Banana-Pecan Streusel Pound Cake

Banana Pecan Streusel Pound Cake2

I have a two year old niece. She’s great. Really great.

She can count up to thirty by herself. She knows her all of her ABCs and colors.

She LOVES eating vegetables. She’ll eat fresh picked green beans like they’re potato chips.  Broccoli? Brussel Sprouts? Cucumbers? No problem. She’ll eat them with a smile on her face.

She sings the “Farmer in the Dell” as the “Farmer in the Cheese”. I don’t know why, but it’s friggin adorable. I videotaped it. I watch it often whenever I need a smile.

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Her hair goes down to her butt when it’s straightened. (Note, that makes it longer than mine- her 26 year old aunt)

She is an expert at working a cellphone and a tablet. I’m serious: this 2 year old knows how to find contacts and dial/Facetime numbers, surf Youtube, find the cartoon videos she likes, skip the ads, rewind/fast forward and repeat the videos over again. It’s CRAZY how tech savvy she is.

She’s very articulate for her age. For instance: when I recently announced to her that it was time for bed, she replied, “What? But that’s impossible and so silly!” (Verbatim. Those were her exact words. Where she learned how to say ‘impossible’, I have no idea.)

All I know is, I’m a mighty proud auntie.

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I mean, she’s two: so that means that she does love Cheetos, apple juice, and ice cream.

She asks A LOT of questions, REPEATEDLY. (“What are you doing?” followed by “Why”? being her favorites right now)

She doesn’t like going to bed at night.

And hearing the word ‘No’ sometimes makes her….upset.

But regardless of those trying times that come with living with a toddler, I gotta say that my niece is one of the biggest lights of my life and I’m so glad that I get to help raise her and watch her grow. Even if I never have any kids of my own, she’ll always be my baby.

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Come to think of it, I just remembered something. Something important.

I know what you guys are all thinking.

“Jess…what on Earth did you bake that monster of cake for?”

Well, today’s a pretty special occasion guys. So I baked a pretty special cake.

Today’s the second anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. I’ve been both an aunt AND a food blogger for two years now and although being an aunt always takes precedence for me, I will say that being a blogger’s been a pretty great part of my life too. It’s given me the opportunity to share what I love to do with a whole bunch of friends, strangers, and strangers who have become friends. It’s also one of the better decisions I’ve made and I couldn’t let the day go by without whipping up something great to commemorate the occasion.

And God, is this thing great.

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Let me tell you guys something. There’s pound cake….and then there’s POUND CAKE.

Those who know what’s up, can tell the difference.

You guys should know how serious I was about celebrating my blogs second birthday. This recipe was originally, just for a plain banana pound cake with pecans sprinkled on top. But that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more.

So not only did I add a buttery pecan streusel topping to this ginormous cake, I went a step further and made a caramel sauce from scratch to drizzle on top of the finished product.

I took an ordinary pound cake, and brought it up to…a higher level. It’s just what I do.

And I’m also feeling rather generous, so to celebrate Cooking is My Sport’s birthday, I’d like to invite all of you to take one great big slice of this cake. Eat, get your mind blown, and smile.

Then repeat.

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Banana-Pecan Streusel Pound Cake


Recipe Adapted from The Southern Cake Book

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • Shortening

For Pecan Streusel:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt

For Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer about 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition.

Combine mashed bananas, milk and vanilla

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to batter alternatively with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour into a greased (with shortening) and floured 10-inch (16 cup) tube pan. Sprinkle with pecan streusel.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on wire rack.

For Pecan Streusel: Stir together flour, pecans, melted butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt until blended. Let stand thirty minutes or until firm enough to crumble into small pieces.

For Carmel Sauce: Bring light brown sugar, melted butter, whipping cream and honey to a boil in a medium saucepsn over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 15 minutes before serving. To reheat, microwave at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or until warm, stir until smooth.

Curried Ginger Scones

Curried Ginger Scones1

The coffee shop near my job is really kinda depressing to me for several reasons.

First, their coffee usually just isn’t that good. Believe me, I’ve tried giving them the benefit of the doubt several times. I’ve bought multiple items on their menu just in case it was a fluke recipe; lattes, cappuccino, hot chocolate. NONE are really worth writing home about- or the $3.00 + change they charge for them. They’re not disgusting just…blah. Bland. However, since they’re the closest thing available to me, and more importantly because I have to feed my coffee addiction (or else bad things happen) I do still get a drink from them on the regular.

