Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I recently got my hands on a loaf pan and I have been dying to use it. I’ve had for about a week and a half now and haven’t had the time to do any serious baking since I bought it. In fact the only time I’ve used it so far is with some left over batter from some Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes I made using my Pumpkin Puree.  Let me tell you that was delicious. Anyway, this week has been a nightmare of transportation problem and I just haven’t had the time (or gas for my stove) to do much cooking. However, knowing that our car won’t be fixed before Monday at the earliest, Friday we stocked up on lot’s of fruit and vegetables and all the stuff we’d need to get through the weekend without leaving the house. I might have been a little over zealous in my shopping. I’ve had a bunch of bananas sitting around for a few days now. We’ve eaten a few but they’ve begun attracting the fruit flies. Perfect for making banana bread, which is also super easy. And seeing as we planted over 50 banana trees on the property I figure I will need something to do with all those bananas.

Banana Bread

3-4 Bananas (I used 6 Bananitas they are much smaller than the standard stateside banana)

80 g butter melted

3/4 – 1 cup of sugar

1 egg beaten

1 TBSP rum

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 TBSP baking powder

dash of salt

1/2 c flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mash bananas leaving some chunks. Melt butter. In large bowl combined mashed bananas and melted butter. Cream in sugar. Add beaten egg, rum and spices. In med bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir with wooden spoon until mixed well. Pour into buttered loaf pan. Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour or until skewer comes clean.

Coconut Bread French Toast with Caramelized Pineapples in Sauce

Coconut French Toast with PineapplesWell, it seems like a lifetime since I last blogged here. For a while there I wasn’t cooking and then as they say, life just kind of got in the way. Since I last wrote we have bought property out here on Isla de Ometepe and finally started on construction of our dream, an organic farm with an Eco Bed and Breakfast. Part of the plan is to have a restaurant that will ultimately feature food grown on the property and locally. We’d like our menu to feature a fusion of American comfort foods re-envisioned with tropical flare. You can check it out at www.facebook.com/eljardinometepe

To that end I have been experimenting a lot with tropical fruits lately. Guava Balsamic Reductions for our steaks, Pineapple Mango Ginger Steak Stirfry, Sesame Encrusted Bass with Mango Salsa, that kind of thing. We have a guava tree on our property and currently we have guava coming out our ears, so I’m trying to master guava jam. When I get it figured out I’ll share it with you. Anyway, the other day I bought some fresh coconut bread from a small comedor (local restaurant) and I had been dreaming of putting guava jam on it. Unfortunately after four long hot in the kitchen I wound up with guava paste as opposed to guava jam. So the coconut bread has been sitting on my counter for a few days. Last night we sliced off a little to eat with the Pineapple Mango Ginger Steak but it was getting pretty stale.

So I decided this morning I would use the last of it to make some french toast. Since I can’t get real Maple Syrup here and I’m out of honey at the moment I thought I would fancy it up a bit. So I chopped up some pineapple and whipped up a syrup and viola- we have coconut bread french toast with caramelized pineapples in syrup. We enjoyed a lovely Saturday morning breakfast on the patio watching the butterflies.

Coconut Bread French Toast Recipe

I used half a loaf of local coconut bread for this. I would say in size and shape it most resembled a baguette but a bit denser. I sliced the loaf in half lengthwise and then in half again so I had four slices.

For the french toast batter I mixed two eggs, a splash of milk, about a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Whisk together. Dip the slice in the egg mixture one at a time until saturated. Make sure you coat both sides of the bread. Then cook on hot skillet. Cook each side until golden brown. When ready put on a plate, add caramelize pineapples and drizzle with syrup.

Caramelized Pineapple in Sauce

1 in slice of fresh pineapple cored and diced

2 TBSP butter

3 TBSP sugar

2 TBSP water

2 Tsp cinnamon

splash vanilla extract

I just added everything to small sauce pan and cooked it down until the pineapples were soft and the syrup was a beautiful golden color. I think next time I’ll melt the butter first, then add the sugar and pineapple and judge how much water is needed based off how juicy the pineapple is. However it turned out great just dumping it all into a pan.

I started the sauce and then made the french toast and both were ready at the same time. It was super quick, super yummy and it looks really pretty.

NIC_0585

Bagels… Need I Say More?

Yum

Yum

If there is one thing I can always count on my mother having in her kitchen it’s bagels and cream cheese. I remember when I was a little girl on special Sundays we would get up early and drive all the way to Cranston (which in RI is far) to go to Rainbow Bakery to get real bagels and deli cream cheese, not the frozen Lender’s bagels that came from the grocery store. When you got there early enough the bagels were still warm and that lovely warm yeasty smell filled the car on the ride home. It was definitely worth the drive in my opinion. As time when on and bagels grew in popularity, the local bakery in town decided to send their baker off to bagel school. Apparently bagel school took MONTHS and required they buy special equipment. Perhaps this is why I never considered the possibility of making my own bagels until recently.

