Sunday Baking

Chocolate & Zuchinni

One of my ongoing goals this year is to cut as many processed foods out of my diet as I can. I'm looking into ways to consistently make my own bread (I've done some work with a bread machine and a friend lent me a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which I hope to try as soon as I have some room in the fridge to try it.) and I've been figuring out ways to make my favorite microwave and takeout foods from scratch (check back in about a week for my chicken pot pie recipe!). Come farmer's market season I'd like to look into some preserving.

Flour and eggs

Along these same lines, I've had a recurring thought about only eating sweets that I've made myself. Now I have the second-biggest sweet tooth I know and what with my schedule, I though that to only eat home-made sweets meant pretty much giving them up. I'm sure doctors and dentists would think that's plenty fine, but I like a good cookie, or piece of cake, brownie or slice of pie... you get the idea.

In any case, I'm thinking it's much more feasible than I originally thought. 

Rows of Cookies

I'm currently working full-time and rehearsing a play about 4 nights and one weekend day a week. I'm pretty busy. But for the past month I've found the time to bake every Sunday. 

I don't own a mixer (I find mixing by hand both bicep-building and relaxing) and my kitchen is ill-designed for any kind of food-making, but I'm getting the job done. And I love putting on an apron from my collection and baking.

Sugar- Crusted Orange Cake

A few weeks back it started with "le gateau piege" from Chocolate and Zucchini, a Cleaver house-hold favorite.

Chocolate & Zuchinni Cake

Then it was the titular Chocolate & Zucchini cake from the C&Z cookbook, which was dense and moist.

Honey Spice Bread

Having good luck with Clotilde, I made the Honey-Spice Loaf from the same cookbook. We like it warm with butter.

Around Wednesday this week I asked Mr. Cleaver what he wanted. He didn't have any suggestion, so I decided to troll the recipe index on my other favorite food site, Smitten Kitchen, where I came across these:

Homemade Oreos

Homemade oreos!

These are just like the ones in the store, but way better, especially slightly warm. As noted in the recipe, I used the lesser amount of sugar in the cookies, and if Mr. Cleaver had his way, I wouldn't have frosted any. As it was I only needed half the frosting called for, but I highly recommend them. And some soothing Sunday afternoon baking.

Do you have a favorite baking recipe? Send along recipes and links and I'll be happy to give them a go!

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Sunny Lemon Sorbet

Lemon Sorbet

It is 5:30pm in Chicago, sunny and 58°F. This is a cause for celebration.

And there's no better way to celebrate good weather than by pulling out the ice cream maker - one of the many wonderful and incredibly useful wedding gifts Mr. Cleaver and I received. We use our ice cream maker at least once a month, even throughout the winter, so to those who think an ice cream maker is that wedding gift that gets used twice and never again, I prove you wrong in this instance.

Now in interest of full disclosure, I made this sorbet a week ago when it was 35°, but after a long Chicago winter, when it finally hits 35 people start pulling out their shorts.

I had previously made a dark chocolate sorbet from that most wonderful of food-centric websites, Chocolate and Zucchini. It definitely a make again, but the sorbet, I think is really suited to the lightness and sweetness of fresh fruit. So, to bring a ray of sunshine into my kitchen, I opted for a Sunny Lemon Sorbet.

Sorbet Ingredients

Lemon Sorbet is maybe the easiest thing to make ever.

The ingredients:

  • 1 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • That's it! I love food with a small number of ingredients.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and place in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, again - I always let it sit over night before I put it into the ice cream maker. This will allow the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to cool, so the machine doesn't have to work as hard.

Pour sorbet mixture into the ice cream machine and churn for about 30-45 minutes for a smooth, sweet and refreshing treat! Would pair well with shortbread cookies.

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Chocolate Banana Bread Cake

Chocolate Banana Bread

The way these recipes are coming, people are going to start to think that the only place I ever ate decent food was in Portland, Maine and that I don't live in a rather major U.S. culinary city these days - because, yes, today's recipe was inspired by something I ate in Portland, Maine.

The restaurant in question today is Bibo's Madd Apple Cafe. This lovely and eclectic little spot is right next door to the theatre I used to work at. Actually it's the same building. In any case, this is one of my favorite eateries in the city and exactly what I like to think a cafe should be: classier and more adventurous than a diner or sandwich/burger joint, but not so intimidating that you couldn't eat lunch there. That is, a place a low-paid twenty-something could take both her friends and her parents. The jaunty atmosphere doesn't hurt either.

The first time I went there for lunch I sprung for dessert: the ever-so-delicious Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding Cake (with a warm chocolate center and whipped cream). Now as readers of this blog may know, I love me some banana bread. I also love me chocolate. So this dessert was right up my alley.

Though my Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe isn't the same as Bibo's (frankly, I'd have to try it again to get a better feeling of the dish), I'm pretty happy with how this variation turned out. This recipe is based on the aforementioned banana bread recipes and Clotilde's Chocolate and Zucchini Cake from her cookbook. I wanted a texture that was somewhere between cake and bread and this does that pretty well. The chocolate flavor is prominent, but not overly sweet and a sprinkle of powdered sugar makes a sweet compliment. I don't know if I'm completely finished with the recipe, but I've made a lot of banana bread in the past month or so, so I'm giving it a rest for now.

Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Banana Bread Cake

(inspired by Bibo's Madd Apple Cafe and Clotilde's Chocolate and Zucchini Cake)

Makes 1 medium-sized loaf

  • 2-3 overripe bananas
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
  • 4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate melted and mixed with 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar (or 4 oz. of chocolate chips).
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup wheat flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup unsweeted cocoa
  • ½ tsp salt
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F

Break up the bananas and butter into a large mixing bowl. With a sturdy whisk, mash together the butter and bananas until mixed well - the butter will still be a little chunky, but should be about pea-sized. Add eggs, milk and lemon juice, adding the juice last. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix flours, brown sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well. If desired, you could add some unmelted chocolate chips at this point. Pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake 55-60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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