baking saturdays, friend edition

i love hangin with my homies. i get together with my friends weekly to watch our favorite group t.v. show, LOST. while hanging out for last week’s episode, brandon instigated a conversation that went something like this:

brandon: “i have so many walnuts, i just can’t eat them all. they’re too bitter to eat on their own… what should i do?”

lizzy: “what should you do?! you should come over this weekend so we can get rid of them!! -wait, do you like brownies?”

from there, the wheels were turning. bananas… chocolate… vanilla beans… so many things love walnuts. brandon, although a dedicated vegetarian, will eat almost anything that you give to him. this is, however, no excuse to give him some sub par leftovers.. oh no. he knows the difference. it’s not that he hasn’t a sense of taste, it’s that he doesn’t care. from what i can tell, he is one of those people who will eat something simply because he needs nourishment. he eats when he is hungry. and he is always hungry. there is something about active guys in their mid 20’s that keeps their hunger from shutting off, which for brandon, is fine because he’s pretty thin. i think this is what makes it so satisfying to give him my extra baked goods.

i still couldn’t decide on a recipe, based on my ideas of “walnut parings”. that’s why i decided we should make both chocolate chip banana bread with walnuts AND walnut brownies.

i have a really nice banana bread recipe that is fail proof. i found it online a while back, and “lizzed it up” to suit my taste. i’ve unfourtanetly lost the origin, so i can’t give credit to where i found it. i think i modified it beyond recognition, anyway. it is incredibly moist, super sweet with bananas, and naturally pretty low in fat. i love this recipe. i’ve never gone wrong with it. it is beautiful, loaded with melty chocolate chips, and a really nice banana flavor that stays fresh and banana-y for days. i’m not sure that this a particularly unique recipe, as far as banana breads go. quick breads seem to follow a standard if not similar template, which is maybe why i find them so easy to make. i wanted to use a low fat recipe for the brownies, because i wanted to double the batch and have some for myself. yes, this “baking with friends weekend” was out of selfishness. i would also later in the day steal half the loaf of banana bread for myself.

i had fun with brandon. i would love to make baking with friends a regular weekend thing. we got to gossip and talk about boys and play with the cats. we also maintained my baking rule/tradition: if it has to bake longer than 30 minutes, take the timer with you and go outside on a walk. it is a solid rule in this house. so anyone who wants to come over and bake with me on a friday or saturday, please feel free to come over and borrow ingredients or bakewares or company. but not on a sunday, because those are reserved for mr. hare.

brandon’s banana bread

1/4 cup butter
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup whites or 2 whole eggs lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup mashy black bananas
1/4 cup sugar (i like using brown sugar)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt (we used sea salt)
a ton of cinnamon (maybe 1 or 2 tsp) yum yum!
a good scraping from a vanilla bean OR 2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water (to activate baking soda)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (we used a combo of a few different kinds)
any other stir-ins you may desire…. i think that a few strawberries would be good, nothing too watery though.

start by preheating your oven to 325. prepare a loaf pan with some butter and flour. i like to cut parchament and stick it to the bottom of the pan with butter so the loaf slides out nicely and the bottom doesn’t stick. rack should be in the middle of the oven.

using mixer if you have one, beat together sugar, honey, applesauce, and butter. you can do by hand, it will just be a pain. while that is mixing, whisk flour, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl and set aside. add bananas, eggs, and vanilla to the sugar and butter mixture, and mix until just barely combined. add, a few scoops at a time, flour combination. mix just until dry ingredients become wet, be careful not to over mix. only beat for a minute or less.

put baking soda in a clean dry glass, and stir in 1/4 cup hot tap water. it should fizz immediately. if it doesn’t, your baking soda sucks and you need to buy new. quickly add to batter in mixer bowl (hurry, before it fizzles out!) and beat for just a second, just until you know it is well combined. NO OVER MIXING! you don’t want flat banana bread! stir in by hand nuts and chocolate and whatever else you think you want in there. pour into loaf pan and stick in the oven. set timer for 50 minutes and go for a walk. do not touch the oven until 50 minutes is up. just don’t. after 50 minutes, you may tap the top, and if it is not yet firm, let it bake for 5 more minutes. don’t even stick tester in bread until top is firm. you shouldn’t have to bake it any longer than 60 minutes, it could dry out.

let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes before using a thin spatula (i like to use my frosting spatula) to go around the edges to loosen. with oven mits on, GENTLY empty loaf into mitted hand by turning upside down. sometimes it needs a few taps on the bottom to let go. if it is sticking, go around edges again with thin spatula. set right side up on rack and let it cool for an hour or so. Brandon and i let it cool for approx 10 minutes before i couldn’t stand it anymore and murdered the loaf. i couldn’t stop. it was like i didn’t have control anymore.

after it is completely cool, i like to slice it and put cut wax papers between the slices, and put in an airtight container to store. i let it sit at room temp in said container for 24 hours before sticking in the freezer. the bread really does sweeten after developing for a full day. to defrost, pull a slice out of the freezer and leave it at room temp for a few hours.

not that it needs anything, but you should really think about sticking this in the toaster oven for just a few minutes to get warm, then serve with a little vanilla ice cream.

fudgy brownie with white chocolate frosting

these brownies are really really good. it is not at all my recipe, and i did not modify it at all, aside from doubling the recipe and adding 1 cup walnuts to the batter. i sadly, again, lost the original source for the recipe. so whoever you are, good job for creating this recipe. i’m sorry i can’t personally name you. this is why i named the brownies “mysterious”.

brandon likes white chocolate a lot, so i thought i’d do him a favor and whip up a white chocolate butter cream frosting. good thing i did, because it really stole the show.

some may miss the fat, i did not. those of you who have to taste butter in your brownies: add an extra 1/4 cup. to the rest of you, these will be crumbly for the first day. let them soften and moisten under a cake dome or air tight container for a day.

mysterious low fat brownies

i made brandon chop the huge brick of chocolate i purchased!

i made brandon chop the huge brick of chocolate i purchased!

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2-oz bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp low fat sour cream or yogurt (i used the sour cream)
1 large egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

preheat oven to 350F. lightly oil and flour 8″ or 9″ cake pan. i would use a spring form if i were you, and line the bottom with parchment paper. the batter is really hard to spread, and locking parchment paper in place with a spring form would have really helped. trust me on this one.
in a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
over low heat (i used double boiler), melt butter and chocolate together. don’t let it get too hot. once melted completely, let it cool for a few minutes so it doesn’t cook the cold eggs and sour cream. transfer to a large bowl and whisk chocolate mixture with sugars and sour cream. whisk in egg, egg white and vanilla extract. gently mix in the flour mixture, mixing until no streaks of flour remain. batter will be thick. you can add the nuts now.
Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake for about 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
Cool brownies completely in the pan. Store in an airtight container.

white chocolate butter cream frosting

1 cup white chocolate chips or chopped
1/4 cup cold butter

over low heat, melt white chocolate. while it is melting, whip butter on high speed in mixer until it looks whippy. maybe 2 minutes or so. after white chocolate is all melty with no lumps, let it cool for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently so it doesn’t get hard again. once it feels room temp, maybe a tad warmer, add it to the butter while mixer is running. beat the heck out of it for a few minutes. i added some fresh vanilla. frost your brownies with this after they cool, then sprinkle with some nuts. we used more walnuts, but i thought hazelnuts would be really good. frosting will get pretty stiff in the cold, but soft and silky again once room temp. oh so good.

elmer looks tempted


5 thoughts on “baking saturdays, friend edition

  1. That banana bread looks delicious! Maybe Brandon’s got some stashed away for me to taste…maybe.
    I hope if you talked about boys, you included talking about me in my absence (though DC was fun, I would have also enjoyed an entire day of chocolatey treats). But only good things about me, of course.

    • only good things always, nathan!
      you are welcome to come join us next time we have an extra few cups of nuts laying around, and some black bananas building up in the refrigerator!

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