last time of how much I loved the added depth of the bacon fat in the melted dipping chocolate. But the bacon bits I would probably leave out unless I really wanted that bacon flavor again.

And a general note, I chopped up the bacon before I pan-cooked it, and it was quite difficult to get the pieces small enough. I should have gone back after the cooking and chopped the pieces up finer. I also might try baking the bacon next time, as I should still get plenty of fat, but perhaps a little more even crisp throughout the meaty and fatty areas of the bacon itself.

I am happy to have tried out the bacon and chocolate desserts, but even more I'm happy about what I learned about truffles and cooking with bacon fat. I'm curious to hear what you all think, whether you're creating these yourself, or just imbibing them!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Truffles

Trio of Truffles
So I mentioned truffles in my last post. Yes, I was crazy enough to attempt two desserts for Valentine's Day. The truffles didn't quite get finished that night due to needing time to chill, form into balls, and cover. But the cookies went over very well, so all was well.

I had never made truffles before, and as much as they sound fancy and intimidating, I found in my internet research that the recipes looked exceptionally simple. There was even one on the back of the Ghirardelli chocolate bag (we all know much I love those recipes!), and I thought I missing the other half of the recipe, it was so short. So I chose two favorites - a more simple one from Vanilla Garlic, and a more complex one from Two Sisters.

Let me say that all truffles are essentially the same - a heated cream that is then poured over chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips), mixed until smooth and chilled, and magically becomes the tasty treat called ganache. The details are in what gets added to the ganache, and how you finish the rolled balls (sprinkles, dipping, rolling). So it would be very easy to add just a key ingredient into the ganache or choose a variety of toppings to easily get a variety of these guys to match any mood or time of year. The other thing is that you can change the type of chocolate for the ganache, and add variety that way too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

The hubby and I don't like to give in to the commercialism that has become Valentine's Day, so instead we try to show each other love throughout the year. I like to bake a little something for the hubby as well, and he has been known to bring me home flowers on V-Day - but he's also good about surprising me with flowers throughout the year, which I love.

Army of Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
The past few years I've done chocolate chip pan cookies in a heart-shaped pan I inherited from my mom (we used to use them growing up for Valentine's Day, and I like the tradition). But I wanted something a little different this year, and a friend happened to mention something about adding bacon into chocolate chip cookies. Yes, brilliant, I'll do that!

A brief caveat: if you're not into the whole bacon + chocolate/sweet thing, these are probably not the cookie for you. It's delicious to me, but I understand not everyone's palate appreciates it. (As the hubby puts it, "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter! Well you got your peanut butter on my chocolate!" And if you don't get that reference, you obviously didn't see Reese's commercials in the 80's.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Peppermint Simple Syrup

I got it into my head for Christmas that I wanted to make a peppermint syrup to give as presents to my friends and family. Perhaps it was the lure of the season, or just the desire to use up some of those candy canes I still had around, but I soon found myself searching for cute little glass bottles in which to package the sticky pink prettiness.

OK, I didn't actually buy the bottles until after I'd found some recipes and discovered how quick and easy it was. So, after a little trolling around the web, I culled a few super-simple (pun maybe partly intended!) recipes and got to work.

First off, realize that simple syrup is just sugar water - lots of coffee shops have it with the condiments so that you can sweeten cold drinks without worrying about the sugar not dissolving. But once you've made the simple syrup, you can add whatever flavoring you want. So you can choose whatever flavor matches your mood.

Welcome!

Over the holidays, I got the crafting and baking bug. It's something that I've always been prone to, but this year, - for multiple reasons - it hit me hard.

I decided that I wanted to share ideas and recipes and projects, but I didn't feel that those posts would fit with my other blog, Cuppa Fog. So I've created a new place, where I can post about my dabbles into so-called domestic duties like sewing and cooking.

If you're wondering where the "dubious" part comes in, well, I would never label myself as domestic. I hate cleaning and laundry and dishes and all that stuff. But the fun "domestic" stuff like crafting and baking - well I can get behind that!

So wherever you've joined me from, welcome! And if things here inspire or helps out someone else, then that'll make me happy. At the very least it'll be a place I can stow some recipes and crafting ideas! (And hopefully I can get a better blog design set up soon.)