Banana Nut Muffins

28 Sep

I know… It’s been way too long since you’ve seen a Kristin’s Cravings post. Let’s chalk it up to a summer full of beaches, concerts, casinos, comedy shows, ferry rides, NYC adventures, a trip to Napa and a new boyfriend who doesn’t like desserts (Crazy, I know!! ha, sorry Rob!)

I have to give the boyfriend credit though, through constant begging and nagging I’ve made him some banana nut muffins. It’s also the start of the fall season which is my favorite season to bake because of all the flavorful spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that are used and of course the cooler weather to make my NYC apartment bearable!

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This is a very simple recipe and total time to prep and bake should be around 30 – 40 minutes depending on how fast you work.


What You’ll Need:

  • 2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1.5 Tsp of Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp of Salt
  • 4 Overripe Bananas (I used some that were slightly ripe and they worked just the same)
  • 1/2 Cup of Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp of Cinnamon
  • 1 & 1/2 sticks (3/4 Cups) unsalted butter, Softened
  • 2 room temperature Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup of Pecans, Chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and butter 2 muffin tins. Be generous, the last think you want is parts of the muffins stuck inside the pan! Make sure to also butter the top of the pan so that the portion that folds over the top doesn’t get stuck either.

Use a sharp knife and chop the the Pecans; set aside

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Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture; set aside.

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In a medium sized bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

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With an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until smooth.

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Switch to the whisk attachment and whit the remaining bananas into the mixture for a good 3 minutes. Put the machine on a higher level and make sure the batter becomes smooth. Add int he eggs and vanilla. It make look pretty wattery, but it’s OK. Once the dry ingredients are added it will start to firm up.

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Switch back to the paddle attachment and miss in the dry ingredients in thirds until just incorporated. Take the bowl off the mixer and using the rubber spatula scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure the flour at the bottom of the bowl is incorporated.

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Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula that you set aside earlier.

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Spoon the batter (I use an ice cream scoop) into the muffin tins and fill them about 3/4th of the way and give them a tap on the counter to get out any air bubbles.

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Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes before devouring!

Be careful, these little guys are addicting!! I made about 2 dozen and they were gone in a day! Luckily I have quite a few people to take them off my hands!

Enjoy!

Chocolate & Butter Croissants

5 Dec

Croissants are one of my favorite morning pastries. They’re flaky, savory and delicious and I’m shocked I haven’t made them before now. This past week in baking school was pretty hectic. The plan was to make chocolate butter-cream filled macaroons, butter croissants and chocolate croissants, but we ran out of time and only had enough time for the macaroons and the preparation of the croissant dough. Since I had my hopes up for some fabulous croissants the next morning (and I’m too impatient to wait a week!) I decided to make them on my own.

Interesting to note: have you ever noticed that there are some croissants that are straight and others that are curled?

    

Well, apparently this is not just a preference of the bakery, it actually has meaning. In France, a straight edged croissant is made from butter whereas a curled croissant is made from margarine. It is a way to cut costs since good butter can be very expensive, so the curled croissants are often cheaper, but the strait ones are better quality.

What You’ll Need:

Dough: Very similar to Puff Pastry (This makes 20 – 24 Croissants)

  • 500 Grams of Bread Flour (3.5 Cups) *
  • 65 Grams of Granulated Sugar (1/3 Cup)
  • 2 Tsp of Salt
  • 40 Grams of Softened Butter
  • 25 Grams of Yeast (2 Tbs)
  • 125 Milliliters of Milk
  • 124 Milliliters of Water
  • 300 Grams of Cold Butter

Croissant:

  • The Dough from above
  • 6-8 Ounces of Chocolate
  • Egg Wash (1 slightly beaten egg + 1 Tsp of water)

Directions:

For the Dough:

Combine the flour (make sure to see the note below with regards to the bread flour), sugar, salt and yeast (if dry yeast) in a mixing bowl. If you’re using an electric mixer you are going to use the paddle attachment to combine the ingredients. Then add the softened butter and mix.

If using fresh yeast, dissolve it into the water and mix, then add the liquids into the dry mixture and mix until just combined. The dough will be flaky and won’t come together as other doughs you may have worked with. Don’t add more liquid to it because it is supposed to be like this. Kneed it in the bowl a little until it starts to come together and then place it on your work surface, kneed lightly into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. The composition of your dough right now is a precursor to how your croissant will turn out after baking. A croissant is very flaky, light and airy, so if your dough is thick, wet and dense it is going to prevent the dough from rising properly which is what gives the dough its texture.

