I have long been one to decry baking. Can't stand it. All that...measuring! And...timing! I never felt like I could experiment; there wasn't a sense of "creating" with baking - just with following directions. At which I've never been particularly gifted. It felt too much like chemistry, only with flour.
Lately, though, I've had a few minor successes in the baking area. I've baked challah bread from scratch twice, which turned out lovely, and this weekend, I made both banana bread and chocolate chip cookies from scratch. This baking extravaganza was mostly due to social anxiety - faced with a weekend alone with a bunch of Army spouses, I armed myself as best I could with baked goods. I also made hummus, but that's another post entirely. What is it about the prospect of confinement with a bunch of women I don't know well that sends me into a frenzy of food preparation?
The cookie recipe is from the original Nestle Tollhouse Semisweet Morsels package version, but tweaked slightly - I tripled the vanilla, melted the butter instead of just letting it soften on the counter, and chilled the dough before putting it on the baking sheets. These extra steps were gleaned from various foodie websites across the Intersphere - little tips and tricks here and there.
The banana bread recipe is much more forgiving; I added a swirl of Amaretto and an extra dash of nutmeg. You could also add chopped walnuts or pecans, or cranberries, or tricycles or old socks, but I don't think those would improve the flavour much.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 c. (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, gently melted
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
2 c. (12-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate morsels (can also use Heath Bar bits, toffee bits, chopped nuts, or other small chunks o' sugary-chocolatey-goodness. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to chocolate chip cookies)
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and bits (not "nits," as I originally typed. Crunchy, but the flavour's icky). Refrigerate dough for half an hour or so until slightly chilled. Drop by rounded tablespoon, leaving at least 1 - 1.5 inches between each, onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE in preheated 375-degree F oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Make sure you eat at least one cookie from each baking sheet to...you know...test for doneness.
Easy Banana Bread
3 or 4 ripe bananas, mashed (we'd saved a bunch of bananas that were just going off, and I pulled them out for this recipe. They thawed just fine)
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 c.)
1 egg, beaten
1 T. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of salt
1.5 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. Amaretto, Tia Maria, or other liqueur (optional)
You could probably add nuts or other fun stuff to this recipe, too
No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). With a wooden spoon (I used a plastic spoon, and lightning didn't strike me down. Steer away from the metal spoons, though), mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, spices and liqueur, if using. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, and mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.