Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This is a winner right here, ladies and gentlemen.



Is there any greater blessing to a baker than that of overripe bananas? I don’t happen to think so. I rescued these bananas from a dire situation in which my father was about to toss them in the compost heap. It took a fair bit of convincing on my part for my dad to believe that these bananas were of actual value and that no, they would not make him sick.


The chocolate pecan topping on his bread is what makes it oh-so-delightful, staring at it just makes my mouth water! The bananas help make this bread incredibly moist whilst using maple syrup as a sweetener enhances the flavour as it pairs so well with the pecans. For extra flavour points, roast the pecans on the stove or in a hot oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant. That’s a one way ticket to bliss!

Maple Pecan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk of your choice (I used soy)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1+½ cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 50g chopped pecans

Method 

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a standard loaf and pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Add the ripe bananas, egg, milk, maple syrup and vegetable oil to a blender. Blend until combined, about 2 minutes. Separately, add the cake flour, baking powder and cinnamon and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
  3. Throw in the chocolate and pecans, making sure to reserve some for the top of the cake. Stir with a rubber spatula to distribute the nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the nuts and chocolate over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Allow to cool before serving, enjoy!

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Vegan Sticky Praline Pull Apart Bread

As Easter is this week, I’ve felt inspired by all sorts of sweet breads and chocolatey desserts, it’s like Christmas- but in April! It has been a while since I’ve done any sort of homemade bread so this week, I decided to roll with this idea of praline. And boy, oh boy did it turn out to be a gem. 
I had a packet of pecans lying around that I had to use soon, and nothing beats ye olde combo of caramel and pecans. At this point, I had also started craving cinnamon rolls but there was no way that I would break apart these 2 culinary lovebirds with that common tart cinnamon. So, pecans and caramel, rolled up to look like cinnamon rolls? Sure, let’s go with that.

At the last minute I decided to use up the almonds that were hogging my shelf space, and as I had a jar of vegan caramel sauce in the fridge, I thought it might be fun to incorporate that too. And ta-da, the outcome was this masterpiece! Fresh out the oven, this could not be any closer to oven. Despite the use of caramel and extra brown sugar, this bread manages not to be overly sweet, and the use of buttermilk over regular milk makes it super soft. Do your family a favour and make this for Easter- I only advise you to make 2 batches as it probably won’t last long!


Vegan Sticky Praline Pull Apart Bread

For the vegan caramel sauce:

  • 1×14 oz can coconut cream (just leave a tin of coconut milk in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp salt

For the bread:

  • 2 cups vegan buttermilk (2 cups non dairy milk+2 tbsp vinegar)
  • 2 tsp dried active yeast
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 and ½ cups self raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup of the vegan caramel sauce

Method

Start by making the vegan caramel sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut cream and brown sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is at a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla essence and salt. Add to a glass jar and refrigerate for an hour. Will keep for a week in the fridge.

Then move on to the bread:

  1. Heat the buttermilk to about 30°C (or the recommended temperature on your yeast packet) and dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the warm buttermilk. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling and foaming.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, make a well in the centre, and pour the buttermilk mixture and vegetable oil into the middle. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together then remove to a floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and elastic. If the dough is too sticky then add flour in, one tablespoon at a time until it holds. Set aside and allow to rest 30 minutes, whilst you prepare the filling.
  3. Add the pecans and almonds to a large roasting pan and roast at 200°C/400°F for 15 minutes, or until darkened and very fragrant. Allow to cool at room temperature before crushing to small pieces using either a food processor or a meat hammer. Add to a small bowl along with the brown sugar. Reserve a ¼ cup of this mixture for topping the dough.
  4. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper. Once the dough has rested and you’ve prepared the filling, roll the dough out into a large rectangle about 9×13 (I just eyeballed it and made the dough slightly smaller than the baking pan). Spread the vegan caramel over the surface of the dough, leaving a ¾ inch border. Sprinkle the nut/sugar mixture over the surface of the dough in an even layer.
  5. Starting at the longer end, roll the dough into a long cylinder, as if you’re making cinnamon rolls. I would advise that you transfer the dough to the baking pan you’re using at this point. Use a paring knife or a pair of kitchen scissors to make incisions in the dough, every 1 inch. Be careful not to cut all the way to the bottom of the log. I just pulled and twisted any loose ends, but you don’t need to do any more as far shaping the dough goes.
  6. Once you’re done shaping the dough, sprinkle the extra brown sugar/nut mixture you’d set aside earlier over the dough. If desired, you can also drizzle any extra caramel sauce you have left over the dough. Bake the bread in an oven at 180°C/350°F for between 35 and 40 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Let sit for at least 10 minutes at room temperature before slicing and serving. Best served warm and on the same day that it’s baked.

Cheesy Pull Apart Pizza Bread

There is nothing more beautiful on this earth than stretchy melty cheese. Anyone who wants to disagree can fight me in the comments.



