Really Good Banana Muffins

banana muffins

How many recipes does one need for banana muffins? Just one really. A really good one. I’ve tried more than a couple of banana muffin recipes in the past years and this banana muffin recipe is definitely a keeper. There are a few tricks for good banana muffins. Firstly, make sure you use over-ripe bananas. When you have a bunch of bananas that are over-ripe and you don’t feel like baking just yet, peel them and freeze them for use later. Don’t throw them away! Personally, I find that the local variety “red meat bananas” make the best banana muffins/cakes/breads. My grandma calls them “ang bah jio”. Second trick – do not over mash the bananas. This gives the muffins a better texture. Lastly, use brown sugar for a more fragrant muffin.

Really Good Banana Muffins
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup toasted coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a 12 cup muffin tray with non-stick baking spray and centre an oven rack.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, walnuts, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, coarsely mash the bananas.
  4. Add beaten eggs, butter, buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.
  5. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold (I use a whisk) to combine.
  6. Fill each muffin cup till ¾ full.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until muffin tops are golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  8. Cool to room temperature.

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Sun-dried tomato pesto

I love sun-dried tomatoes. They are rich in flavour and can be used in so many ways. I particularly like them in pastas and salads – that distinct taste of sun-dried tomatoes livens up the whole dish! I usually use sun-dried tomatoes that are steeped in olive oil. If you use the dried ones, you will have to reconstitute them in some water. Do not throw away the water though, use it in your pasta!

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Nutella Swirled ChocoNana Muffins

Nutella swirled choco nana muffins

I was mulling over what to bake for breakfast and asked my husband if he preferred oatmeal bread or honey wholewheat bread. “Chocolate Banana bread!” my little one chimes in. Chocolate banana bread? Now where did that come from! She has never tried chocolate banana cake, bread, muffin or anything of that combination. It did sound like a good idea though. After all, I really like chocolate mousse cake with banana slices.

So breakfast was decided. Chocolate banana bread. Only that a loaf of bread sounded a little boring. “How bout chocolate banana muffins instead?” I asked the little one. She nodded in agreement. I never thought that my 2.5 y.o will be deciding the breakfast menu at such a young age!

I set out to bake Chocolate Banana muffins. And then I had a brainwave. My husband loves nutella. How bout topping each muffin with just a little nutella? Brilliant isn’t it? I would think so because the muffins were so good. I love the texture, the flavour, the chunky banana and the bits of chocolate AND the nutella. You would love it too, if you try it!

Nutella Swirled ChocoNana Muffins
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed coarsely
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • nutella
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 175ºC.
  2. Place 8 large standing muffin liners on a baking tray. (You can use a muffin tray as well.)
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a smaller mixing bowl, add eggs, melted butter, vanilla extract and buttermilk to the mashed bananas. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold gently.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Fill each muffin cup to ¾ full.
  8. Top with ½ tsp of nutella. Swirl with a toothpick or a small spatula.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

This post is shared at these blogs.

Old Fashioned Cheese Bread and my Bread-making Journey

Old Fashioned Cheese Bread

I received a photo, followed by a voice message while at work today. The voice message was my daughter asking me to make her the bread in the photo – some raisin roll. A second message soon followed with “instructions” from her on how I should make the bread. “Mama, you need to put some flour, then put some blueberries, then put some oil and more flour. Then I can eat it for breakfast.” I think she thought the raisins in the bread were blueberries. Her bread won’t rise for sure – no yeast. :-)

My bread-making journey has many twists and turns. If you were to ask me to bake bread two years ago, I probably would have cringed. Now, it’s something I do every other day. It wasn’t always easy. The first time I tried to make bread, I used a wooden spoon. I may have overmixed/undermixed or punched the dough too hard because the bread turned out rock hard. And I had aching arms.

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{Closed} Pre-Holidays Giveaway! – Cook’s Illustrated Nov & Dec 2013

cooks illustrated giveaway

October and November is always a period of celebration for the family. Both my husband and my birthdays fall in these months and so does our wedding anniversary! Amid the celebrations, I thought that it’s apt to share some of our joys with you, our readers, with this little giveaway.

Some of you may know that I love cookbooks and food magazines. Cook’s Illustrated is one of them. Although it is not as exciting in terms of photography as some other magazines (it’s black and white), it has a wealth of information from cooking tips, recommendations and recipes that will definitely work. This Nov & December edition has recipes that are perfect for your holiday preparations! Read more about Cook’s Illustrated here.

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Almost healthy blueberry crumb cake

blueberry crumb cake

I am a terrible blogger. I discovered how terrible I was recently when I got myself onto Google+ and found out there was so much more to food blogging than I ever knew. Planning a blog post? You mean people plan blog posts and not just post whenever they fancy. Ah… but the knowledge is good. Now to start becoming more organised.

You see, I seldom plan what to bake/cook these days. It is usually a case of “oh the kid slept early today, now what can I bake?” or “I think these blueberries have been lying around the fridge for a little too long, I should do something about them”. So it happens when those two statements fall on the same night, I bake blueberry crumb cake.

Now read crumb cake and you know that it has a streusel topping. I love streusel topping though it is probably way too sweet for my good and so I usually compensate by reducing the sugar in the cake. This time round, I attempted to ease my conscience by substituting half of the flour with whole wheat flour.

