Tag: loaf

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

I’ll be honest, with the exception of one recipe  I haven’t had great success with banana bread over the years. It’s always stodgy and damp, not enough lift, and often not banana-y enough in flavor. Recently, there were 3 brown bananas on the counter and I debated tossing them into the freezer to keep browning for a banana bread or smoothie in the future but then I thought, screw it! And I made this recipe up as I went along. The result? The best damn banana bread I’ve ever made! Fast! No mixer! Easy to do with minimal ingredients! Honestly, it’s a winner.

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

3 very ripe bananas
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp hazelnut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the wet ingredients together until well combined. Add the dry ingredients in two parts, mixing just until combined with each addition. Scrape the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan then cool completely, out of the pan, on a wire rack.

Cranberry Pecan Loaf with Orange

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas …

The tree is glinting in it’s silver and blue finery. The stockings have been retrieved from storage. We have snipped and unfolded dozens of snowflakes and hung them in an arch between the living and dining rooms. We have had a festive December, indeed. One thing that our Christmas does not include is a fruitcake.

Are you a fruitcake fan? It seems so few people are these days. Growing up there was always fruitcake, often made by my aunt Judy. It was dense and dark and boozy. I made it with her once or twice and it was astonishing to see how much went into it: cups and cups of fruit and nuts, so much so that there was barely room for the spiced batter that held it all together. I never loved it, but each Christmas I like to have just one small piece, a couple mouthfuls, just because it tastes like Christmas.

The recipe here for Cranberry Pecan Loaf has become the closest thing to fruitcake in my household each year. It has the Christmassy zing of orange and it is studded with other ‘mix-ins’ that give it the look and feel of fruitcake, but with a much cleaner, more modern flavour profile. It’s a great balance of sweet, tart, bitter and nutty. As a simple quick bread it mixes up quickly and bakes reliably making it a no-fail nod to the season.

Cranberry Pecan Loaf with Orange 

preheat oven to 350°

1 ½ C flour

1 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

juice of 1 large navel orange (¼ C)

¼ C milk

6 Tbsp butter, room temperature

¾ C packed light brown sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped, pod discarded

2 eggs

1 C chopped pecans

½ C chopped dried cranberries

½ C white chocolate chips

the zest of 1 large navel orange

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and well creamed, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla bean seeds. Add the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together. Likewise, mix the orange juice and milk together in a measuring cup.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter, sugar and egg mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the wet ingredients.

Stir in the pecans, cranberries, zest and white chocolate chips. Scrap the batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden.

Cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping. This loaf freezes well once it is completely cool.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I can recall many a bygone summer punctuated by berry picking. Just a stone’s throw from the edge of Vancouver proper unfolds seemingly endless opportunities to pick your own fruit. Nearly any berry you could want, you can pick, if the time is right. As the thermometer rises, and the sun does its magic, the region swells with fruit, ripened and ready to be plucked by the adventurous, the frugal and sometimes the unwilling. (The unwilling being myself and my niece Justine, who is only 5 years younger than me.)

As kids, we hated it, dreaded it.

The car ride: too hot with bare legs sticking to the seats, and seat belt buckle burns. The farms themselves: there was always a dodgy looking old guy or a ferocious seeming dog. The blazing sun: high sun, sweltering down on us, shoulders and backs peeling despite the slick of sunscreen and the embarrassingly wide brimmed hats. The bugs: at every turn there were spider webs to get ensnared in, sometimes with spiders. Or grasshoppers whizzing and clicking and zipping up the leg of your shorts. Or snakes. The reach: we were kids so we were short (we still are) so leaning into brambles, bushes and rows upon rows of shrubbery to reach up-high clusters of berries meant falling into them, crushing your plastic ice cream pail, losing your hat, likely swallowing a spider and getting leapt upon by any manner of creature. The work: this was hard labour, man. Minutes dragged by, hours felt like days and had we not been so creeped out by the flying, biting stinging things we would have just laid down under the bushes and waited for it to be done.

However did we make it through?

In reality it was never as bad as we remembered.Those car rides were filled with games of 20 questions, rock paper scissors and singing along to the radio. The farms were a change of pace from our city homes and the dogs, although full of bark, were never filled with bite. And the sun? We lived for midday sun. Justine would turn an impressive deep caramel and I would freckle — peeling sunburns and comparing tan lines was all part of the fun. The bugs were bad, the snakes were thrilling and while the grown ups were rows away from us, chatting, steadily filling their pails, we could be rambunctious, squealing at the sight of a wasp, chasing a snake, or poking spiders’ webs with sticks, only to shriek and recoil if they moved. Was it work? Not at all, it was a day outside with all the berries we could possibly eat.

As an adult, I now appreciate the work of picking berries, whether it’s me who picks them, or whether I just pick them up at the market. Either way, I have a better perspective on what it takes for local farmers to grow, produce, harvest, and sell their fruit. I’m also no longer “unwilling” to stop by a u-pick and fill an old ice cream pail or two on a sunny weekend afternoon. What changed? Well, now I get to do things with the pickings. Jams, tarts, cereal toppers, or muffins. The culinary options abound with fresh, seasonal fruit. It’s a short season, we may as well get all of it that we can – even if that means battling the grasshoppers, sidestepping snakes or even feeling like a kid again.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Since these little gems are not made by the “muffin method” they have a more classically cake-like crumb to them and they transform into loaf very well. Make this recipe as 2 loaves, 24 muffins or 1 loaf and 12 muffins.

preheat oven to 350°

1-3/4 C all purpose flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

a scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg (just a little pinch)

1/4 tsp salt

1 C yoghurt

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp vanilla

zest of 2 lemons, finely grated

1/2 C butter or margarine

1 C sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 -1/2 C fresh blueberries

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and vanilla together. Set aside. Cream together the butter, lemon zest and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs one at a time. Once the eggs are incorporated, mix in one third of the flour mixture then one half of the yoghurt. Repeat, alternating until all the flour and yoghurt mixtures are blended. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Scrape the batter into prepared (greased and floured) loaf tins or into muffin pans.