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I had to mix things up, though. The barista there and I have a special understanding; she swaps out the regular vanilla syrups used in one of the lattes on their menu (it’s not good) with butterscotch syrup just for me, which really makes the drink taste a world of a lot better.

I kinda wish they would give me the credit for the new drink. Name it in my honor and put it on their menu or something. I feel like I did them a major favor. It actually tastes like it should cost $3.18 now.

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Second thing about the coffee shop that depresses me? There’s no hot barista guy working there that I can flirt with in the morning to shake me out of my boredom. Y’know, the guy who gives me the extra shot of espresso free of charge with a commercial-worthy wink “just because” and calls me by my first name and always asks me how my weekend was or what my weekend will be like.

This should be basic elementary coffee shop stuff 101, amIright?

But even more depressing than the just-below-average coffee and absence of a hot barista guy named Wes in the coffee shop are their “baked goods”. The quotation marks were intentional. I’m really not even sure if I should call them that- seems like an insult to be honest. There’s nothing “good” about them. It’s that bad, you guys. I almost don’t even know where to start. They over bake EVERYTHING. I mean, good Lord. Whoever they’re paying to be their baker/pastry chef needs to be fired. or at least they should let me sit down and talk to them about some basic fundamentals of baking.

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Cookies shouldn’t be completely flat and sunken in the middle when they set up. And they should not, should not, SHOULD NOT be dark brown across the top. That’s a burned cookie. It will crumble- and not crumble like Chips Ahoy, either. It’ll crumble like sawdust. Gross.

The scones are really what make me want to burst into tears though. Those poor, poor scones that never did anything to hurt anyone. Those poor scones that just wanted to be great. Those poor scones that have go through such cruel and unusual punishment. They’re over baked to the point where the inside of the scones looks like biscotti. They’re way too brown, I feel like if I squeezed it, it’d crumble into sawdusty crumbs. You’d never be able to tell that there was any butter layered in that overworked, over cooked dough. It’s a travesty.

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Scones are one of life’s greatest joys. They deserve better. They deserve to BE better.

They deserve to be these Curried Ginger scones. I so wish I could sit down with the baker at the coffee shop near my job and teach him or her how to make these. I feel like I could change their life.

Curry and ginger is a marvelous combination; there’s just enough bite, spiciness, and sweetness in both to balance off of one another. Pair this up with a cup of coffee, and you’re more than good to go. You’re ready to face the world.

I’m taking these scones to Fiesta Friday #70, co-hosted this week by newbies Dini @ Giramuk’s Kitchen and Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau. See you guys there 🙂

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Curried Ginger Scones


Recipe Courtesy of The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the ginger, mixing to distribute, then the curry and sugar. Cut in the butter till the mixture is crumbly.

Add the buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream), stirring till the dough just holds together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and pat it into a 10-inch square, about 1/2-inch thick.

Cut the dough into triangles, and transfer them to a lightly greased baking sheet. Place the scones in the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the dough to firm up (this will also make the scones rise higher)

Bake the scones in a preheated 425°F oven for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden. Remove them from the oven and paint them with ginger syrup, if desired.

Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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When you think of a typical refreshments table at a social function, what ‘s the first thing that comes to your mind?

A spread of deli sandwiches.

The veggie platter of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and carrots.

A cheese and crackers plate.

The water and coffee carafes.

Or, maybe you guys are like me and immediately think of the plate of assorted cookies.

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Most assorted cookie platters will have the usual suspects: chocolate chip, macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin. Some have M and M’s and sugar cookies, but most just stick with the first three.

It could just be my personal observation, but to me the ranking of the cookie platter is pretty clear and cut dry and there’s usually a pretty standard pattern that’ll I’ll see happen no matter where I’m at or the crowd I’m in.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies always trump everything. They disappear off the cookie platter the quickest so if you’re not one of the first or middle people in line, chances are, you just won’t get one.

Macadamia nut cookies usually rank second. Most  people are  pretty fine with them, and there are even some people who like them best. Why do people like macadamia nut cookies? I’m sure I don’t know. Personally, I think they’re overrated. Also,I don’t like macadamia nuts. Moving on.

Then there’s the oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re usually the ones that get eaten last, or just get completely passed over and left behind. Most people I know HATE oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re like, the ugly step sisters of the cookie platter.

