Quarantine Bake Along: Banana Bread

I cannot remember the last time J and I have purchased bananas for ourselves–I don’t think in the almost 3 years of us being married we’ve had bananas sitting on the counters. It’s because neither of us really care for them. Banana bread, however, is a different story, but because we never have bananas around, banana bread is never an option.

Our housemate has bananas often, however, and had a few that were past their prime. The perfect opportunity to make banana bread! I’ve been eyeing a sourdough banana bread recipe on The Perfect Loaf for about a month and was finally able to try it out.

This loaf is beautifully balanced, light but wholesome and with just a hint of sweetness. My perfect kind of banana bread. It’s always disappointing to me when I bite into a loaf that tastes like mush or is as sweet as cake.

Sourdough Banana Bread Recipe

  • 240g (2 cups) spelt, whole wheat, einkorn, all-purpose flour, or a mix
  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt
  • 125g (1 cup) chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips
  • 126g(1/2 cup or 1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 80g (1/3 cup lightly packed) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g (3/4 cup, stirred down) sourdough starter*
  • 42g (2 tablespoons) raw honey
  • 3 super ripe medium mashed bananas
  • 28g (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • 4g (1 teaspoon) vanilla
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)

*If you don’t have sourdough starter, my favorite regular banana bread recipe is here.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In another bowl (or a stand mixer) cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. While mixing, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in sourdough starter, honey, mashed bananas, and olive oil. Add in the vanilla. Then, add in the flour mixture slowly, pausing to scrape down the sides if necessary. By hand, fold in the nuts/chocolate chips and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the 9” x 5” baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  4. Bake for 55-65 minutes. It’s better to undercook this than overcook: you want it moist. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then gently remove onto a wire rack to thoroughly cool.

Adapted from The Perfect Loaf.

Quarantine Bake Along: Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls instantly convey comfort and warmth. There are few aromas better than the buttery, yeasty cinnamon-y goodness wafting from them while they bake. Although we rarely had “American” desserts around growing up, my mom would occasionally bake cinnamon rolls as a treat. It’s one of the rare desserts shes enjoys, and she’d make this caramel-like butterscotch pecan topping for the rolls instead of icing. I’m a huge fan of cream cheese icing, but I have a place in my heart for the butterscotch pecans as well.

One thing my mom would always do is lessen the sugar in the dough and in the cinnamon sugar filling (it’s obvious who I get it from lol).

Spelt Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Dough

  • 1 cup (227g) ripe sourdough starter
  • 3/4 cup (170g) lukewarm milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups (326g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (57g) spelt flour
  • 1/8 cup (25g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast, optional*

Filling

  • 1/2 cup (159g) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup (28g) flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) melted butter

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk to thin, optional

*This is my favorite yeast-based cinnamon roll recipe for those who don’t have sourdough starter. You can also adapt this recipe by adding 2 teaspoons of yeast and adapting the rise times.

  1. Mix together all the dough ingredients except the salt (and optional yeast) until the flour is evenly moistened and the dough has formed a cohesive, sticky mass, 2 to 3 minutes on low speed of a stand mixer.
  2. Add the salt (and yeast) on top of the dough (without mixing it in), then cover and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. This rest is period is known as an autolyse.
  3. After the autolyse, mix in the salt (and yeast) until fully incorporated, about 1 minute on low speed. Turn the mixer up one speed and knead the dough until it’s smooth and supple though still somewhat soft and tacky, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Cover the dough and let it rest in a warm (75°F) place for 2-2 1/2 hours. To develop strength in the dough, stretch and fold it in the bowl three to four times during the rest. You can be fairly flexible in your timing of these. One stretch and fold per half hour initially is ideal.
  5. Meanwhile, combine all the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. The texture will be somewhat like wet sand.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface and gently deflate it, patting or rolling it into a 14” x 20” rectangle.
  7. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving 1/2” of exposed dough along one short edge.
  8. Starting with the filling-coated short edge, roll the dough into a log. As you roll, the log will lengthen to around 18″.
  9. Cut the log into twelve 1 1/2” slices and place them in a lightly greased 9” x 13” pan. Cover the pan and let the buns rise until they’re puffy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  10. At this point, you can let the buns rise for another hour or so and then bake them; or you can place the pan in the refrigerator overnight, covered, and bake the buns the next day (up to 24 hours later).
  11. To bake the same day: Bake the buns in a preheated 400°F oven for 18 to 22 minutes, until golden. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of a middle bun should read 190°F.
  12. To make the icing: While the buns are baking, stir together all the ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.
  13. Remove the buns from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before icing. Alternatively, allow the buns to cool to room temperature. Cover the buns and leave them at room temperature overnight, then reheat in a 325°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes before icing and serving.
  14. To bake the buns after being refrigerated overnight: Remove the pan from the refrigerator and leave the buns covered at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 400°F.
  15. Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of a middle bun should read 190°F. Remove the buns from the oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes before icing.
  16. Wrap the buns in plastic and store at room temperature for a day or so; freeze unfrosted buns for longer storage.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Quarantine Bake Along: Biscuits

