Sunday, March 8, 2015

Browned Butter Strawberry Banana Bread: Betty, You're Awesome!

 Have you ever thought about Betty Crocker?  Probably not!  If you haven't, you're a practical, right-thinking individual because Betty Crocker isn't even a real person!  She was made up by a an ad agency!  But still, I guess Betty's marketing department is so good, it sure seems like she's a real person to me-- and a really charming one at that!  Even her name sounds like a good friend!  The first cookbook I had was a "kids in the kitchen with Betty Crocker" type publication and I still remember making those recipes.  They were all good, and they all came out just as Betty said they would.  Yes, she was nothing if not reliable!  And somehow encouraging....and fun.....and.....okay, I know that's enough :)
Even though it's cold and only March, there were some very nice strawberries on sale, so I broke out of my must be seasonal snob-ishness (I'm positive Betty is NOT a snob-- she's got her pic on cake mixes for gosh sakes!) and bought them.  I also had a few overripe bananas on hand, so I looked up a recipe for a strawberry banana bread and found this one from "you know who" that used browned butter, too!  Browned butter makes everything better and this recipe is no exception!  It takes just minutes to put together (I included a couple shortcuts and added a few more strawberries and a little less banana.  I'm sure Betty won't care; she looks like she'd be so easy going!), and it tastes SO wonderful!!  Banana-y, but with bits of tart strawberry flavor, this bread tastes great anytime!  Thanks, Betty!
Betty's Browned Butter Strawberry Banana Bread

1/2   cup unsalted butter
1.25 cups sugar
2      large eggs
2      very ripe bananas
1/2   cup buttermilk
1      teaspoon vanilla
2.5   cups all purpose flour
1      teaspoon baking soda
1      teaspoon salt
1.5   cups sliced, ripe strawberries

         Grease the bottom only of a 9"x5" loaf pan with shortening or spray well with PAM.  Preheat the oven to 350F.Put the butter in a small pan.  Melt over medium heat and let the butter bubble until it turns a brownish, golden color.  Stop a tiny bit before it's dark enough because it will continue to darken off the heat.  Be sure not to burn it.  It should smell really good!
Pour the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the sugar and beat well.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Break up the bananas into chunks and add to the bowl.  Beat until they are mashed up, then add the buttermilk and vanilla, beating until combined.
Add the dry ingredients and beat until everything is well incorporated, but not too long or the bread will be tough.  Stir in the strawberries.
Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out cleanly. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the loaf if it seems like it's browning too quickly.  Cool the loaf 10 minutes after baking, then run a knife around the edges and invert the bread onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

I've had some fun making scented, mini-soap party favors for my friend, Julie's, annual luncheon that she hosts for her mother.  Wrapped with a cute notepad, these made lovely little gifts for her guests!

Please take a look at our website to see our selection of handmade, vegan soaps and hand-crafted pottery!  Email us at for information on custom orders for any occassion!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Communion Bread: This Do in Remembrance of Me

Our church serves homemade loaves of bread for communion.  Since our church has just passed the 12 year anniversary of its existence, I guess we can't say it's an "age old tradition", but nevertheless, in those 12 years, serving these loaves, made by our members, has become a well-loved tradition.
As one of the bread bakers, it crossed my mind that when new bakers join the team, it might be helpful to have some photos and instructions to go along with the recipe they receive.  My friend, Carol, was visiting last week and took some pictures while I was making the bread for church, so I'm writing this post to help those new to our group!  Thanks and hope this helps you!  What a blessing to participate in this "bread baking ministry"!

Communion Bread (10 loaves)
4.25 cups all-purpose flour
1.25 tsp. salt
2.5 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
1.25 cup water
Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  

Mix the dry ingredients well.  Combine the olive oil and water in a cup.  Mix well with a fork and add to the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed.

Mix the dough at low speed until it comes together to form a rather ragged dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.  You might need to add a tiny bit more flour or water, depending on the humidity of the day.

Now break off 10 pieces of dough, roll them into balls, and place them on the cookie sheets.  You might need to add or subtract to the dough balls to even them out in size.  Just approximate.

Use your fingertips to smush (yes, that's a very technical term reserved only for church bread bakers :) ) the dough down and out into round circles about 5 to 6-inches in diameter.  
Bake the loaves on two racks in the oven for 18 minutes.  Then switch them top to bottom and bake 5 minutes more.  The loaves should be golden-ish.  They won't be brown all over.  Sometimes a bubble forms, but that's okay!

Remove the loaves to a rack to cool completely.  Take to church and be thankful always!


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Be Mine!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Hi All!
Glad to see you again!  Can you believe it's almost February?  Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so it's time to remember the ones you love whether it's a spouse, a parent, your crazy Aunt Betty or a faithful friend!  Even the most conscientious eaters among us (know any?) enjoy a plate of homemade cookies!  Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, these look like the traditional Linzer type, but instead are delicate, flaky, pie-type pastry-- slightly sweet and filled with raspberry jam.  Don't waste the centers, either!  Put them together with melted chocolate for some scrumptious little sweethearts :)

Filled Pastry Hearts

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Jar of raspberry jam
  • Bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (you won't use them all)
  • Combine the flour and sugar in a food processor.  Add the butter and process until the mixture is combined, but chunks of butter are still visible.  Mix the water and egg yolks together with a fork and add them to the flour / butter mixture.  Pulse together until the mixture comes together-- don't overprocess!
  • Plop the dough out on some plastic wrap.  Squish it together to form a disk and wrap securely.  Refrigerate the dough for an hour or more.
  • Line some cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • On a floured pastry cloth (you can use a clean tea towel), roll out 1/2 the dough until it's pretty thin, but not too thin-- about 1/8 inch.  Cut the dough out with a heart-shaped cutter, then cut out a center with a smaller heart cutter and place the cookies on the lined cookie sheets.  Repeat with the other half of the dough, but cut only solid, large hearts.
  • Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes, but it depends on how large the cookies are.   Also, the large, solid hearts will take longer to bake.  Bake them until they are golden brown-- don't under bake them.  Allow them to cool on the baking sheets and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
  • Spread the solid hearts with raspberry (or strawberry) jam.  Press the hearts with the cut out centers on top and press lightly.  
  • Melt some semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and spread half the little hearts with chocolate.  Top with another little heart to make sandwich cookies.
  • Serve to your favorite Valentine(s) !

By the way, if you're looking for something special for that someone special, check-out our men's and women's gifts available at Flow Naturals, our little handmade soap company!

Trio of Men's Soaps in a cool gift box!