Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Speed baking

I like baking sweets so much more than cooking actual meals: my distaste for making nightly dinners is well-documented, and despite my best efforts, seems only to be getting worse (likely because I'm not a very good cook, and because I have a general dislike of vegetables.  I seriously need a grown-up version of Deceptively Delicious).  But baking feels enjoyable: you're making something that everyone is pretty much guaranteed to love.  And making a dinner with a few sides feels like I'm juggling lots of things at once, leading to inevitable disaster, whereas baking only requires focus on one thing.     

But in the summertime, the last thing I feel like doing is spending a ton of time in the kitchen, carefully measuring and stirring things over a hot stove.  And year-round, sometimes you just want a home-baked good fast, so here are my three favorite fast and easy recipes for sweets.  Enjoy (quickly)!
Some girls 1653
This recipe is so easy, and requires only a single bowl and no mixer (hand or stand.  Beat that).  [I actually wrote that without regard for the obvious mixer joke.  Unclear if that's a good or bad thing.]

I confess that I don't have the patience to get out a pot or turn on the stove, so I just melt the butter in the microwave.  Given the name of this blog, it should come as no surprise that I use salted butter, have a heavy hand with the salt, and also sprinkle salt on the top of the brownies before they go into the oven (kosher salt is good for the topping).  Try it -- the salty and sweet combination is delicious!  Additionally, I have never once waited the full cooling hour, and I have lived to tell the tale.

1 stick butter (8 tbsp)
1/2 c brown sugar 
1 c white sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 c flour
1/2 c cocoa
Pinch salt
Tbsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 390.
2. Melt butter in pot over stove.
3. Remove butter from heat, let cool about a minute, then add sugars (just use the pot as your saves you more dishes). Mix well.
4. Add eggs, flour, cocoa, salt, and generous tablespoon-splash of vanilla, and mix well.
5. Line baking dish with parchment, pour in batter, and pop in oven.
6. Bake 20-25 minutes, I test with a knife in the center and remove when only a few little crumbs cling to the knife.
7. Cool one hour or overnight.
jacked-up banana bread
This also requires only a single bowl and nary a mixer.  Hurrah!

I have used as many as five bananas when I've made this, and if you like a more gooey, intensely-flavored banana bread, I'd go that route.  If you (or someone for whom you like to bake) have problems with gluten, this recipe can be made gluten-free very easily: just replace the one-and-a-half-cups of flour with the same amount of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour.  I'm no expert, but I think the smushy bananas in the batter help it maintain the texture, which can get weird with gluten-free baked goods.

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer, I always use the smaller amount)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2.  With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
3.  Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices.
4.  Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
5.  Add the flour last, mix.
6.  Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan.
7.  Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean.
8.  Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
Pinned Image
I love the taste of lemon, but as the Design*Sponge article on this recipe notes, you can use the base recipe to get fancy with lots of other things.  I've never experimented because I like the original too much to screw it up (which I of course would). 

To cut down on dishes, I (gasp!!!!!) don't sift the dry ingredients together.  I just add them directly to the mixer bowl with the butter and sugar.  And instead of rolling the dough balls in a bowl of sugar, I smush the tops of the cookies with my finger and drop a little coarse sugar into the dip.  To cut down on time, make the cookies large enough so that all the dough is used up in one go-round in the oven.  For me, that means two baking sheets with twelve balls of dough each. 

2 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
1/3 cup coarse sugar (plain, granulated sugar works if it’s all you have)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together.
3. Cream the butter, 1 cup of sugar and lemon zest until very smooth. Add the egg and continue to beat until fluffy. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined — you don’t want to overmix.
4. Spread the remaining 1/3 cup sugar onto a shallow plate. Form balls out of the cookie dough 2 inches in diameter and roll them through the sugar. Arrange on a cookie sheet 4 inches apart — these spread!
5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until just the edges are golden. The tops of the cookies should remain pale. Cool completely on the cookie sheets before removing to a plate.


Jeanne said...

I just read today that Smitten Kitchen has a book coming out in the Fall. I wonder if it will be a lot of the entries from her blog or if there will be new recipes.

Tall and Salty said...

Good question -- a few months ago, I think I read that it's going to be all new recipes. I'm looking forward to it coming out!

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