Flourless Banana Muffins

Last week I had what I would like to call a “baking crisis.” I had this crazy urge to bake banana muffins, but quickly realized that I was out of some of the crucial ingredients I needed…such as flour. Instead of waiting to go to the store and buy flour, I was determined. So I began substituting the ingredients that I didn’t have. What resulted was a combination of many different recipes and ingredient substitution websites (many of the flourless recipes called for Greek or regular yogurt, neither of which I actually had). I was surprised to find that these turned out to be delicious!

Flourless Banana Muffins
2 1/2 cup oats
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or substitute with 1 cup sour cream)
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar (I use slightly less than this and will use closer to 1/2 cup the next time I make them)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 over ripe bananas, smashed

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray or grease with Crisco (or line with liners. Foil works best, but I used paper and they worked just fine. If you use paper, you just need to make sure muffins are completely cool before you try to eat them. Otherwise, half of the muffin ends up stuck to the paper liner)
3) Place oats in a large food processor and blend until smooth, almost flour-like texture. Pour into large mixing bowl.
4) Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir until combined.
5) Divide batter evenly into the muffin pan.
6) Bake 20-25 minutes for full size muffins, 10-15 minutes for mini muffins. Test with toothpick to make sure they are done!

Happy baking!

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Crusty Bread

                                

Fresh bread has always been one of my absolute favorite things in the universe. A few weeks ago, I decided that I want to get really good at making my own bread. Not only is homemade bread an entirely different animal from the store bought stuff in terms of taste, but also in terms of ingredient quality and overall nutrition. One of the biggest benefits of making your own bread is that you can decide exactly what you do and do not want to go into it. In my search for bread recipes, I’ve found that the most successful recipes often include only a few ingredients: flour, yeast, water, salt…after that, you can really play with it and add whatever you like!

This crusty bread recipe is shockingly easy and has the look and taste of a professionally made bread. I was truly shocked at how beautiful it was when it came out of the oven! The dough does have to rise over night, so make sure you have allotted the necessary time before diving into the recipe. A note about the baking dish: I am lucky enough to have a father who owns a Le Creuset pot (the ideal baking dish for this recipe). However, I have read that other enamel-coated cast iron dishes will work, too. Play around and let me know if something else works!

Crusty Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water (I make my water slightly warm and this seems to work best)

1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and yeast.
2) Add the water and stir until a rough, sticky mixture forms. (I use a large spoon for this step- the wet dough is much too sticky for a whisk!!!)
3) Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. I have read that it can sit for up to 24 hours if you need more time!
4) Heat oven to 450 degrees.
5) While the oven is heating, prepare your work surface. You will need to heavily flour whatever surface you choose to work on.
6) Once the oven is heated, place your cast iron pot with the lid on in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.
7) While the put is heating, pour the dough onto your floured surface and shape it into a ball. Cover the ball with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.
8) Once heated, remove the hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Cover with the lid and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.

This is the easiest bread recipe in the world. Once I got the basic, plain version down, I started to play. You can add whatever seasonings or fillings you want to this recipe (I added Monterey Jack cheese and it turned out PHENOMENAL!). Once winter is over and my fresh herbs are in season, I’m hoping to try some new combinations. What are your flavor combinations?

Once again, I did not take pictures of each step of this recipe. HOWEVER, you are in luck! The recipe I am using came from this woman’s fabulous blog and she photographs each step! Check her out!

http://www.simplysogood.com/2010/03/crusty-bread.html?m=1

Happy Baking!

The famous strawberry tart

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This past summer, I decided that I was going to use my post-grad free time to tackle some of the more complicated recipes that had been trying to claw their way out of Pinterest for way too long. The first of these recipes was a strawberry tart with a custard filling and chocolates inked shell. I admit it here and now, I love a challenge…especially when it comes to cooking. Does the recipe call for a double boiler and caramelizing torch? Excellent! Challenge accepted.

I initially made this tart as a practice run for a sorority alum function to which I needed to bring a strawberry dessert (ever the Zeta!). A little too time consuming for a mid-week event, I opted for a cake instead. Regardless, my parents and boyfriend positively devoured this tart. It was such a hit that the boyfriend requested it for his birthday in place of a cake.

This tart recipe is really not half as complicated as it looks or sounds. The toughest part is getting the semi-fragile dough into the pan without destroying it completely. Be warned, however, THIS IS A VERY TIME CONSUMING RECIPE! Unfortunately, I do not have pictures to go along with each step, so I hope my description will do the trick!

Strawberry tart
Filling
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups half-and-half
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon rose water or orange-flower water (optional)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced

1. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together half-and-half, egg yolks, and, if desired, rose
3. Gradually whisk half-and-half mixture into sugar mixture in saucepan over medium heat.
Bring almost to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Remove mixture from heat.
4. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter and vanilla; cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Shell
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cold butter or margarine, cut up
2 tablespoons cold shortening
3 tablespoons cold water
3oz German sweet chocolate, melted (I use 1/2 cup of Ghirardelli chocolate chips/morsels)

Start shell when filling has been refrigerating for 1 hour.
1. Pulse first 3 ingredients in a blender or food processor 3 or 4 times or until combined.
2. Add 1/3 cup butter and shortening; pulse 5 or 6 times or until crumbly.
3. With blender or processor running, gradually add 3 tablespoons water, and process until dough forms a ball and leaves sides of bowl, adding more water if necessary.
4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour.
5. Spread water on the table. Place 2 sheets of overlapped wax paper onto the water (so it sticks to the table).
6. Pat dough into a small circle. DO NOT PUT ON THE PAPER YET!
7. Sprinkle flour onto both top and under side of the dough ball. Place the dough onto the wax paper. Put another sheet of wax paper over the dough. The dough should be squished between the paper stuck to the table and the piece you placed on top. This is to prevent your rolling pin from sticking!
8. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness, periodically pulling the top sheet of wax paper off and replace it so that the dough does not stick.
9. Once dough is the right size, remove top sheet of wax paper and gently turn empty tart pan upside down onto the dough. Flip the dough and pan over.
10. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Line dough with parchment paper; fill with pie weights or dried beans (1 lb of dried black beans works best). I used beans because they fit into all of the crevices of the shell and prevent it from bubbling.
11. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment paper, and bake 3.5 more minutes.
Cool.

While shell cools, slice strawberries.

Once shell is cooled, melt chocolate in microwave.
Spread melted chocolate over bottom of cooled crust.
Chill covered for 5-10 minutes until almost set.

Citrus Glaze
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
1 cup fruit juice (orange juice)
2 tablespoons corn syrup

While chocolate is cooling in the shell, make glaze.
1. Bring the sugar and 1/2 cup juice to a boil.
2. Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining juice. Add to the boiling juice and cook till thick.
3. Stir in the corn syrup. Bring back to a boil and remove from heat.
4. Cool.

Spoon custard filling into prepared pastry shell; top with strawberry slices.
Using a pastry brush, brush cooled glaze onto berries only.
Chill for 10-15 minutes and serve!

Happy baking!