peanut butter & chocolate banana bread

Let me introduce my new best {bread} friend.

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Nothing is more beautiful, or heartwarming, on a dreary morning than a slice of warm banana bread. To me, at least, that is the ideal. Curled up on my couch under a cozy blanket, cup of coffee in one hand and book in the other. That is just perfection.

This bread ranks high atop my list for breakfast comfort foods. As mentioned, I’ve always had a love of banana bread…for as far back as I can remember, my sisters and I would get so excited when our mom would pull out the tattered blue cookbook from our private school to make the always sought after banana bread. As amazing as it was on its own, it would be sent over the top {for me, at least} when she would add in a handful or two of walnuts or pecans, and maybe…just maybe…we’d totally win and get the chocolate chips in there too.

This is somewhat of a more “adult” twist on the classic banana bread. I stumbled across this recipe a few weeks back, making sure to bookmark it because it {obviously} looked delicious and I needed an excuse to make banana bread. We loaded up on bananas during our weekly grocery trip and I let them sit out nice and long to ensure that I got the most flavor out of them; we all know that the more spotty and brown the banana is, the better the final loaf of bread, no?

One of the reasons that I enjoy this bread so much is because the flavors all balance each other out so well. This is definitely less sweet than the banana bread of years past – hence why I lean towards calling it more of an “adult” version. We let the natural sweetness of the overly ripe bananas take center stage, and only add in a scant amount of brown sugar, leaving out white sugar completely.

Rich cocoa powder adds a complex, warm note to the bread. It also lets it take on a gorgeous, espresso color – you won’t see this with your regular banana bread! I also think that on the next go around I may add in a dash or two of espresso powder, just to take the flavor overboard. That is a winning combination in my book; coffee + chocolate = LOVE. And because I’m crazy, I swapped out the chocolate chips in the original recipe for peanut butter. Because….come on…you know that peanut butter, banana, and chocolate is a match made in heaven.

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Banana Bread

{recipe, adapted slightly, from Smitten Kitchen}

Ingredients:

3 medium-to-large very ripe bananas

1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup  brown sugar {light or dark brown will work just fine!}

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp table salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon {optional; I skip it}

1 C  all-purpose flour

1/2 C Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 to 1 C. natural, smooth or chunky, peanut butter – adjust to how “peanut buttery” you want your bread to taste {I find it helpful to have it warmed slightly, just so it’s easier to work with}

To Make:

Heat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a nonstick baking spray.

Mash bananas in the bottom of a large bowl. (You’ll have a little over 1 cup mashed banana total.) Whisk in melted butter, then brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Place baking soda, salt, cinnamon (if using), flour and cocoa powder in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and sift over wet ingredients {I couldn’t find my sifter, so I just made sure to incorporate very well}. Stir dry and wet ingredients with a spoon until just combined. Fold in the quantity and type of peanut butter you’d like to use.

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Pour into prepared pan and bake 55 to 65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free.

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Cool in pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature. I keep mine wrapped in foil. If it lasts longer than that, which is highly doubtful, transfer to the refrigerator.

black bean brownies

Don’t let the title of this recipe fool you, dears. I promise, this is a winner.

I like to think of these particular brownies as the perfect balance between healthy and indulgent. There are times in life, certainly, when nothing beats a full on, calories-don’t-count kind of dessert, but there are also times when sometimes you want to be a little bit more mindful.

Enter these brownies. The rich cocoa powder brings depth of flavor, the maple syrup adds the perfect amount of sweetness…and then there’s the black beans! These little gems are what brings the “fudge factor”, if you will, into this recipe. Thick and creamy, they elevate a rather simple list of ingredients into something amazing. So rich, when you bite into these, you’ll think you are eating the most decadent and gooey brownie you’ve ever tasted.

The black beans also provide a great nutritional punch. A one cup serving sets you back only one gram(!) of fat. Low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium but high in fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese – let’s talk about a vitamin powerhouse! Not to mention the 15 grams of protein in there as well. You won’t need to cut a big slice from the pan in order to feel satisfied…but I won’t be upset if it does end up on the slightly larger side.

Before I forget, there is also the fact that this recipe is essentially a one-bowl wonder. That is a treat in itself, no? Because who wants to be doing dishes when there’s the alluring aroma of freshly baked brownies sitting on your counter…not this girl, that’s for sure.

