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  • Browned Butter & Espresso Banana Bread

    Happiest springtime to you all! I hope your season is filling with fresh flowers, warm cups of coffee and tea, carb-laden goodies and perhaps some spring cleaning/organizing to freshen perspectives and intentions. I have been taking things easy, using this past mercury retrograde to reflect. Let me tell ya: sometimes it is enlightening to just take it slow and think through some things/decisions/adult-ing things to gain clarity and perspective. You're most definitely on the right track, and don't let anyone let you think otherwise. Spring cleaning and organizing also helps with all of this. Focus!And then after you've cleaned out your closet/mind/car (or whatever), treat yourself to some banana bread + coffee. As a compulsive banana-buyer and eater and smoothie-maker, the probability of my having over-ripe bananas is quite high. Thus, you will find several other banana bread and/or muffin recipes on TDS (The Dirty Sifter...):

    The gluten-free, but no weird-ass flours version here!

    The borderline cake, super idulgent version over here (really, don't skip the bourbon or sea salt or the chocolate...go all in on this one)...

    The touch-of-special browned butter version right here!

    The vegan version here...it is a good one despite the lack of butter and eggs, really! It boasts 6 (!!) whole bananas. Compensate the healthy goodness with the generouts cinnamon+sugar topping.

    So now...I introduce, the caffeinated and roasty-toasty, nutty one here today. Mostly inspired by my grandma's banana bread, and also my deep love for strong-ass coffee, and also the smell of browning butter. All good things indeed. If you do not have access to an espresso maker at home (I have a ROK variety, and while finicky to get the water temp/coffee grind correct, once you do, you're golden!), you can use extra-strong brewed coffee. This bread is sweet, moist and perfect on a chilly early spring morning. Spread the love and share thick slices with your favorite people. The honey in this loaf helps keep the moisture in (thanks to the abundance of monosaccharides, namely glucose and fructose), and also helps it brown in the oven (nod again to the honey). The espresso (or strong coffee) gives it a hint of bitter, and nutty aroma. The brown butter just does what it does best...mmm...

    With that, happy baking, sharing and caring. Spread the love!



    Banana Bread with Browned Butter and Espresso // makes 1 loaf //

    • 1 3/4 cup flour (I used 1 cup all purpose and 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry)
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus additional for topping
    • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 3 large over-ripe bananas
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, or a combination thereof)
    • 1/3 cup browned butter 
    • 1 double shot espresso + water or milk to make 1/4 cup total liquid (or use 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled)
    • optional: 2 large handfuls walnuts 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Brown the butter in a small pan, keeping an eye on it while it bubbles. Set aside to cool, and use a few teaspoons to grease the loaf pan. 

    2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

    3. In a measuring cup, measure out the espresso+water (or coffee). Add the honey, browned butter and eggs. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

    4. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas until smooth (or leave some chunks intact if you like that texture). Add the espresso/honey/egg mixture and whisk until everything is combined.

    5. Pour the wet mixture over the dry, and mix a few times. Add the walnuts, and finish the mixing with a few confident mixes, being careful to not over do it. I love to use a dough whisk to help preven over agitation and gluten development.

    6. Pour into the greasted loaf pan and level the top of the batter. If desired, sprinkle with extra cinnamon and swirl a few times with a butter knife. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. This loaf is extra moist, so don't be alarmted if you need to bake for a touch longer.

    7. Cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes, then release loaf from pan and allow to cool fully on a cooling rack. Slice as desired and enjoy! Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen (I like to pre-slice mine prior to freezing for easy thawing/re-heating) for up to 3 months. 



    Bananas that look like leopards are ideal for banana bread...Browned butter, ready and waiting!Sifting the dry ingredients is soothing, and also ensures all spices and leavners are homogenously distributed. Gift the goods a stir even after sifting to make double-sure. Also, I love my dough-whisk. If you're a quick-bread making fiend, I highly recommend!Take a step back...sip on that extra espresso shot you pulled yourself...and be sure you pre-heated your oven...on it!Mixing while the mixing is good! Walnuts in!Pour into pan, top with cinnamon (ps: Top With Cinnamon is a fine blog!), swirl about and bake!This loaf smells like banana-nut heaven when baking. Slice yourself a large slab, and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee. Repeat often. 