While I traveled Central America, one of the things I missed most in my diet was bagels. It has been my go to breakfast food for as long as I can remember. Whenever I found a town with a place that had bagels I can guarantee you, we ate there everyday we were in town. By far and away the best bagel shop I found was the Bagel Barn in Antigua, Guatemala. They have a witty, quirky menu, real cream cheese and amazing bagels. Plus they have super speedy wifi, which is almost equally as important. I spent many hours sitting there drinking nice iced coffee drinks, full of yummy bagely goodness surfing the web. Ahh, the Bagel Barn.

Recently, I have begun looking into baking things I would never had considered. Since I made my own wedding cake, I though maybe I was up to tackling bagels. Just because I live on an island in the middle of nowhere is no reason a girl should have to go without bagels. And so today I did it. Bagels. From scratch, not the freezer. After reading many recipes I found on the internet I used the recipe for New York Style Bagels I found at The Sophisticated Gourmet.  She does such a good job of explaining I recommend checking it out. It takes a few hours to make them but in the end it’s not that bad and SO SO worth it.

Now I just have to conquer cream cheese…

Bagels- Makes 8 medium sized bagels

2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 TBSP sugar

1 1/4 c. water

3 1/2 c flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

In 1/2 cup of warm water pour sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let sit 5 minutes then stir yeast and sugar until it dissolves.

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the sugar/yeast mixture.

Pour in half the remaining water and mix. Stir in the remaining water as needed for your climate. You want a moist and firm dough.

Knead dough about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. It should for a stiff firm dough.

Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn dough to coat.

Dough

Cover with a damp dish cloth and set in a warm place to rise for one hour. The dough should double in size.

After the dough has risen it should be double in size

After the dough has risen it should be double in size

Punch down dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

Carefully divide the dough into eight pieces. Shape each piece into a round dough ball.

Divide dough into 8 pieces

Divide dough into 8 pieces

Coat a finger in flour and gently press into the center of the dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the hole about 1/3 the diameter of the bagel and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Uses your finger to stretch out a hole

Uses your finger to stretch out a hole

After shaping bagels, cover with a damp towel and let rest for an additional 10 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil. Using a slotted spoon lower bagels into the water.

Within seconds the bagels should float to the top. Boil for 1 minute per side. Two minutes per side for chewier bagels.

Boil one minute per side

Boil one minute per side

Once the bagels are boiled transfer to the parchment paper covered baking sheet.

At this point you can add toppings with the addition of an egg wash. I made plain bagels.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Golden Brown

Golden Brown

It’s not a cookie, it’s not a scone- it’s a BISCUIT

A couple of months ago I got a craving for one of my favorite Portland breakfast eateries- Pine State Biscuits. As I began talking about this with the international crowd I was hanging out with I realized biscuits are a uniquely American thing. That golden brown, warm, fluffy lump of buttery flakey goodness doesn’t exist. In England and Australia they use the word biscuit to refer to a type of cookie.  All they know of biscuits comes from watching American movies and TV. “You eat them with gravy, right?” I got asked. Yes, you can eat them with gravy, or jam. You can eat biscuits any number of other delightful ways, like using  them to make a  sandwich. Which is what Pine State Biscuits does. They put everything in the world on a sandwich. Check this photo out from brunch a couple of weeks ago that my sister-in-law Amber posted yesterday to my FB wall.

pinestate

Anyway, for several months now I have been experimenting with my biscuit recipe and I believe I have finally perfected it. The final ingredient- the cast iron skillet that was a gift from Amber as well. Let me say, I’ve fallen in love with cast iron, especially for baking. I used the same pan for pizza the other night and it was stellar. Everything browns on the bottom but does not burn. Perfection. In addition to my cast iron, I also received a number of other nifty kitchen toys that make life much easier in the kitchen. I was amazed at the difference I get just from using a proper size bowl. Now my dough forms easily into a ball whereas before I would be chasing ingredients around the edge. And I could go on and on about my pastry cutter. But this is not about kitchen devices- it’s about biscuits. In addition to my cast iron skillet I came back with baking powder from the states. I can get baking powder down here but I had noticed before they weren’t rising as tall as I thought they should. The difference in height I get with the stuff from the states is amazing. I made a batch in the states and noticed this as well. So quality ingredients and the right tools really do make a difference.

Biscuits1

Look at how tall they are

Look at how tall they are

Biscuit 3

Biscuits

2 1/4 c. flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/3 c. ice cold butter

1 TBSP honey

1 c. milk

Pre-heat oven to 425 F

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Cut in ice cold butter into it is pea sized balls.

Add honey and milk and stir in with a wooden spoon until it creates a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured counter top and knead 10 times. The dough should be moist but not sticky. If it’s sticky knead in more flour. This will vary depending on your climate. I use more flour because I live in the jungle.

Roll or pat out to 1/2 inch thick and cut with a cup or biscuit cutter.

Place on cookie sheet- or cast iron skillet

Cook on 425 for 13-15 minutes.

You can slather them in gravy, put butter or jam on them, or make them into sandwiches. The choice is yours. Enjoy!

I made a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich. I even got to use some of that homemade mayo I made the other night.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich