Category Archives: Bread

Bananas for Banana Bread

What does one do with darkly speckled bananas that are too ripe to enjoy?  Banana Bread!  The overripe fruits creates a naturally sweet bread that is well complemented with toasted walnuts and a moist interior!  I love adding fruits and vegetables into baking, it’s a great way to use up the excess items in your pantry without throwing it out.  What a shame it would be to throw out some deliciously ripe bananas when in place you can enjoy banana bread!!!  Plus the delicious fragrances of bananas and bread dancing in your kitchen will make you look forward to darkly speckled bananas.

The key to a successful banana bread is ….well…your bananas!  The darker the bananas, the better the flavor of the bread will be as the ripe banana will infuse a delicious taste throughout the bread.  If you are buying bananas strictly to make banana bread, store them in a dark and cool place with some ripe fruit to help speed up the speckling process.  Also, when making this bread you may need to add an additional amount of sugar if your bananas are not completely speckled.

The moistness of the bread comes from plain yogurt.  There are many different ways to create banana bread and some recipes may call for milk or other dairies (sour cream, buttermilk, etc).  I find that plain yogurt works perfectly for this cake as it doesn’t produce a tang (like that of buttermilk) and doesn’t overpower the bananas.  In fact, the plain yogurt really enhances the taste of the bananas in this bread!  Using milk will cause an unsightly crust and using sour cream will create a cake that is too dense (like that of coffee cake).  A little bit of yogurt..goes a long way!

This bread also calls for toasted walnuts.  This is different from the average recipe which adds the walnuts directly into the mixture.  Toasting the walnuts adds a nice crisp to the nuts but also brings out the natural oils for added flavor.  The mild and nutty taste complements the fragrant taste of the bread beautifully!

Banana Bread (from Baking Illustrated)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts (toast for about 5 – 10 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar (adjust to 1 cup if bananas are not darkly speckled/ripe)
  • 3/4 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 ripe bananas mashed (~1 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup of plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs @ room temp
  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter – melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Making Magic:

  1. Sift together – flour, cooled walnuts, baking soda, &  salt and set aside.
  2. Mash bananas with a fork or a potato masher.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together plain yogurt, melted butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla extract.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just incorporated ( until there are no streaks of dry ingredients).  Do not over mix as that will overdevelop the gluten in the flour and will cause a tough bread.
  5. Pour into a well greased 9 inch loaf pan or a bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 – 55 minutes.  Once ready, let cool for 3 minutes and remove from pan.  Cool bread on wire rack.
  6. Storage – can keep at room temp for 3 days, after that refrigerate.

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Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls

Nothing beats waking up and having a warm, soft, and fluffy cinnamon roll.  It’s even better when you make it yourself.  I realized when baking breads, the ingredients are quite simple as compared to baking cakes.  All you need is flour, yeast, and a little sugar.  No baking powder, no creaming butter, no vanilla extract…etc.  With less things added to the dough the chances of you forgetting to add an ingredient decreases :D.

I’ve decided to venture into making cinnamon rolls because it’s mildly sweet and pretty to look at.  The dough itself does not have much sugar so the sweetness from cinnamon rolls comes primarily from the filling and the frosting.  The great thing about baking is that you can control the amount of sugar/butter/”bad stuff” that goes into your recipe.

The rolls expanded very well for this recipe but when baked did develop a slight crust which can be avoided by buttering the tops next time prior to baking.  I baked it on a sheet pan since I didn’t have a glass pan available which resulted in the carmelization of the brown sugar + cinnamon mixture.  This caused the bottom to be slightly “crispy.”  I also spaced the rolls slightly apart and that resulted in cinnamon rolls that expanded sideways rather than upwards.

Lessons for the next batch:

  1. Use a glass casserole dish
  2. Butter the top of the rolls
  3. Place rolls snugly next to each other

* I will try another recipe for cinnamon rolls once I work out the kinks!

This recipe produced a delicious roll that was not too sweet and fluffy on the inside!

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls (from Allrecipes)

  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk – warmed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 2.5 ounces or 1/4 cup cream cheese softened
  • 1 1/2 cup of sifted powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of milk


  1. Combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl and set aside until creamy and frothy ~ 10 mins
  2. In a separate bowl, sift flour/salt/baking soda together.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat buttermilk up until slightly warmed.
  4. Once yeast is ready, combine buttermilk + oil and mix.  Add dry ingredients into the mixture 1 cup at a time until firm.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough 20 times and place into a greased bowl.  Turn dough over to coat and place plastic wrap over.  Let rest in for 15 minutes.
  6. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter and set aside.
  7. Roll dough out into a large rectangle and spread sugar mixture up to 3/4 of the edge.
  8. Roll the dough from the long side tightly and pinch to seal the seam.
  9. With a serrated knife, cut log into 1 – 1.5 inch rolls and place in dish with cut side up on a 10x15inch baking pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.  Lightly butter the top of the rolls prior to baking.
  10. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until golden.
  11. For Frosting – combine cream cheese and powdered sugar until well blended.  Add milk and mix.  Frost cinnamon rolls once it has been out of the oven for about 5 minutes.