  • Browned Butter, Buckwheat & Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

    That is a mouthful! Eating 2 of these cookies at one time annnnd the title..."browned butter, buckwheat, walnut chocolate chunk cookies". They may look a little...homely...but they have incredieble flavor and texture. Note: you may use chocolate chips, and you may omit the walnuts. Similarly, I could see substituting hazelnuts being *amazing* in these.These cookies were born when I participated in a cookie swap in efforts to raise funds of the ACLU, that the lovely Miss Jen held at her crazy adorable pie shop (also, super tasty pies...I shouldn't have to say that about a shop that sells all-things butter and pie...right? Ok...good). I was also in-between moving from Beloit to my new place here in Viroqua (*happy dance*), and was spending a few days/nights at my Dad's in Madison. Let us just say that baking cookies for others is my kind of therapy when things get a liiiiittle stressful. Nibbling on pieces of chocolate, browning butter, adimiring the rich colors of buckwheat flour....I love it all. And I really, really love these cookies.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE a solid, well-executed chocolate chunk cookie. Sprinkled with sea salt, dunked into hot coffee, loaded with chocolate chunks...nothing will beat that. But for those who cannot eat the glutens (turns out, many people are still dabbling in the gluten-free arena), these are a really amazing option. The nutty buckwheat flour compliments the browned butter, and walnuts offer lots of crunch. And the chocolate. The chocolate....is the chocolate. I think I prefer these made with chunks of chocolate-some little pieces, some small, some shavings....but chocolate chips will do just fine. Just be sure to get your hands on some rich dark chocolate here-the contrast of the bitterness against the sweet cookie is *awesome*. A few notes on the flour and such: you can use either Bob's Red Mill buckwheat flour (it is blue-ish in hue, and almost like fine sand in texture) or a more flour-y buckwheat flour. I have made these cookies with both, and while both give slight different textures, both are equally delicious. The Bob's flour cookies were a little more crunchy and crispy around the edges, and were also a little more flat (i.e. they spread a litte more). Made with a more powdery, locally milled buckwheat flour prdoduced a more brown colored batter, and a cookie with less spread, so a more gooey, chewy center. I would 100% recommend allowing the batter for either version to rest for at least 30 minutes (bummer, I know...), or even overnight in the fridge. This allows the buckwheat to absorb moisture, and helps the batter thicken up a touch. Since these cookies lack that viscoelastic, streatchy network of gluten, their structural integrity can be improved with a nap. Your patience will be rewarded! They will still be space hogs, and spread quite a bit with baking, however.  And lastly, do NOT omit the tapioca flour (or sometimes called starch). You can easily find this in most grocery stores, and is extremely helpful in binding gluten-free baked goods...mmmkay? And I don't have to say this (do I?) but please try to use the best butter, sugar, eggs...just like a savory dish, with such few ingredients, using the best you can source really pay off here. But, if the cookie need is strong, use what you have in your pantry.....I get it! Enjoy, eat lots of cookie dough, steal nibbles of the chocolate...you got this!And lastly, if you wish, you can mix these up, portion them out into balls, and freeze. When the cookie need strikes, you can bake-off as many (or as few....but wtf is that with cookies?) as you need, straight from the freezer. Cookie addict hacks...so important for a happy life...right? 



    Browned Butter Buckwheat, Walnut & Chocolate Chunk Cookies // makes approximately 20, 2" diameter cookies // gluten-free; nut-free option (omit the nuts, yo!); soy-free // 

    • 1 stick (8 TB, 113g) unsalted butter
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup (160g) sugar*
    • 2 tsp molasses*
    • 3/4 cup plus 2 TB buckwheat flour (100g) buckwheat flour
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB (45g) tapioca flour or starch
    • pinch of cinnamon and/or freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 1/2 cups (6oz, 170g) dark/bittersweet chocolate (at least 65% cocoa solids, with roughy 80% cocoa solids being my favorite here), either in chip form or chopped into chunks from a bar
    • 1 heaped cup walnuts (leave these out if you can't do nuts or if you don't like them, or substitue with pecans, hazelnuts, etc...)

    *Lately, I have been making my own brown sugar, because to me, it tastes richer and is really simple to make. For this recipe, I use 3/4 cup organic cane sugar with 2 tsp molasses; you can eyeball the molasses if you're feeling saucy, or measure it out like the amazing baking you are! :)

    1. Brown the butter: in a medium saucepan (you'll be mixing in a few more things in here, so use a slightly larger one that you think-I used a 4-cup sauce pan), melt the butter over medium heat, and allow it to cook, swirling occasionally, until it starts to brown and smell nutty. It may foam a few times, and you'll notice some of the butter solids sticking to the bottom-just keep swirling until a golden color is reached. Allow the browned butter to cool for 5-10 minutes while you carry on with the recipe.

