I think every home baker has at some point searched for the perfect banana bread. We all have our preferences: some like it very dense and banana-y, others like it almost like a cake with chocolate chips. I like it moist, not to sweet, full of taste of bananas with some soft banana pieces hidden in the bread. Well, I think I found my perfect banana bread. The sourdough here balances out the sweetness of the bananas while giving it a moist, light texture. It's also a great way to use the extra sourdough starter.

The original recipe was posted on the Fresh Loaf, but reviews and first attempt confirmed that it needed more bananas - the original recipe was a bit crumbly and in my opinion, need a more banana taste. I added one more banana, replaced the shortening with butter (will try with oil next time), and some other minor adjustments, and here was the version that I ended up with:

1/3 cup butter
1 cup of sugar (1/2 cup of honey or some combination thereof can be used - I used 3/4 cup sugar + 3 TB honey)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 cup mashed overripe banana (about 3 large; I like to roughly mash with some chunks of banana left)
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp grated orange rind

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together the oil and sugar, add egg, and mix until blended. Stir in bananas and sourdough starter. Add orange rind or vanilla. Sift flour, measure again with salt, baking powder, and soda. Add flour mixture and walnuts or pecans to the first mixture, stirring just until blended. Pour into greased 9x5" loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

As you can see based on the photos, I did not follow my own directions and wait for the bread to cool before slicing! I'm sure next time I'll make double batches and wait for one loaf to cool down before slicing so the slices would look better, but the bread smelled too good for me to wait around in front of it. Hence the crumbly - but delicious appearance. Also, I got to say I am a big fan of pecans - pecans all the way in banana bread.

I had some extra turnips lying around from that turnip soup and I wanted to cook it in the easiest way possible. Solution? Roasting!

This method can be used for pretty much any root vegetable and easily scaled up. I used tarragon here but other herbs such as rosemary or sage will work just as well.

1 turnip
1 large carrot
1 potato
3 small cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 TB tarragon
Olive oil
A pinch of salt
Honey mustard vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 450F.

Peel and cube the root vegetable, toss with the garlic cloves, herbs, and olive oil in baking dish. Lay the vegetables in a single layer and  sprinkle lightly with salt. Place the baking dish on the middle rack. Bake for 20 minutes, check the vegetables for dryness. If dry, add a tablespoon or two of water to the baking dish and bake another 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle with honey mustard vinaigrette.

After a month-long hiatus due to an incredibly busy schedule, I'm finally back to updating this blog! With the arrival of spring - though it doesn't feel like so in Chicago - comes a bout of cold for me. And with cold seems to come the craving for soup and desserts.

So when I saw this cake recipe on Smitten Kitchen (which is, by the way, a great website - as demonstrated by this cake) I knew immediately that I had to try it - I love crumbly, moist, not too sweet cakes, flavored by ripe fruits. I followed the original recipe pretty closely with a few exceptions: I left the apples unpeeled, reduce the sugar slightly as I always do, I used olive oil, and instead of walnuts I used pecans. Because I didn't have a bundt or tube pan, or a pan large enough to hold all the batter, I used a loaf pan and a pie pan to see how it would turn out. As you see, the two pans produce slightly different, but equally yummy, desserts.

The following is after my minor modification:

5 large apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil ( I use olive oil)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup pecans, chopped (I coated the pecans in the cinnamon-sugar-apple juice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the pan(s). Core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

The apples and batter were divided between a 9'x5' metal loaf pan and a 12" glass pie pan. For the loaf pan, I followed the original instructions: half of the batter on the bottom, half of the apples, another half of the batter, and then topped with remaining apples and pecans. Because the pie pan was so shallow, I directly laid the apples on the bottom of the pan, pour the rest of the batter over the apples, and then top the batter with the remaining apples and pecans. The cakes were baked for 1 hour 15 minutes.

First, I tried the pie pan. It was delicious, and I liked the apples on the bottom of the pan. Then I tried the loaf pan. It was awesome! Super moist and so tender that the slices barely able to stand once they are cut. The metal bakeware produced a different crust than the glass, slightly thicker and crunchier. The cake is moistened by the oil and apple juice with no distinct note of olive oil. The apple skin gave pleasant contrast in texture without being hard or chewy, and pecans paired perfectly providing a nutty crunch.
right out of the oven

a slice of loaf cake

I put the remainder of the cake in the pie pan in the fridge, and next day, I had the cake again, both cold and warm (yes, I've very thorough when it comes to cake tasting!). The shallow cake actually tasted really good the next day cold, even better than previous day, with the slightly condensed cake almost tasting like crumble with apple-pecan strudel topping.

next morning