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This is a complete mystery to me. Personally, I love oatmeal raisin cookies. In fact, I’ll go a step further and admit that I learned to love oatmeal raisin cookies BEFORE I ‘learned’ to love chocolate chip cookies. Given the choice over the two, would always pick the oatmeal raisin first. It’s true.

I’m just weird like that.

I think that most people who don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies just haven’t had an oatmeal raisin cookie made for them correctly. The contrasting textures alone are enough to sell me; I love the coarseness of the oats set against the smoothness of the dough. The raisins almost seem to perfume the entire cookie so that even when you don’t bite into one specifically, you can still taste that sweetness that they leave behind. When eaten warm and soft, a perfect oatmeal raisin cookie alllllllmost even tastes like it’s healthy.

Y’know before remembering all the butter and sugar in it that are making it so perfectly soft and chewy in the first place.

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Out of the blue, Jas announced one day that she had a craving for a certain iced oatmeal cookie that used to be sold in the stores when we were little girls that we absolutely LOVED. Those cookies sadly aren’t available anymore, but I thought I’d try to make some that were close to the originals. I used a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, then adopted my die-hard habit of chilling my dough overnight. Once the cookies were done, I whipped together a quick powdered sugar icing that I drizzled over the top.

Not to brag or anything, but these oatmeal raisin cookies would definitely be the stars of any cookie platter at a social event- yes, even with chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies already there.

Booyah.

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Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Recipe Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups rolled old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • A few tsp of plain milk (optional)

Directions

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg together in a medium bowl; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butters and sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix until combined.

Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the oats and raisins until just incorporated. Refrigerate dough overnight or at least one hour.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheets with parchment paper.

Divide dough into 18 portions, each a generous 2 tbsp. and roll them between your hands into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake, switching and rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, 22-25  minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temp.

Combine powdered sugar and milk until it makes a firm icing. Using a small spoon or spatula, spread icing on top of cookies and allow to set and harden.

My Grandma’s Lemon Soda Pound Cake

My Grandma's Pound Cake3

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

False. At least, that’s my opinion.

There are some things in life that you just know, no matter what happens, that you will always, always ALWAYS be able to depend on.

Things besides death and taxes.

They may be good. They may be bad. But they’re a sure thing regardless.

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I’ll start out with a positive: my sisters. My sisters are as dependable and certain as death and taxes.

Except in a good way.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or going through, I can always depend on those two. They’re my best friends in the entire world. There’s nothing I can’t talk about, share with, or ask them for. They’re always there for me. They’re not going anywhere

Theoretically could I cheat and avoid death and taxes? Sure.

But cheating/avoiding my sisters? That’s never gonna happen.

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I heard someone say on a tv show once that the only thing just as certain as death and taxes were mistakes.

Here, I have to agree.

No matter how hard you try to strive for perfection, sooner or later you will mess up somehow. It’s gonna happen. You will make a mistake. And that’s okay; accept it, move on and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person.

In fact, NOT thinking you’re going to ever make a mistake IS actually making a mistake so if you’re thinking that way, then you should really stop because you’re actually mistaken.

Heh. See what I did there?

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I bring up the whole death, taxes and certainty bit because it’s really the first thought that came to my mind when I sat down to write out this post.

If I had to pick out a handful of things that have just been permanent fixtures throughout my life, then this recipe would certainly be one of them. And with good reason. It’s probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. Hands down. No contest.

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My grandma’s desserts are the thing of legend in my family, and although she knows how to do bake just about anything, this pound cake is still the most treasured darling of them all (with the possible exception of her caramel cake, but you guys aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness yet).

When I was growing up, I just got used to almost always seeing this pound cake sitting on my grandparent’s dining room table underneath her fancy clear glass- domed serving plate as the ‘standard’ dessert for everyone to have after dinner throughout the week. Everyone loves it. Everyone.

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I’ve made quite a few pound cake recipes before and I still have to say, my grandma’s is THE moistest I’ve ever had- which is no easy task for pound cake sometimes. It practically melts in your mouth. I used the phrasing “lemon soda” in the recipe title on purpose: we typically either use Squirt or 7-up in our cake, but honestly ANY name-brand lemon lime soda will do. (Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist, 7-Up, Faygo, etc). Just make sure that the soda isn’t flat. For some reason having the carbonation really makes the difference in helping the flavor come through.

Normally, I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts, but I just can’t get enough of the slight tartness from the citrus that offsets the sugar in the cake. I know it SEEMS like a lot of lemon flavoring with the extract, lemon juice AND lemon soda, but trust me: it all works beautifully together.