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

One of the most satisfying thing about baking is the sweet scent that dances in your kitchen.  The smell alone is enough to warm anyone up on a cold day.  I was very excited about this recipe as it gave me an opportunity to work with yeast.  Baking cakes and cupcakes seem much easier compared to baking bread when live cultures are involved.  I started playing with the idea of baking breads a couple nights ago when I had the urge to bake but didn’t have anything specific to make.  I wanted something new and different that I had never tried before.  I wanted a challenge…perhaps after breads I’ll move on to puff pastries.  Oh the possibilities!!!

This is the first time I ever tried this recipe and it was definitely quite fun.  When working with yeasts there are two types that you may find at your local market – active dry yeast and rapid rise yeasts.  The difference between the two yeasts is indeed the rise time but also the type of bread that you are trying to make.  For rapid rise yeasts, you can add it directly into the mix compared to active dry yeast that needs to be dissolved in warm water.  Also, there is an expiration date for yeast so check the date before you use.  A great way to determine activity for questionable packets of yeasts is done by proofing or rehydrating.  Proofing is done by adding yeast to a bowl of warm water and sugar; this is helpful to determine activity because if the yeast are still active the mixture will begin to froth.  Typically you should see some frothing within a couple of minutes.  For this recipe, I used active dry yeasts and although it did take longer for the dough to rise …it was still fun to watch the dough double in size.

What is yeast and how does it work?

Yeast, or Saccharomyces cervisiae, is a micro organism that has been around for thousands if not millions of years.  Yeast is most commonly found in the fermentation process of baking and brewing.  The fermentation process is very crucial in baking, specifically to making bread, in that it breaks down sugar and creates carbon dioxide and ethanol as a by product.  The carbon dioxide will then cause your bread to double in size and the ethanol will create that bread flavor that we all love!  For non commercial baking, yeast will come in a dry how do they survive in that dry environment? Dry yeast is actually encapsulated by a protective layer that provides nourishment and protection from the environment.  Once it is placed in a formidable environment it will become active and break out of the capsule.  Yeast aside, other bacteria and micro-organisms that are encapsulated can withstand the most extreme environments and can be dormant for years.

When working with yeast it is best to keep in mind the temperature of your environment.  Dough will rise best in warm, humid, and dark environments.  While baking this bread, my house was extremely cold so in order to promote fermentation I warmed my oven up for a couple minutes and turned it off.  I then placed the dough in there for an hour for it to rise and double in size.

Once the dough doubled in size, I started rolling it out and added the filling.  Immediately after, I placed it back into my warmed oven so that it could rise some more.

Be patient with your bread!

I was a bit nervous working with yeast but it turned out very well.  The key to the process is patience!


Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 cup milk
2/3 cup warm water
3 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
2 eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
2/3 tsp. salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup raisins
5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. milk
2/3 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/3 Tbsp. butter, melted


  1. Sift flour and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl dissolve yeast and let it froth ~ 10 minutes.
  3. While yeast is dissolving, warm milk in a sauce pan until it just begins to bubble and let cool.  Milk needs to be lukewarm when added to the mixture.
  4. Add eggs, sugar, salt, and raisins to the yeast mixture and incorporate.  Add flour in parts until stiff.
  5. Knead dough for about 2 – 4 minutes.
  6. Grease the surface of a bowl and place dough in it.  Turn the dough around in the bowl in order to grease the dough’s surface.  Place a warm damp towel over the dough and place into a warm and dark area.  Let rise until double ~ 1 – 1.5 hours.
  7. Lightly flour work surface and rolling pin.  Divide dough in half and roll out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.  Dough should be rolled out about 8inches x 6 inches.  Once rolled out, brush dough’s surface with 1 tbl of milk and add cinnamon sugar filling up to 1/4 of an inch from the edge.  Roll  dough (the long way) as tightly as possible and tuck the ends together to keep fillings from coming out during the baking process.  Place into a greased loaf pan and cover with a greased plastic wrap and let rest for about 1 hour until dough has risen some more (~1 inch above loaf pan).  Repeat for other half.
  8. Once dough is ready, bake at 350 degrees for about 30 – 45 minutes.  Bread will be ready once top has been browned and a hollow sound is produces when tapped.
  9. Let cool for 5 minutes and brush melted butter on top.  Remove from pan after 10 minutes and let cool on its side.

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