For loaves, bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. For muffins, bake 20-22 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes before turning out onto wire cooling rack.

Cinnamon Blueberry Tea Cake

If we are Twitter pals, you may recall that a couple weeks ago I tweeted a smattering of frantic SOS-like questions pertaining to the exact whereabouts of a particular lemon and blueberry loaf that I was so sure I had seen and read, then forgotten, then remembered, and ultimately misplaced. I still haven’t found it. It is somewhere, out in the blog-osphere, taunting me. One day I will find it.

The reason for the panic was that I had been talking food (what else?) with my dear friend, Janna, who is a real delight and understands that all cannot be right with the world when one is on the hunt for a recipe. See, I had promised to forward it to her, but then I’d forgotten where I had seen it, and I was trying to appear organized, resourceful and master of my baking domain. Instead, I failed and flailed, but being the excellent friend that she is, Janna sent me a recipe instead. Her mother’s cinnamon loaf recipe, to be exact.

I read it through. It seemed simple enough. It called for soured milk (nothing a spritz of lemon wouldn’t solve) but I happened to have buttermilk. The cinnamon and brown sugar promised an intoxicating aroma, and as Janna put it, “Your whole house will smell sweet. It just takes over!”. Sold.

But there I was, still with the lemon blueberry loaf on my mind, and then it hit me … blueberries and cinnamon. Oh yes. Oh. Yes.  So I whipped up the batter (shockingly runny!) and layered it with the cinnamon sugar, then deftly thwacked the heavy, dark berries into the surface. Into the oven it went. As if by magic, or the delicious psychic-ism of old friends, the phone rang. Who else but Janna?

“I’m making your mom’s cinnamon loaf. ”

“Oooooooh I bet your house smells like my childhood right now!”

“I added blueberries and used buttermilk.”

“Oh. Well, it will still be really good.”

An hour later, the phone call over, the cake emerged, golden, spiced and berries bubbling. I was glad I had baked it in a heart shaped dish — it made me smile. Cooled and cut, dusted with powdered sugar, it was fantastic; simple and homey. It was a far cry from lemon but somehow, thanks to the thoughtfulness of a friend and a dependable recipe, all was right with the world.

Cinnamon Blueberry Tea Cake

adapted from a family recipe  

preheat your oven to 350°

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/4 C butter

1 C sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 C buttermilk

1 C blueberries (fresh or frozen. if frozen, do not thaw)

Grease and flour a standard loaf pan or 8×8 square pan, set aside.

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Beat until pale, fluffy and well incorporated.

In a second bowl, combine all dry ingredients.

Pour approximately one 3rd of the dry mixture into the wet mixture, incorporate swiftly without over mixing. Add 1/2 the buttermilk, again, incorporating swiftly. Repeat, alternating with the remaining 2/3 of the dry ingredients and the second 1/2 of the buttermilk. The batter will be quite wet, similar to pancake batter.

Pour a thin layer of the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle over some of cinnamon sugar mixture. Alternate, making layers until both the batter and the cinnamon sugar are used. Swirl the layers with a knife, chopstick, skewer, etc.

Drop the blueberries, in a single layer all over the surface. Push some of them down into the batter and let others remain on top.

Bake for 1 hour – 1 hour 15 mins. The cake will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in its center comes out clean.

Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then turn the cake out to cool completely. Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

When you’re in the depths of a west coast winter and the weekends are drizzly and grey and you’re indulging yourself in some well-deserved downtime (maybe an hour or two as the laundry does it’s thing, or as you catch up on some reading) sometimes you just want a little something to have with tea in the afternoon. Something that’s quick to make, low maintenance and gives you a high return on your minimal effort. Something sweet but not cloying that doesn’t make you feel like you have started your week in a nutritional deficit. Something just … right.

While most of North America tunes into the Super Bowl today, our household (a distinctly non-football-watching household) is enjoying the peace and quiet of a catch-up Sunday, as we all catch up on things from the week. Laundry will be done, beds will be changed, a Sunday dinner will be leisurely constructed throughout the afternoon. But in the middle of these low-impact activities there will be a short tea-time reprieve with this humble loaf.

Chocolate zucchini loaf is often a delicious result of a late summer bumper crop of zucchini. If you have ever grown zucchini you will understand because if their growing conditions are right, they will yield like almost no other vegetable and you will be up to your ears in zucchini.

So here it is, February, and obviously we are not faced with a zucchini surplus. However we almost always have some in the fridge because it is a well loved and oft used veggie in our house. When the itch for something for tea struck, my mind went almost immediately to the small, tender zucchini in the crisper drawer. If you have never had it and are dubious about the combination, don’t be. The chocolate is the star and the zucchini adds unparalleled moistness and cooks away almost to invisibility.


Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

preheat your oven to 375 degrees

1 cup grated zucchini (two small “courgette” size or about 1 medium)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Grate the zucchini and set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with a fork until well scrambled.

Add the sugar, whisk with a fork until well combined. Add vanilla and oil. Mix thoroughly.

Add the zucchini to the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the wet. Mix together with as few strokes as possible until the mixture is wet, but not over-mixed.

Scrape into a well greased loaf pan and bake at 375 degrees for 55 minutes. To test, insert a skewer or toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow the loaf to cool for 5 mins in the pan on a wore rack, then invert out of the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack before slicing and serving.