When Angie asked me to help co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #67 with Caroline@CarolinesCooking, I didn’t hesitate. Not just because I love co-hosting, but also because it would give me the chance to share this recipe with all of you that is so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy it.

For those that are new to the Fiesta, welcome! We’re happy to have you and invite you to join our link up and the festivities by clicking the link to the website.

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My Grandma's Lemon Soda Pound Cake


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon soda (like Squirt or 7-Up)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a fluted bundt pan (or 2 greased and floured loaf pans) and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour.

Beat in lemon extract, lemon soda and lemon juice

Pour batter into Bundt or loaf pan(s). Tap the bottom of the pans onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, or a direct read thermometer inserted into cake reads 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: if you’re using 2 loaf pans,the cook time will obviously be shorter, so check it sooner rather than later.)

Allow cake to cool for at least 35-45 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding from pan.

Harvest Apple Challah

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Sometimes life is just made up of everyday annoyances, irritations, unfortunate circumstances and overall ‘sucky-‘ things.

It snowed earlier this week in Michigan.

End of April. We got snow.

I’m sorry to say that round here,  that’s nothing new. My senior year of high school, we got a full blown snow storm on Easter Sunday. I still remember going out to shovel the sidewalk in blowing snow when we got home from church.

It sucked.

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Oftentimes I can shrug off suck-y things as exactly that: suck-y things. For example:

Snow in April.

Random, unexpected and extremely inconvenient cooking fails (when I specifically planned on doing a photo shoot for the blog that day).

My paycheck doesn’t have a few extra zeros at the end.

Sucks.

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I’ve never been to Europe.

Stephanie Meyer is a gazillionaire and a bestselling ‘author’, and I’m…not either of those things.

Chris Evans hasn’t figured out that we’re meant to be together and proposed to me.

I don’t have the thighs of a Victoria Secret Model.

Sucks.

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But for every one of the daily, inconvenient ‘suck-y’ circumstances of every day life, I bet we all can think of just as many (if not more) convenient, not suck-y circumstances that make up for all that. I certainly can.

For one: challah. Challah is one of my all-time favorite things ever, period. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious. It’s the best.

Challah can make up for a lot of those daily suck-y things.

(Except maybe the one about Chris Evans. That still smarts pretty bad no matter what.)

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Somehow, I always end up baking challah around this time of year. Last year, I went all out and made regular Challah and a Vanilla Bean Challah. This year, I still wanted to try and make a twist on the original so I decided to go with this recipe for Challah stuffed with apples.

Challah itself can be a labor of love if you’re keen on twisting the dough into elaborate shapes. Or if you’re like me, and still has to Google EVERY SINGLE TIME how to correctly braid the dough no matter how many times I’ve made this bread before. This apple challah is, I will admit, somewhat more  labor intensive.

However, it’s worth it. More than worth it.

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As you guys can see, this dough is as soft, fluffy and moist as a bread dough can get. The fat challah rolls pull apart at the slightest tug, letting the tender apple chunks fall out into your hands. Best of all, the filling leaks out ever so little so that the bottom of the dough has a thin layer of syrupy brown sugar goo. And of course, there’s the trademark challah golden brown crust on top that is ever so ‘thunk-able’ with your fingers so that you know for sure that you’ve done it right.

So.much.yum.

Definitely does not suck.

If I had to critique one thing about this recipe, it’s that I had way too much dough to try and stuff into a 9 inch cake pan. Mine wasn’t wide or tall enough by far, so I opted for one of deep, oval casserole pans instead. I think it gave me a much bigger rise for my dough anyway, so that was totally cool with me.

Cheers, guys!

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Harvest Apple Challah

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

For Apple Filling

  • 2 medium-to-large apples, NOT peeled; cored and diced in ¾” chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  ¼ cup granulated sugar

Glaze

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • coarse white sugar, optional

 Directions

1) Pour water in a small bowl; add yeast and 1 tsp. white sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until proofed and foamy at the surface.

2) Pour yeast mixture into a stand mixer and add vegetable oil, honey, eggs and salt, stirring well to combine. Using dough hook add the flour, 1 cup at  a time until dough is smooth and elastic.

3) Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

4) Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan that’s at least 2″ deep, or grease a 9″ or 10″ springform pan.  Toss the apple chunks with the sugar and cinnamon. Gently deflate the dough, transfer it to a lightly greased work surface, and flatten it into a rough rectangle, about 8″ x 10″.