Of all the quick breads out there, I gotta say that biscuits are at the top for my favorite alongside scones. There’s nothing like tearing open a warm, flaky biscuit and slathering it with honey butter. We often make them for breakfast, but they’re a welcoming option alongside any meal.

I have a few favorite recipes when it comes to biscuits, and it all kind of depends on what I have on hand and what I plan to use them for. I tend towards buttermilk varieties because I love the added flavor and tang that it lends. However, I know most people don’t often have buttermilk in their fridges, so I have back up regular milk and yogurt recipes as well. Find whichever suits your tastes and with what you have available!

A Brief Biscuit History

Several 19th-century innovations helped us get to what’s now recognized as the Southern biscuit. Better mills and increased wheat production dropped the price of flour enough that poorer Southerners could afford to buy flour. The development of chemical leavening agents, such as potassium carbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and sodium bicarbonate (what we now know as baking soda) helped biscuits rise without yeast or beaten eggs, creating the light and fluffy biscuits we know and love.

Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 6 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Add flour into a medium bowl, then add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until well combined (this may take a minute or more). Add cubed butter, toss to break up the pieces, and smash each cube flat. Continue smashing and rubbing until butter has mostly disappeared into a floury mix, although a few larger, Cheerio-sized pieces may remain.
  3. Add buttermilk and stir with a flexible spatula until the flour has been fully absorbed. The dough will seem rather crumbly and dry at first, but keep mixing until it finally comes together. Once the dough forms a rough ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  4. Using your bare hands, gently pat dough into a squarish shape about 1/2 inch thick, then fold in half; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds, using only enough flour to keep your hands from sticking. Finish by patting the dough to a thickness of 3/4 inch. Dust away any excess flour, if necessary, then cut dough into 3-inch rounds and arrange closely in a cast iron skillet. Gather scraps into a ball, pat and fold a single time, then cut as many more biscuits as you can. The final round of scraps can be gathered and shaped into a single biscuit by hand.
  5. Bake biscuits until they are well risen and golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. Let biscuits cool about 5 minutes to help set their crumb, then serve fresh.

Adapted from Serious Eats.

Classic Biscuit Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor. Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. (Alternatively, cut butter into flour in the mixing bowl using a fork or a pastry cutter.) Return dough to bowl, add milk and stir until it forms a rough ball.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches. Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.
  4. Place biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Adapted from NYT Cooking.