    2. Sift the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour/starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Chop the chocolate, and walnuts if using, or measure out the chocolate chips. Whatever you are mixing into the batter, get it ready now!

    3. Into the slightly warm browned butter, add in the sugar, molasses (or light brown sugar), vanilla and egg. Mix thoroughly. The mixture will be almost caramel-like in consistency. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients, mix for a few turns, and then add in the chocolate and walnuts. Don't be shy here-you can mix, mix, mix since we have no gluten to worry about developing. The batter will begin to thicken as you stir-this is the buckwheat flour working the magic it has....

    4. You can let the batter sit for 30 minutes, or covered overnight in the fridge now. After it rests, and when you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Form batter into roughly 2 TB dough, place on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with sea salt (or you can form the balls, and freeze them for future baking). Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating or turning the pans after the first 5-6 minutes to ensure even baking. For frozen cookie dough balls, it may take a minute or two longer for the cookies to bake. The cookies are done when they appear to be dry-ish in the middle, but may still look a little gooey. For crisper cookies, bake until the edges start to brown.

    5. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes before removing with a spatula-the cookies are a little delicate fresh out of the oven. Store for up to 2 months in the freezer in a covered container, or up to 3 days at room temperature (if they last that long...).



    You know how to do this...be sure to allot your measurements for snacking on the chocolate and walnuts. Really. You know you will do it. Sift...gotta sift! Don't skip it. Brown the buttaaaah! Swirl, be patient...you got this...Now, sugar, molasses (or brown sugar) egg...all stirred up into a caramel-like mass....mmm mass....and not the church kind, the "gravitational pull" kind...Stir stir stir....be sure your browned butter is not super hot here, or else you may curdle (i.e. cook) your egg. We don't want that...at least, not in our cookies. Pour the lot over your sifted dry ingredients...and stir, stir, stir again! So, this is the same batter, only made with a locally milled buckwheat flour. You can see that the Bob's batter is a little more loose, but it will firm up after some time. And no nuts in the batter below! But lots of chips. See, we are flexible here...do what you gotta do!All balled up....ahoo hooo...(Elvis voice there...)You can also freeze your balls (teehee), and bake straight from there. Don't forget the sea salt on top!On the cookie sheet, with generous space apart, since these guys like to stretch their legs. And run into each other....cookie venn diagram...it happens!Same cookies, just made with the locally milled flour below (Bob's flour above). Cool, and enjoy. Be sure to let these rest for a minute or two on the cookie sheet before removing to cool, since they are delicate creatures right out of the oven. I mean, aren't we all, though?Nothing better than cookies in the evening light of spring....am I right? Enjoy! Share! Be merry. 

  • Happy Mother's Day + Browned Butter Banana Bread

    The phrase "no place like home" really struck a chord with me when we finally crashed in our bed  after a grueling 1200 mile drive from NYC. Manhatten rush hour? No problem. New York drivers are New York Drivers, done and done. You must drive like one to succeed in getting to where you need to go (read: I am really glad my boyfriend was driving). Pennsylvania drivers, interstates, "construction" and speed limit signs? Shitty and weird. The rolling hills and pastures *almost* make up for those. Indiana? Smelly and waaaay to long. And did I mention smelly? It really seemed like it would never stop. And do I need to say anything about Illinois drivers? No. But Illinois drivers in morning rush hour? I can't even...

    Yeah, we could have stopped. But we didn't. Wisconsin was calling our hearts, as was our little loft in Madison. We love this place. We love the trees, the flowers, the quiet, the sky (we can SEE the STARS!!!), our balcony, the birds that we can hear singing in the morning. No, we still really don't like our loud neighbors, those who can't park a car in our lot to save a life, and the obnoxiously loud bus noises right outside our patio door. We are still frustrated with the food scene here. But guess what? We can live with all of that. We love our state, our city, our families, our values and our culture. Madison may not be the best city for everything, and Wisconsin may not be perfect. But I will proudly call this place my home and stomping ground. Thank you, Wisconsin, for being awesome, clean and...well, awesome. 

    We will drive to the country...I mean, I may GO HOME to see my Mom and family for Mother's Day. I will relish the rolling hills, green fields and smell of cow manure-thank you very much. Manhattan was great, but nothing beats home (and fresh air). I am so glad we were away for a while, and will be sharing pictures and our experiences soon. But for now...priorities: banana bread. With organic Wisconsin butter and eggs.