Typically whenever I need a cheese fix, I go for pizza or a grilled cheese. So this week I strayed and went for this pizza/bread hybrid. And OHMYGOSH it was the most wonderful thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. I took this to my friend’s leaving barbecue (so sad literally everyone I know is off to university) and it got rave reviews from everyone there. This was honestly the best way for me to distract from the “OHMYGOSH you’re a vegetarian, what do you even eat?!” conversation. 

Along with a game of monopoly that turned violent way too quickly 😆. This recipe is super quick, 30 minutes from start to finish unless you decide to go the noble route and make your pizza dough from scratch (I did). Here’s the link to the recipe I posted for pizza dough that includes a non-yeast option that works very well whenever I don’t have time for the dough to rise. Go forth, make cheesy bread and be merry my friends! 


Cheesy Pull Apart Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • ½ cup frozen butter, grated (It’s important that the butter is frozen otherwise it will start melting whilst you’re trying to work with it)
  • ½ cup white cheddar, grated
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp each salt and pepper
  • ½ pound cold pizza dough, homemade or storebought is fine

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a skillet or baking dish. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pizza dough. Toss lightly with your hands to evenly distribute the ingredients. Remove about ¼ cup of the cheese mixture and keep separate. Use a sharp Chef’s knife to cut the pizza dough into ½ inch cubes. Add the pizza dough to the larger portion of the cheese mixture and toss with your hands to make sure that the dough is completely covered in the cheese mixture.

Lay the dough pieces in the bottom of the skillet in a single layer and bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and top with the remaining cheese mixture and bake for an extra 5 minutes. Serve immediately!

Spinach Pesto Braided Bread Wreath

Stop the presses- I’m alive!

I know it’s been over a month since my last post, my sincerest apologies, and I would love to tell you about all the wonderful adventures I’ve had since then, but today, let’s focus on this beautiful braided baby. Ain’t she a beaut?

To all of you who are declaring November ‘No-Bread Month’, I’m begging you to stop and end this madness. Who decided to give bread a bad name? What did she ever do to you? Carbs are your friends. Don’t believe me? Read the article I wrote for Purple Lipstick on why food is your friend and not your enemy. *Rant over*

This recipe starts with a simple bread dough that is then rolled out into a rectangle and spread with spinach pesto and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. You can use homemade pesto or you can use any store bought pesto (I’ll avert my eyes). If you’re going the homemade route, check this recipe I have for the best pesto you will ever have in your entire life.

Then the rectangle can be rolled out into a long, similar to the process of making cinnamon rolls

Slice the rectangle longitudinally and braid the two sides over each other and shape into a wreath

Bake for 30 minutes in the oven and ta-da! 

For the visual learners, here’s a time lapse of me braiding the wreath:


If you want to get extra-fancy and take this recipe up a notch, you can try steaming your bread for the first 10 minutes of baking. The process is simple, whilst you’re preheating your oven at 200°C you’ll adjust your oven rack to the lowest level and lay a baking sheet right on the floor of your oven. When you’re ready to bake, set the baking pan with the bread on the rack, and throw a couple of ice cubes onto the preheated baking sheet. This exercise has to be completed as quickly as possible to avoid losing heat. After 10 minutes, you’ll remove the now empty baking sheet from the bottom shelf and leave the bread to continue baking.

Steaming your bread has several benefits:

  • Steam has a high heat capacity. This means that the steam will hold a much greater quantity of heat energy than the bread. So when the steam comes into contact with the bread crust, it will donate all that heat energy and the temperature of the dough increases much faster than it would have originally. This gives us beautifully crunchy crust
  • The steam also helps to dissolve any simple sugars on the surface of the dough that will caramelise during baking, vastly improving the quality of the crust
  • It helps reduce the amount of moisture lost by the bread during the first 10 minutes of baking, keeping the crust soft and pliable. The yeast will still be active in those first 10 minutes of baking, metabolising any sugar to carbon dioxide and water. These will escape as gases, helping the bread to rise further forming that lovely dome shape. This is known as ovenspring. (Un)Fortunately, the yeast dies shortly after due to the high temperature of the oven.

It’s up to you whether or not you’d like to steam your bread first but I would strongly recommend it.