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Black Bean Brownies {recipe modified from Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe}

I doubled the recipe so the amounts listed below reflect that – if you want to use the original size, simply halve everything

3 C. black beans, drained and rinsed very well (2 15-ounce cans)

4 tbsp. cocoa powder (I use a Dutch processed)

3 C. quick oats

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. freshly ground coffee (espresso powder would also work well)

2/3 C. pure maple syrup or honey (I went half and half)

4 tbsp. turbinado sugar (regular granulated sugar will work fine, if that’s what you have on hand)

1/2 C. peanut butter

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 C. peanut butter chips

1/2 C. chocolate chips (I prefer a semi-sweet variety)

To make the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Blend very, very well. A blender can work if you don’t have a food processor, but the texture is much better when a food processor is used. It results in a smoother, creamier batter.

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{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, then push down slightly into the batter.

Cook in the center rack for 20 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. When tightly covered, these brownies will last several days in the refrigerator.

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{Photo courtesy of Chocolate-Covered Katie}

irish car bomb cupcakes

I couldn’t resist. One more St. Patrick’s Day post. I mean…the title is intriguing, no?

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Whether or not you participate in the traditional antics of good ol’ St. Patty’s Day (green beer, anyone? goofy “kiss me, I’m Irish!” t-shirts), please do me a favor and make these cupcakes. Whoever invented the controversial “car bomb” drink…a pint of Guiness with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson floating atop it, probably didn’t know what they were doing, but I for one sure am glad they did. And yes, I have been known to enjoy this unusual flavor combination more than once in my college days; maybe I still do?…

Want to know something funny? The first time I made this recipe wasn’t for St. Patty’s Day; heck, it wasn’t even for an Irish celebration! The hubs had requested something “different” for his birthday dinner…so upon copious digging through my recipe files, I stumbled upon this gem. I don’t think I had even finished reading him the title when he began eagerly nodding is head up and down. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he would have started shouting; as you all know, by now, we have a thing for anything “liquid libation”. After our first bite of these treats, we were sold. They’ve become a St. Patty’s day staple in our household ever since then.

But before I get too far off topic, let’s talk flavors, shall we?

A basic chocolate cake and buttercream frosting recipe has been elevated with the add-ins of this drink. Traditional chocolate has its flavor embellished with the addition of Guiness beer. I mean what I say, and this malty addition truly takes the cake to an entirely different level. It results in a rich, velvety crumb texture, with a chocolate taste unlike anything I’ve yet to match. A smooth, dreamy chocolate ganache is intensified with a healthy dose of Jameson’s Irish Whisky. Luscious buttercream becomes heavenly with Irish Cream liquor. I don’t know about y’all, but this has sent me into a foodie spiral. These cupcakes are, without a doubt, unlike anything other.

I urge…no, implore…you to make these cupcakes. Whether or not you make them to celebrate the “luck of the Irish”, I promise you that you’ll feel lucky to be indulging in something so delicious. Because no matter the time of year, everyone deserves a treat.

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Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes {adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen}

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream (I prefer to use Daisy Light sour cream)

Ganache Filling
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional…omit if you are planning on sharing with non-drinkers)

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

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Make the filling: Fill a large pot with water and set it atop your burner, around medium heat. You want the water to be simmering, but not boil. Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl, and place atop the pot on the stove (we’re essentially creating a double boiler here). Pour the cream over the chocolate, stirring constantly until the chocolate and cream have created a smooth, luxurious sauce.Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

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Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Using a small paring knife (or a small apple corer), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. *Save these little gems – we’ll talk about them them shortly* Fill the centers of each cupcake with the ganache.

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Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

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Frost the cupcakes, then store in an airtight container. After a day, be sure to refrigerate them, otherwise they will start to go stale. And be sure to share. Because I guarantee you, if these sit around your house, you will eat them all. I speak from experience.

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*because these cupcakes centers are so delicious, I decided to fold them into vanilla ice cream I made with the leftover heavy cream. The recipe I used can be found here. After preparing the ice cream according to your manufacturer’s directions, gently fold in the cupcake centers. Freeze in an airtight quart container. 

pumpkin-apple doughnuts with maple & bourbon drizzle

Do I even dare to ask…who doesn’t love a warm, fresh-made doughnut? Anyone? ANYONE?

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That’s what I thought. For as long as my family has called Virginia our “home base” homemade doughnuts, from a local bakery up the street, were always considered a treat for my sisters and I. These were not a weekly recurrence, at all – it was more along the lines of “Your grandma is in town visiting so we have to get some!” or “Company’s coming for the weekend, we need some on hand.” or “It’s the holidays! Doughnut time!” These, to me, are what made this delicious puffs of dough so awesome.