    The first thing I did (ok, ok...I unpacked our cooler and put away a few things first) was make this banana bread. Because banana bread=home. Simple, no nuts, not vegan...made with love, some banged-up 1200 mile-in-the-back-seat-bananas (well, technically, they made the journey TO the east coast with us, too) and made IN MY KITCHEN. I can't even tell you how much I missed my kitchen. My place to create and nourish myself and others. A place to show love and affection, and to share with others.

    This bread...it is simple, perfectly sweet, slightly nutty from the browned butter. This recipe is a keeper. It is rich with a whole 3/4 cup of fat! So for me, it borders the line of cake (I won't tell if you slathered on a light icing or frosting). But feel free to reduce the fat to 1/2 cup if desired-I will try this next time. And I know what you are thinking: the extra pan and time to make the browned butter is totally worth it. And please: don't use shitty butter. Get yourself some organic, locally made stuff...ok? If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/4 tsp. Treat yourself right, and get some locally raised eggs, too? The few extra bucks are worth it on all levels-including the environment. 

    So here it is...some plain, simple, aromatic and delicious banana bread. I bet that motherly-figure in your life would appreciate this, along with a nice cup of coffee or tea. 

    Thank you, Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker for the recipe guidance...and many blog posts to read on the car ride home.



    Browned Butter Banana Bread // nut-free, soy-free // makes one 9"x5" loaf //

    • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached, all-purpose)
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • ½ cup coconut sugar, sucanant or organic brown sugar
    • 1 tsp molasses (optional)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups) very ripe bananas
    • 2 eggs, preferably local or organic
    • ¼ cup any type of milk (I used almond) or buttermilk
    • ½ tsp cider vinegar, if using regular milk and want buttermilk flavor
    • 6 oz or ¾ cup organic butter, browned over low heat (or, use 4 oz brown butter and 2 oz melted virgin coconut oil; see my note above about reducing to 1/2 cup if desired)

    1. preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. 

    2. in a small pot or sauce pan, melt the fats. Over medium heat, gently cook. It will go through a sizzling and frothing stage before the milk solids start to brown. The butter will NOT be a homogenous brown color, rather a melted pool of fat with bits of browning milk solids (sugars, proteins, salts, etc) that have gone through the Maillard reaction (...super important in so many cooking, baking and confectionery applications!). Off the heat and allow to cool.

    3. In a bowl, mash the banana with the molasses, sugar, vanilla, eggs, milk and/or vinegar. Add the melted browned butter mixture. Note: you do not want this mixture to be too warm from the melted butter/coconut oil, as it will activate the baking soda much quicker, leaving less to react in the oven, resulting in a less-risen loaf.

    4. Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix with a fork or spatula to combine, making sure no dry ingredients are lurking at the bottom or sides of the bowl, just don't over-do it on the mixing, lest you get tunnels in your bread. 

    5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until a tester comes out clean. Cool for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best for texture and flavor development. You can freeze this bread if you wrap it very well in plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil on the outside for 2 months, or simply wrap in and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a toaster or warm oven, if desired. 



    Some of the things you'll need. The browner the bananas, the better (side note: I remember my sophomore year in undergrad for a report on the chemistry behind the ripening process in bananas...I won't bore you with that...all you need to know is brown=sweet goodness). These had a few bruises from the car ride, but that is a-okay:

    Oh banananas...betcha didn't think they could last a trip to-and-from the east coast! The eggs I used were from New Century Farms

    The dry stuff, in a sifted-mountain (don't skip the sifting, please!):

    The mashed 'nana mess and the browned butter/coconut oil:

    Ok, the browned butter situation...notice how the milk solids have browned? This is what you want!

    The batter, ready to bake. Isn't in a lovely butterscotch color? Love that!

    The finished loaf, with a tender and delicate crumb. Mmmm...crumb...

    Slice it up and enjoy with tea and/or coffee-that is a must! Notice that the top pieces does have some evidence of over-mixing. I'll blame that on my nerves from the card ride. Still delicious.

    So simple, so comforting...worth sharing and lingering over. This probably isn't the best banana bread to shove into a bag and eat on-the-run (well, ok, maybe do that the next day when it isn't fresh-fresh!)

    Ok, enough about this banana bread. You get the picture. Go make it, and share it! Happy Sunday and Happy Mothers Day!