As with the Puff Pastry, you are going to turn the dough after it has rested. Unlike the Puff Pastry, you are only going to do 3 turns to the dough. Doing 6 turns will make the croissant too flaky. As my Chef in class would say, they’d be Cork Flakes.

After the last turn, let the dough sit in the fridge for roughly 40 minutes. When ready, place the dough on your work surface and cut in half. Roll each half out so that the width is around 8 inches and the length as long as need be to reach 3/8ths of an inch thick. One will be used for plain butter croissants and the other will be for chocolate croissants.

For Butter Croissants:

Starting at the bottom left corner, place your knife at an angle to create a right triangle and cut your first piece. Then, where the tip of your knife just was, cut straight across the dough to create your second piece. Repeat these steps until you reach the top of the dough.

Place one piece in front of you so that the wide end is farthest from you and the tip facing you. Cut a slit, roughly half an inch long down the center of the top. Fold the pieces away from you and slightly press down with you fingers

Using both hands, place your finger tips at the top and the your thumbs in the center with your hands at a slight angle so that you’re forming an arrow with your index fingers. Roll the dough down and out so that you stretch the dough wider as you roll down. Then, when you’ve rolled a little more than half way down place one hand on top of the dough, with the other hand grab the tip of the dough and stretch lightly down as the other hand rolls the dough until your hands meet. Place the croissant on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet with the tip facing down. You don’t want the tip on top, or the croissant will open while rising and/or baking and you don’t want the tip all the way under because that will restrict the dough from rising.

For Chocolate Croissants:

Chop the chocolate into 4 inch long, 1/4 inch wide pieces.

Place the second sheet of rolled puff pastry on a floured surface in front of you. Cut 10 (or as many as you can) rectangles that are a little wider than the length of a chocolate piece and 4-5 inches long. Place a piece of chocolate at the top, roll the top of the dough over the piece of chocolate and press lightly with your fingers. Place a second piece over chocolate just in front and roll the dough over that piece twice until the seam is on the bottom. Place your hand directly on top and press lightly to seal.

     

Place the finished croissants, as you did with the butter croissants, on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Once all the croissants are rolled and on their designated baking sheets, its time to proof them (aka let the dough rise). If you recall from the Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread I made back in May, I had a great method in college for proofing dough, but it seemed to have failed in my NYC apartment resulting in blown fuses and a dark apartment. Well, luckily for me the problem has been solved! I was talking with another member of my baking class and he mentioned that a great way to proof your dough is to just put the light in your oven on and place the dough in there. The light will create enough heat and it will be undisturbed. It worked like a charm and saved me from the confusion of my fuse box!

Anyway, I let the dough proof for roughly an hour to an hour and a half or until they nearly double in size.

Once the croissants are proofed, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the tops are golden brown, rotating the pan half way through. Let them cool on the backing sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve warm with some butter and coffee.

Enjoy!

* Bread Flour contains 12 to 14 percent protein, whereas all-purpose flour only has between nine and 11 percent protein. When you use all-purpose flour in a recipe calling for bread flour you can use the exact same amount of flour but you may find that breads take longer to rise or do not have the same density they would have if you had used bread flour.

Happy Birthday Cora!

4 Dec

Yup, another fabulous birthday to celebrate!

Cora has become one of my best friends in the city. The funny part of our relationship is that after 4 years of attending the same college we met out one night in NYC.

Since then, we’ve gone on multiple “girl” dates, ate our way through many NYC restaurants and had our fair share of interesting nights out. Living in the city wouldn’t be the same without her and I’m so happy we were able to surprise her for her 24th birthday. Her boyfriend Steve  and her roommate Kerri put together an amazing surprise dinner at Punch on 21st and Broadway with local and out-of-town friends and we had a blast. Then we headed down to Plunge at the top of the Gansevoort Hotel for more celebrations!

Cora’s cake was a gluten-free chocolate cake with butter-cream frosting and orchid flowers climbing up the side. I have to admit, I’ve always been a skeptic when it comes to gluten-free baking, but this cake turned out very fresh and delicious!

This is only the beginning of my experimentation with gluten-free desserts. I hope Cora’s ready to be my taste-tester!!

Enjoy!

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