5) Spread half the apple chunks in the center of the dough. Fold a short edge of the dough over the apple to cover it, patting firmly to seal the apples and spread the dough a bit.  Spread the remaining apple atop the folded-over dough. Cover the apples with the other side of the dough, again patting firmly. Basically, you’ve folded the dough like a letter, enclosing the apples inside. Take a bench knife or a knife, or even a pair of scissors, and cut the apple-filled dough into 16 pieces. Cut in half, then each half in halves, etc.  Lay the dough chunks into the pan; crowd them so that they all fit in a single layer (barely). Lots of apple chunks will fall out during this process; just tuck them in among the dough pieces, or simply spread them on top. Cover the challah gently with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s a generous 2″ high. It should just crest the rim of a 9″ round cake pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 325°F.

6) Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the dough with the egg mixture, and sprinkle heavily with the coarse sugar, if desired. If you’re going to drizzle with honey before serving, omit the sugar. Place the bread in the lower third of the oven. Bake it for 55 minutes, or until the top is at least light brown all over, with no white spots. Remove the challah from the oven, and after 5 minutes loosen the edges and carefully transfer it to a rack.

Market Fresh Cornbread

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Up until now, there are only two cornbread recipes that I’ve ever used. Just two.

The first default choice is my grandmother’s recipe, which is one I’ve shared on the blog before. We use it for the ‘bread’ part of every family dinner that we have, and also use it for the base of our special family dressing that we make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keeping it true to our Southern roots, it’s non-sweet, mainly cornmeal based and rather crumbly in texture. There is a very simple explanation for this: it’s friggin marvelous.

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The second recipe that I’ve used and actually been pretty satisfied with, is one I found on Allrecipes.com. It’s a ‘Northerner’ recipe that’s rather sweet with a more even ratio of flour to cornmeal. As a result, the crumb is more finer than my grandma’s. It’s pretty tasty I’ll admit, and when I’m trying to aim for a cornbread that caters to my more “Northern” tastebuds, I’ll throw it together on the quick.

And just in case you were wondering…no. I don’t do Jiffy Mix. It’s nothing personal, I don’t even think Jiffy Mix tastes that bad. But…no.

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I’m stuck up when it comes to my cornbread guys. The truth is, most of the time it’s a hit-or-miss game. And I can think of very few other things that are  more depressing to me than cornbread that is a big fat ‘miss’.

I really didn’t think I’d ever be saying this, but with my recent Christmas gift of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s newest cookbook “Marcus Off Duty,” I think I’ve found a third cornbread recipe that I’m actually going to be willing to keep on my super exclusive roster. The almost immediate appeal to me was finding out that this is the recipe for the cornbread that is served at Marcus’ Harlem restaurant Red Rooster- a place that is on my Food Bucket List to attend before I buy the farm.

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Word of warning for my Southern friends: this is not exactly what we think of when it comes to ‘cornbread’. In the first place, it’s extremely moist, almost to the point where it melts in your mouth. Secondly, us folks used to Dixie cornbread- and likely some Yankees too- will at best give a double take at the inclusion of ginger, cardamom, chile powder and paprika in a cornbread recipe. At worst, we’ll start a riot.  But just hear me out- I was skeptical too. But it works. It really does. The spices aren’t overpowering at all, and they somehow work REALLY well with the inclusion of the sharp cheddar cheese.

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Oh yeah- and did I mention there’s fresh corn baked into the batter? Cause there is. And it was a really good idea. It gives a special ‘chew’ to the bread that is absent in most other recipes that can result in a bland one-note texture. None of that here, I can assure you.

I think my favorite part of cornbread is the crust that forms on the top and sides while baking. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re doing the ‘cornbread’ thing wrong and you should rethink your entire life. This loaf’s crust baked up perfectly.

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All of that being said, I do intend to stick with just these three cornbread recipes for both the near and distant future. Life shouldn’t be TOO complicated. Some things need to be kept simple and stream-lined.  Am I right or am I right?

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Market Fresh Cornbread

Recipe Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cu grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels, including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 1 large or 2 small ears of corn)

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2. Put the butter, ginger, cardamom, chile powder, paprika, and sugar into a small pot over medium heat and cook until the butter is melted and the spices are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and spicy butter together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the cheddar and corn, then fold in the scallions if using.

