Friday, February 24, 2012

Banana-butterscotch muffins

Banana-butterscotch muffin

Sometimes, when you've stopped looking for something is when you find it.

I'd been looking for a good banana recipe for some time now, banana bread or banana muffins, there's not a huge difference. But I'd sort of given up on that, put it on the back burner and focused on other things. And then, my fiancé decided to clean out the freezer the other day, and I noticed how many bananas had piled up in there, quite a few of them no longer good, I'm sure, but some of them I knew I'd only put in there a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, I'd already noticed that the giant pile of bags of baking chips had been sitting there in the pantry, mocking me, and I'd pulled out a bag of peanut butter chips and opened them, nibbling on a few here and there. So when I saw the pile of bananas needing to be used up, I thought, why not look around for a peanut butter-banana something, a muffin or cookie or somesuch?

Of course, once I'd settled on this recipe, I realized that while I have one bag of peanut butter chips, I have four bags of butterscotch chips, and they're all set to expire in October, meaning that I have to use them up between now and then. (In case you're curious, the reason why I have four bags of butterscotch chips to use up is that I was stockpiling them when they were on sale for a baking project that was supposed to happen in January... but it got postponed until next spring, far past when the chips need to be used. So much for planning ahead.)

But it all worked out for the best, 'cause really, butterscotch is only a few steps away from caramel or brown sugar, flavor-wise, and those are the sorts of flavors that pair nicely with banana. These came out even yummier than I'd hoped for, and they filled this house with a sweet, almost pancake-y aroma. Plus, not only is the pairing of banana and butterscotch a good one, but the muffin recipe itself is a keeper, very moist and light and delicious. :)

Banana-Butterscotch Muffins
Adapted from Fun & Fearless in Beantown

1 1/2 c flour
2/3 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 bananas
1/2 c butter
1/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3/4 c butterscotch chips (or peanut butter, or chocolate, or nuts, whatever)

1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. In another, good-sized bowl, microwave the bananas and the butter until the butter melts, then mash together until it's as smooth as you can get it. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla, then the egg, then the dry ingredients. Mix in the butterscotch chips.
3. Divide evenly among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove onto a cooling rack.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate-strawberry whoopie pies

Chocolate-strawberry whoopie pies

It's Valentine's Day eve, and I now own a wedding dress! The wedding planning is humming along quite nicely -- but I haven't neglected the kitchen, fret not. In fact, I couldn't let Valentine's Day pass without one more chocolate recipe, so when I saw a recipe for a raspberry-filled whoopie pie, well, that seemed perfect, especially since I'd been meaning to try my hand at whoopie pies for quite some time (they're the latest baking trend, y'know). What better time for making whoopie (pies) than Valentine's Day? ;)

Of course, I couldn't leave the recipe alone, not when I have lots of fresh-picked-in-season strawberries stashed in the freezer that need to be used up. Plus, the cake part of the 'pies looked a little flat in photo that went with the original recipe -- why not sub in another cake recipe that looked much more promising?

The only major problem I ended up having with these was that as often happens, I ended up with way too much buttercream (and the original recipe's yield actually indicated that I wouldn't have enough). Next time, I might half that recipe.

These came out really delicious, though, like a cakey version of a chocolate-covered strawberry. I'm sure your Valentine would really appreciate them. I know mine will -- he loves anything strawberry. :)

Chocolate-Strawberry Whoopie Pies
Adapted from this recipe, with a version of this filling, both from Baking Bites

2 c flour
1 c cocoa
Scant 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c hot water
1/2 c buttermilk

1 c butter, softened
1/4 c strawberry puree (blend berries until no chunks remain, then pass through a sieve)
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 c confectioners’ sugar

1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa and salt and set aside.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.
3. Combine the baking soda and hot water.
4. Into the butter mixture, stir in a third of the hot water, a third of the buttermilk and a third of the flour mixture, stirring after each addition. Repeat until everything is mixed in.
5. Form into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Press down on each to flatten.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 6 minutes, until the tops are cracked and the cakes look set. Remove to racks to cool.
7. Beat the butter, then beat in the milk, vanilla and strawberry puree. Beat in the confectioners' sugar until combined, then beat on high until fluffy. Sandwich between the cooled cakes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nutella brownie bites

Nutella brownie bites

It's so hard to find the time to bake and blog when you're caught up in a whirlwind of wedding planning. But that doesn't mean I don't still love to do it, and so, when I came across this recipe on Pinterest for three-ingredient Nutella brownie bites (so quick, so simple!), I had to try it. After all, I've had a craving for chocolate and brownies for weeks, because Valentine's Day is approaching, so this was perfect... and a perfect excuse to buy a jar of Nutella, of course. :)

My verdict on these is that while they were indeed quick and easy, I'm not sure if they were worth the amount of Nutella used in them. If you want a nutty-tasting brownie, go for it, but some of the fudginess of the Nutella gets lost in this recipe, so they're more nutty than chocolatey. They're not bad by any stretch, and they're sure worth the tiny amount of effort that goes into them, but I think I'd rather make a more chocolatey brownie and save the Nutella for eating straight from the jar, myself.

Nutella Brownie Bites
Adapted from a Savory Sweet Life recipe

1 c Nutella
2 eggs
10 tbsp flour

1. Mix together the Nutella and the eggs until well combined. Stir in the flour until blended.
2. Spoon into a greased mini-muffin tin.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with crumbs clinging to it. De-pan, cool and serve.