I brought this to work and colleagues loved it. Serve it with coffee or tea if you like. I was happy to eat it on its own.

Almost healthy blueberry crumb cake
 
Ingredients
Streusel topping
  • 2.5 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
Cake
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup plus 2 tsp plain flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 175°C and place a rack in the centre of the oven.
  2. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Using a fork, combine the ingredients for the streusel topping (except the walnuts) together.
  4. Stir in the walnuts and keep covered with cling wrap and refrigerated until required.
  5. Toss blueberries with 2 teaspoons of plain flour.
  6. In a large bowl, sift remaining plain flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine.
  7. In the bowl of a standing mixer, rub sugar and zest together with fingertips until sugar is moist and fragrant.
  8. With the paddle attachment, cream sugar with butter at medium speed till light.
  9. Add eggs one by one, beating for about a minute after each addition.
  10. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  11. Reduce mixer speed to low and add in the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  12. The batter will be thick. Stir in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.
  13. Pour batter into the prepared pan and smoothen out the top.
  14. Break refrigerated streusel topping into pieces and scatter over the top of the cake.
  15. Bake for about 60 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  16. Transfer cake to a rack to cool.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes
Recipe adapted from "Baking, from my home to yours"

This post is shared at Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Simple Living and Eating and Freedom Fridays.

Pizza Dinner for #cookforfamily

pizza2 My husband’s favourite foods are pizza and baguette. Yes, he will survive very well in both France and Italy. Whenever the question of “what shall we eat today?” surfaces, his answer will likely be pizza. Our family may well be eating pizza every other day, if he has his way around things. Fortunately, he doesn’t.

So, he has been on a “I want to eat pizza” mood for a couple of weeks, and since the family wasn’t quite well (the flu bug has been going around), he hadn’t had his pizza fix. He signed up for cook for family event, I suggested to him to kill two birds with one stone – have his pizza fix AND cook for the family. He gamely took up my suggestion and we had fun making pizza!

pizza3

We modified a Jamie Oliver’s basic pizza dough recipe and had enough dough for four medium size pizzas. One of the pizzas was made with a tomato base and the other with a pesto base. We even had a splitza! Half ham, mushroom and peppers and the other butter chicken.

pizza_girl

It was all hands on deck for pizza night! Yes, even my two year old toddler had fun adding ingredients to the pizza. Here in this picture, she is adding her favourite mushrooms to the pizza. I love this candid shot!

pizza1

I made the above pizza with a pesto base, using a good ready-made pesto sauce. Spread the pesto as a base, heap on the ingredients to your liking, sprinkle with mozzarella and in the oven it goes!

pizza4

And this picture brings me to the discovery of the day: Butter chicken pizza. Ok, I know what you must be thinking. This gooey mess of red? Are you kidding me? Well, we did go overboard with the butter chicken sauce, but trust me, this is the most delicious combination we have had on a pizza in a long while. Perhaps, it would have looked prettier if we had remembered to spread butter chicken sauce on the base, heap on chunky pieces of butter chicken with added onions and peppers and topped it with mozzarella cheese. But no, I forgot to spread the pizza base with sauce so I decided to drizzle it most liberally on the pizza. The result? This messy looking pizza that tasted every bit delicious.

So are you sold yet? What is butter chicken, some of you may ask. It’s this tasty chicken dish that is sold at most tandoori food stalls and it is a fantastic accompaniment to naan. I say, it is even better on pizza.

The next time you are wondering what to do for dinner, consider making pizza and having fun with your family! Pizza making is one of the the things that is sure to engage everyone, from the oldest to the youngest. No real recipe, just your favourite ingredients mixed and matched the way you like it. After all, dinner together as a family is supposed to be fun!

Simple pizza crust
 
This simple pizza dough makes four medium size pizzas.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 500g bread flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 7g dried yeast (not instant)
  • 1½ tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 325 ml warm water (43-46°C)
Instructions
Pizza dough
  1. Sieve flour and salt onto a clean surface.
  2. In a large measuring jug, mix yeast, brown sugar, olive oil and warm water.
  3. Leave it to stand for about 5-7 minutes (the mixture should look foamy).
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour.
  5. Add the liquid mixture into the well and slowly mix in flour from the sides.
  6. When the dough comes together, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 10 - 15 minutes).
  7. Shape dough into a ball and place it in a large flour-dusted bowl.
  8. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave it to rise until double in bulk.
  9. Remove dough from bowl and knead it gently to remove some air.
  10. Divide dough into four portions and cover dough with a piece of cling wrap for 10-15 minutes.
  11. Roll out each piece of dough till about 0.5cm thick.
  12. Use immediately or stack them up, cover with cling wrap and place them into the fridge.
Baking pizza
  1. Preheat oven to 205°C 20 minutes before pizza is to be baked.
  2. Place a baking stone (if using) in the oven while it is heating up.
  3. Place pizza on a baking sheet.
  4. Spread sauce on pizza and place toppings on top of the sauce base.
  5. Sprinkle liberally with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Place baking sheet on top of baking stone and bake for 15 minutes, or until pizza crust is golden brown.
  7. Serve hot.
Notes
Recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver's pizza dough