4. Scrap the batter into the loaf pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet, slide it into the oven and bake until a skewer stuck in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Turn the loaf upside down onto a rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Then lift off the pan.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls1

One of things that I am really proud of myself for learning how to do in the kitchen is bake fresh bread. It takes some getting used to in the beginning, and to be honest there are still things I have to learn but once you get the hang of it, going back to store bought bread pretty much becomes impossible. I can’t really explain in detail what the difference is, but I suspect that is has something to do with the preservatives found in store bread, especially white bread. I can literally taste the preservatives they put in it- it almost leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth that’s just really unpleasant, so I don’t even touch the stuff anymore. If I’m eating white bread at all, it’s only because I made it myself first. The aftertaste of THAT stuff is pretty darn good if I may say so myself. But my point is, whenever we run out of bread in my house, I know that I just have to make some more. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for new yeast bread recipes to try out just to keep things around here interesting.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls2

I remember it was about a year or so ago where I was writing up a post complaining about how I was struggling to get my yeast bread doughs to rise on sheet pans. It just wouldn’t work, and frustrated me to no end. Whenever I shaped and set my dough out for its second rise on the sheet pan, most time it just barely expanded, if at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, especially whenever I would make the bread in round pans or in pyrex glass dishes, it worked out beautifully. For a while, I just avoided baking bread in sheet pans altogether, but recently I decided to try and get back on the horse again and slightly tweak my methods in the second rise to see if that would yield different results. These crescent rolls were my guinea pigs.

How do you guys think I did?

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls6

Well I’ll just go ahead and say it if you won’t: I think it turned out rather well. Here’s what I changed in case you were curious.

See, in the past what I was doing was using very large sheet pans for my second rise and spacing the rolled out dough pretty far apart from each other. I’m no food scientist like Alton Brown or the folks at America’s Test Kitchen but what I THINK was happening in my previous attempts was that rather than expanding ‘up’ on the second rise and giving that heightened fluffiness that you see in the above picture, my dough was expanding ‘out’ since there was so much space between each individual one and giving it the appearance of being flatter. Now is it possible that the dough would eventually rise and become taller? Yeah probably, but I do think that it would’ve taken longer than an hour or two so long as I was using the larger sheet pans.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls3

So what I did this time around was use one of the smallest sheet pans that I had for my second dough rise, which left a much smaller space between each one of the crescent rolls- this way, the only place that the dough would have to ‘go’ when expanding would be ‘up’; get it? Also, I dampened a clean kitchen towel and placed it over the sheet pan of crescents, put the whole thing in my overhead microwave, then turned on my oven. The heat from my oven created a warmth inside the microwave that combined with the damp cloth created a humidity that made it into a kind of DIY proof-box, so to speak.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls5

This time after the second rise, I was having the exact opposite problem that I’d been having with sheet pans all along: now, the dough had proofed and risen so well that they were all nearly crammed together slightly rising up over the pan itself. But I didn’t care about that: I was too busy doing Snoopy/Victory dances from finally overcoming my sheet pan-bread baking woes. Plus, who was I to get upset over jumbo size crescent rolls that baked up so golden and pretty like these ones did here? Nobody, that’s who.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls7

Wait a minute; I’m completely forgetting that there’s vegetables in these crescents, which is crazy since the sweet potatoes are what give them the deliciously golden orange color. But they’re there: one whole cup of fresh sweet potato mash. Which, you know should make you feel pretty good about eating one of these…or two…or…another undisclosed amount.

….Why are you guys staring at me like that?

So I think the moral of the story here is that when encountering difficulties in the kitchen, just keep at it. Even if it doesn’t work the first, second or third time. I did. And I think my diligence was rewarded.

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Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Recipe Courtesy of Red Star Yeast via Completely Delicious

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/2 tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 1 medium) sweet potato puree

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, warm the butter, honey and milk until butter is melted and mixture begins to steam. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, or until the temperature is between 120-130 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1½ cups of the flour with the yeast, salt and nutmeg. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each, followed by the sweet potato puree. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time until dough clears the side of the bowl but is still slightly sticky to the touch. You may not need all 4 cups of flour.

3. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Gently punch down dough and knead a few times. Cover it with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean surface roll the dough out into a 16-inch circle. Using a pizza slicer, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Working with each piece individually, roll the dough up starting with the fat end. Place the roll on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so the skinny point is on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and rise again for 30 minutes.

6. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes.