Blueberry Banana Bread

Quick breads are so easy and satisfying to make.  This recipe is a direct offshoot of my Grandmother’s Banana Bread which I blogged about in 2012.  It’s not too high in sugar and includes some healthy rolled oats and blueberries.  Please try it and let me know how it goes.  Don’t worry about exact measurements for this one, it’s practically foolproof!

Blueberry Banana Bread

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 very ripe banana

1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the baking pan(s) with a good smear of butter; this recipe works well in three mini loaves or as muffins.

Begin by measuring the rolled oats into a bowl or jug like the one pictured.  Add the buttermilk to the oats, stir and let this combination sit while you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.  The buttermilk will tenderize the oats.

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl and add the 3/4 cup sugar and the banana.  Mash the banana with a fork and mix well.  Add the eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until well combined and relatively smooth.  Now add the oats/buttermilk mixture and stir it all up.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda to the bowl.  Begin to mix the dry ingredients in gently and then add the blueberries and continue to mix gently until just combined.

Pour the batter into prepared pan(s) and smooth out the top.  Combine the 3 Tablespoons turbinado sugar and the cinnamon in your 1/4 cup measuring cup and sprinkle this all over the top.  Turbinado sugar has larger crystals than white sugar and will give a wonderfully crunchy top.  Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out to continue to cool.

 I couldn’t believe it when my husband said he thought it might even be better than banana bread!  The crumb is tender and moist and the crunchy top really sets it off.

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Quick Basil and Feta Bread

There are a few food bloggers that I’ve been following for many years.  When I see their emails in my inbox, I know they’ll provide consistently delicious recipes that are interesting but not too difficult.  Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini is a food writer living in Paris.  She sends out a monthly post with a round – up of recipes, restaurants, and other tidbits.  This month provided a gem of a recipe: a savory quick bread with feta cheese and lots of fresh herbs.  There’s no yeast and no rising time, if you can make banana bread then you can make this!

Everything about this recipe is perfect.  The sesame seeds provide a subtle, nutty crunch, and the salty feta cheese in a soft rich bread hits all the right notes.  The basil makes this bread very seasonal for late summer, but any other herb or combination of herbs would work just as well.

Clotilde kindly includes converted measurements since Europeans measure baking ingredients by weight instead of volume.  I have ‘Americanized’ this recipe even more by using buttermilk in place of the yogurt and making a few other small changes.  However, her version is absolutely perfect so if you have some plain yogurt in the fridge please click through for her recipe.

Quick Basil and Feta Bread

A little butter for the pan

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds (I used a mix of black and white)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 and 1/4 cup buttermilk (full fat)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 bunch fresh basil or about 1 cup chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 1 full size bread pan or three minis (which is what I used) by smearing with butter and sprinkling in 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds.

Chop the herbs (here’s a post that includes directions for chopping basil) and crumble the feta cheese.  Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper and stir well with a fork or whisk in a medium bowl.

Using a 2 cup or larger liquid measuring cup (such as the one in the picture), measure the buttermilk and oil, then add the eggs and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir gently.  When the mixture is still very lumpy, go ahead and add the herbs and cheese.  Mix until just combined (do not over mix or you will develop the gluten and make the bread tough).  Spread into prepared pans and top with remaining sesame seeds.

Bake 40- 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes then turn out to finish cooling and allow the crust to crisp.

Enjoy!

 

Sourdough Bread

IMG_8710Bread is tricky and anyone who tries to tell you that it’s easy is lying. .. or they have a very different standard for bread than I do.  It’s true that many breads are easy to make at home.  I have a bread machine and can consistently make a soft and fluffy loaf.  I also find other sweet breads and rolls pretty simple.  My challenge and my goal however is to bake a crusty, perfectly shaped, beautiful and tasty loaf of bread with no added sugar, milk, eggs or other nonsense.  I want a subtle flavor that comes from fermentation.  I want large, uneven holes and a good chew.  I want a crust that is so crisp it shatters.  All this can be achieved by going to a good bakery in a large city and purchasing fresh bread.  This perfection can also be accomplished in a home oven, but it is very tricky.

I’ve been practicing my bread skills for about 5 or 6 years now and I still fail regularly. IMG_8713 My conclusion is that it just takes a lot of practice because I have steadily improved with experience.  I’ve had to throw out entire loaves of bread in the past and that never happens now.  It just takes time to get accustomed to the feel of dough, how to handle it, roll it shape it, poke it and slice it.  Typically my problem is with the final rise and I end up with a loaf that is too dense.  Here are some links from my past forays into bread baking.  There is a constant pursuit of the perfect bread for a perfect tomato sandwich seen in this no knead bread.   My son’s favorite is the sweet and rich Easter Bread.  Country French Bread with help from Julia Child is really delicious!  A surprisingly easy and fun recipe is for Pita Bread.  These are all yeast breads.  Sweet quick breads such as Banana Bread and Pumpkin Bread and scones are in a different category altogether.

IMG_8717My mom recently gave me the gift of a shortcut to excellent flavor in my bread: a sourdough starter.  The starter is basically a slurry of flour and water that smells very ripe and sour.  When I feed it more flour and water and leave it on the kitchen counter it bubbles and froths and runs down the side of it’s mason jar to make a pasty mess.  It’s so good.

Even though it’s very ugly and consistently leaves a trail of crustiness on the counter and in the fridge, I love it and will try to keep it alive forever.

I’ve been using this recipe from The Kitchn for Easy Beginner Sourdough.  It’s easy and for beginners because it doesn’t rely only on the starter for the rise – you add some yeast as insurance and to speed up the process.  Click through for more detailed information and the complete recipe.  It’s worth noting that none of my efforts have ever looked anything like the pictures on that website.  They’ve all been tasty though.  The dough is very wet and a little tricky to work with.  You will need a good mixer with a dough hook or some serious experience kneading heavy, wet dough.  I find better results with a shaped loaf than a bread pan for this recipe.  Contact me if you would like some starter – it multiplies quickly and I’d love to share.

IMG_8733p.s. I grew this mammoth, unblemished, perfectly ripe, beautiful and delicious heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato in my little garden and it was even prettier in person.