I know it might sound crazy, but I can pretty much catalog my childhood and adolescence by doughnuts from this particular shop. As a little girl, I loved the classic ‘sprinkles’ doughnut…but honestly, what kid (and adult? Yes, I’m talking to you) doesn’t like this kind of doughnut? Flash forward a few years, and I had moved on to the cream-filled topped with thick chocolate buttercream. Sometimes I would mix it up and throw in a cinnamon-sugar coated doughnut, but I had my routine, and I knew better than to stray too far.

Flash forward to today. Whenever the hubs and I head home, my mom and dad are sure to put in an order for a dozen or so of the family staples. My new love is their whole-wheat cake doughnut….yes, I know it’s simple, but tasting the nuttiness of the whole wheat flour, and the slightly sweet after notes, I am in absolute heaven. I’ve made it a habit of dunking it into my coffee and it’s over the edge for me. I could die right then, and be totally happy.

And that’s my doughnut story. But, you ask, what does this have to do with today’s post? The answer is that I’ve always wanted to try making homemade doughnuts. And I’m not talking the deep fried kind…I’m talking a basic cake doughnut, with fresh, simple ingredients and clean flavors. I recently purchased a doughnut pan and set my sights on conquering this goal.

I’ve spoken before about my love of autumnal flavors (remember my autumn granola?), and yes, we’re taking a page out of that book and going in that same direction. But! We’re going to kick things up with a little bit of apple, and a little bit of booze. I know you’re not complaining about that! We’re going to split the difference of the all-purpose flour and swap in some oat flour, to add in that sweet nuttiness that we all know and love (I’m talking to you, classic oatmeal cookie!). What takes the doughnuts over the top is the Maple & Bourbon drizzle, done at the very end. If you plan on serving these to children or those who don’t drink, feel free to swap out the bourbon for apple juice, or even just plain milk. Regardless, one bite into this moist, flavorful beauties and you will fall in love, just like I did.

I suggest making these for the upcoming weekend and you will be set – a warm doughnut, a hot cup of coffee (or tea!) and a nice, relaxing morning. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin-Apple Doughnuts with Maple & Bourbon Drizzle {adapted from King Arthur Flour}

Makes 15 individual doughnuts

For the doughnuts:

1/2 C. pumpkin puree (can swap out for 1/2 C. of vegetable oil – I find that the additional pumpkin makes for a very moist doughnut)

3 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 to 1/2 C. maple syrup

1-1/2 C. pumpkin puree

1-1/2 tsp/ pumpkin pie spice (or 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon plus heaping quarter tsp. each ground nutmeg and ground ginger)

1-1/2 tsp. salt

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 C. oat flour*

3/4 C. plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the caramelized apples:

2 apples (I used a Granny Smith and a Gala), finely diced

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 ounce of bourbon (you can use the same one as you’ll use in the drizzle) you can omit this if serving to children or non-drinkers

pinch salt

several dashes of cinnamon

1 Tbsp. butter

honey, as necessary, to sweeten

To make the doughnuts:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can use regular or mini-muffin sized pans, but they won’t be a true ‘doughnut’.

Saute the apples, vanilla extract, bourbon, salt, cinnamon, butter and honey on a medium-low stovetop until the apples are soft. Allow to cool slightly, as these will be folded into the batter.

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Beat together the oil (or additional pumpkin puree), eggs, maple syrup, pumpkin, spices, salt and baking powder until smooth. Add in the flour, stirring just until smooth. Fold in the cooled apple mixture, taking care to not overmix the batter.

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Fill the wells of the pans about 3/4 full – it should be a scant 1/4 C. of batter in each well.

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Bake the doughnuts for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Once removed from the oven, let them sit for about 5 minutes, then loosen the edges and take out of the molds. Place on a rack to cool.

Make the drizzle while the doughnuts bake:

Combine 1 C. of powdered sugar with 1 ounce of your favorite bourbon. I like to stir in a few dashes of vanilla extract for extra flavor. Whisk until free of lumps, then spoon onto the tops of each doughnut.

Coat with the drizzle; you’ll see how much each doughnut will absorb it!

Cool completely and store (not wrapped tightly) at room temperature for several days…that is, if they last that long!

*to make your own oat flour, simply process the required amount of quick oats in your food processor until finely ground. If you don’t have a food processor, simply swap out for an equal amount of all-purpose flour.