Spinach Pesto Braided Bread Wreath

Ingredients

1 ½ cups lukewarm water (roughly 35° if you have a thermometer)

1 tsp yeast

2 tsp granulated sugar

3 cups of flour (bread flour would be preferred but self raising or all-purpose would work perfectly)

1 tsp salt

¼ cup olive oil

3 heaped tbsp of spinach pesto

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese + an extra 2 tbsp

6-8 ice blocks + ½ cup of cold water (optional)

Method

  1. In a large measuring cup, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and leave to proof for about 10 minutes. The mixture should be frothy and bubbling.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water with the proofed yeast, and the olive oil. Mix to form a shaggy dough. Once the ingredients are combined, turn the dough over to a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. You should knead the dough for at least 8 minutes. Turn the dough into a well-oiled bowl, cover with a towel and leave to rise until doubled in size, which should take 60-90 minutes.
  3. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto an oiled surface and roll it out into a 10 in ×13 in rectangle. Preheat your oven 200°C and adjust your rack to the lowest level. *Lay a baking tray right on the floor of the oven. Grease and line a 9×13 baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Spread the pesto evenly over the surface of the rectangular dough, leaving a border of about 1 in. Sprinkle the ¼ cup of parmesan over the pesto. Starting from the long end, roll the rectangle into a log, similar to shaping cinnamon rolls. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the log down the long end. As you’re slicing, be careful not to pull the dough. Cut from a 90° angle, directly above the dough. Separate the two halves and lay them pesto side up. Braid the two dough pieces, laying one side over the other until you reach the end. Knot the end. Bring one end of the braid over to meet the other and shape into a circle. If you’re confused by the instructions, see the video above.
  5. Grease a ramekin with butter/oil and lay it in the baking sheet. Gently lift and transfer your wreath to the baking sheet and adjust it so that it fits around the ramekin. Sprinkle the other 2 tbsp of Parmesan over the dough. Transfer the dough wreath to the oven rack. *Wasting no time, add the ice cubes and cold water to the preheated baking tray. You’ll need to do this as quickly as possible to avoid losing any heat in the oven. Close the oven door and set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the now empty baking tray from the oven and allow the bread to continue baking for another 25 minutes. The bread is done when the crust is a deep golden bread. Allow to cool until it is barely warm before carefully removing the ramekin. Serve warm/room temperature. If there are any leftovers, keep them tightly sealed at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* If you choose not to steam your bread, it’s totally okay, my feelings aren’t hurt at all. Ignore the steps that are marked with an asterisk.

Homemade Challah Bread

Thank the Jews for giving us this versatile bread.Challah is not something that is readily available in supermarkets/bakeries where I live, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that I’m only discovering it now. I’d skimmed over countless French toast and bread pudding recipes in the past and wonder what was challah and why it was so special. And for anyone still harbouring those questions, I’m here to show you just why.

I used this recipe from The Kitchn to make this lovely 6 piece challah over here, and for my first time making it, it turned out perfectly. It’s nothing complicated all, but it will take a lot of your time. I started making this around 9 am, but it was only ready to eat at 2 pm. Five hours of work, but so worth it. 

 History lesson: In biblical times, the Israelites wandered the desert for approximately 40 years, after their Exodus from Egypt, where they had been slaves (Think Moses parting the Red Sea, the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua in the bible). In the desert, it is impossible to grow any food, and slaughtering all your livestock isn’t a good idea either. It is believed that everyday, except for the Sabbath Day which Jews keep holy, and religious holidays, God would send down bread, in the form of manna, down from the heavens for his people to consume. On the day before the Sabbath or a holiday, God would send down a double portion of manna. In modern day times, challah bread is usually eaten on the Sabbath or during Jewish holidays.

It also makes for killer bread pudding.

The difference between challah bread and most other types of bread is its use of eggs, oil and sugar: which makes for a much richer crumb structure and a sweeter bread. The most difficult thing about making challah is the braiding. I honestly think that this is akin to braiding hair. If you’re a girl, great news! If you’re a boy, it can’t hurt you to learn something. If this 6 strand challah frightens you, you can opt for the much simpler 3 strand, but this will impress anyone who visits your dinner table.

The challah making process is very similar to those of other breads, activating yeast, combining dry ingredients, then wet ingredients, kneading, leaving it to rise, braiding and baking.  Simple!

I served my challah with this black fig and cardamom that I swiped from the farmer’s market at Bottom Drawer. This rocks! I also toasted some slices of challah and topped them with scrambled eggs. And when it went stale, I make this delicious bread pudding, as one does.  

  

Top tip: When you leave your dough to rise, you can be assured that it has risen to its full potential if you poke a hole with your finger, and the dough does not spring back.  

 

The braiding process is pretty simple once you get the technique but it basically works like this:

  1. Separate the dough into 6 pieces
  2. Roll each piece of dough into a long piece of rope, about 11 inches long. Try and get each rope to be of uniform diameter. I really struggled with this myself, but having distorted ropes only makes for a loaf that is thin in some parts and thicker in others. 
  3. Braid the ropes!   

The next step is to leave the challah to rise for a second time, and it is evident that this second rising really increases the volume of the loaf.  

 
The challah is then baked for 40 minutes  

 
Love at first sight. 

Many thank yous to The Kitchn for posting this really helpful instructable, I’d encourage you all to get baking because this has 13553 uses 😍