Yogurt Biscuit Recipe

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F.
  2. Sift flour into a medium bowl, then add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk until well combined. Add the butter, toss to break up the pieces, and smash each cube flat. Continue smashing and rubbing until the butter has mostly disappeared into a floury mix, although a few larger pieces may remain. This can also be done with 4 or 5 pulses in a food processor.
  3. Add yogurt, and stir with a flexible spatula until the flour has been fully absorbed. The dough will seem rather crumbly and dry at first, but keep mixing until it finally comes together. Once the dough forms a rough ball, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  4. With your bare hands, gently pat the dough into a squarish shape about 1/2 inch thick, then fold in half; repeat twice more for a total of 3 folds, using only enough flour to keep your hands from sticking. Finish by patting the dough to a thickness of 3/4 inch. If needed, dust away any excess flour, then cut into 1 3/4-inch rounds and arrange in a cast iron skillet or round cake pan. Gather scraps into a ball, pat and fold a single time, then cut as many more biscuits as you can. The final round of scraps can be gathered and shaped into a single biscuit by hand.
  5. Bake until the biscuits are well-risen and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let the biscuits cool about 5 minutes to help set their crumb, then serve as desired. Leftovers can be stored up to a week in an airtight container; to serve, split the stale biscuits in half, brush with melted butter, arrange on a baking sheet, and broil until golden brown.

Adapted from Serious Eats.

Quarantine Make Along: Flatbread

This flatbread recipe is so simple and comes together quickly (like 10-15 minutes). It’s great for making wraps, for dipping, or alongside meals. I like to think of flatbread as a great substitute for when we don’t have bread around or don’t feel like making it.

You can customize these flatbreads to make them garlic and herb, add seeds, etc. Have fun with it!

Flatbread Recipe

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (or just under 1 cup buttermilk)
  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.
  2. Make a well in the center and add the yogurt or buttermilk. Stir to create a shaggy dough and then knead until it comes together into a rough ball. Add a bit more yogurt or buttermilk if it’s too dry.
  3. Turn out your dough onto a work surface and knead until smooth (about 30 seconds).
  4. Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll out each piece with a rolling pin until about 1/8″ thick.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet or pan until hot over high heat.
  6. Add the flatbreads one at a time and cook about 1 minute on each side until brown spots appear, slight charring is okay. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Serve ideally within the next 1-2 hours.

Quarantine Bake Along: No Knead Crusty Bread

This quarantine has made it the perfect time for me to start a sourdough starter, but the cooler temps in my house and me running out of rye flour and unable to go buy any have made it slow to mature. I was hoping to make a sourdough loaf by now, but unfortunately, have had no such luck. We almost never buy bread from the store but I’m sure all the aisles are empty anyway.

Cue this recipe. This is the crusty bread recipe to end all bread recipes. It’s my go-to and it turns out beautiful every time. It’s a famous recipe by Jim Lahey and highlighted by Mark Bittman on NYT Cooking. To my initial disbelief, it’s also the easiest bread recipe I’ve ever encountered as it requires no kneading, no specific shaping, and no scoring. The only thing that it requires is time. It’s very little effort on your part but you do have to prep about 24 hours in advance and let it sit. You’ll impress everyone (even yourself) with this bread, and you won’t ever have to spend $7-11 for a similar loaf at the local bakery ever again.

This bread is perfect for sandwiches, dipping into balsamic vinegar and olive oil, a side for soup, or just by itself. It’s very crusty, which I love, but this isn’t the bread for you if you don’t like a supremely crunchy crust.

A Brief History of Bread

Bread (flour mixed with water) in its various forms has been a staple in many cultures for centuries once people were able to mill wheat (although more so in naturally fermented forms). The invention and popularization of commercialized yeast has made it easier and faster to leaven bread, hence the many kinds of yeast breads (cinnamon rolls, croissants, doughnuts, buns, etc.) and the loaves you see in the bread aisle. While naturally leavened sourdough loaves will always be the more nutritious option, there’s no dispute that yeast makes bread-making much more accessible and simple for those who don’t have the desire or time to keep up a starter.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of all purpose or bread flour (I like bread flour and substituting up to 2 cups of whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 2 cups warm water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or lid. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. If your house is warmer, a couple hours less; cooler, a couple hours more.
  2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to a work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a piece of parchment paper with flour and place the dough ball seam side down. Sprinkle the top with flour and cover with a towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450F degrees. Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. You can also use the bowl of a slow cooker covered with a flat baking sheet. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Grab onto the parchment and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 20 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Recipe from Mark Bittman and NYT Cooking.