chocolate chip pecan banana bread

Today is National Banana Bread Day. Who would’ve thought there was such a thing? But there is. And I’m observing it.

When I was growing, up my aunts made great banana bread, so to me it’s comfort food. I love that it’s sweet but still a bit wholesome. One of my favorite afternoon snacks is a slice of homemade banana bread with a hot cup of tea. And if I were a sweets in the morning kind of girl, I’d really enjoy it for breakfast as well.

I have a tendency to let my bananas ripen past their prime, which doesn’t bother me much because those are the best bananas for making bread. Any excuse to make banana bread is fine by me. I just can’t bare to let those unidentifiable blackened bananas go to waste.

Over the years I’ve tried several different banana bread recipes, but this is the one I’ve been making over and over for the past year. It’s full of things I love, like bittersweet chocolate, toasted pecans and shredded coconut. It’s moist and light with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. Plus, it’s like the easiest recipe ever, so there’s no reason not to get out those ripened bananas and start baking. Have yourself a very happy Banana Bread Day!

chocolate chip pecan banana bread

makes 1 9×5-inch loaf or 2 7-1/2×3-1/2-inch loaves

butter or non-stick spray for pans

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 super ripe bananas)

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease your loaf pan(s). Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips, pecans, shredded coconut and 1/4 cup of the sifted flour mixture and toss until coated. This will help prevent the ingredients from sinking to the bottom of the bread. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and oil. Add the eggs, one at a time until well combined. Add the mashed bananas. Pour the vanilla into the buttermilk. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk to the banana mixture,  beginning and ending with the flour. Gently fold  in the pecans, chocolate chips and coconut.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s) 2/3 of the way full. For two small loaves, bake for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. For one large loaf, bake 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 20-30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

gingered peach and blackberry pandowdy

I mentioned last week that I had a whole lot of peaches on my hands, so in my effort to make sure these beauties didn’t go to waste, we’re having an end the of season peach double-header. Though I was tempted to make obscene amounts of peach ice cream, I had to abandon that dream as I have limited space in my crazy freezer. And then I remembered pandowdy.

The first time I had ever heard of pandowdy was just a few years ago, when Rodney, my father, insisted that an apple cake I had made tasted just like an apple pandowdy from his childhood. Apple huh? Pan what? I was sure he was making this up until I did a Google search and found this. A pandowdy is basically a fruit pie sans bottom crust, and though my cake was not even slightly reminiscent of a one-crust pie, I was a little bit  intrigued by this silly name, which easily could have been just another Rodney’ism.

I was trying to figure out why someone would make a pandowdy rather than a good ol’ double crust pie. I guess maybe if you were being carb conscious, you might eliminate the bottom crust of a pie in the manner that one would eat a burger with only one bun (though if you were being carb conscious you probably wouldn’t be eating dessert). And then I thought about all of the work that goes into rolling out pie dough and while it’s not difficult, it can definitely be a bit time consuming. So maybe it’s a sort of lazy man’s pie, which is kind of perfect for summer if you ask me.

A few weeks ago I flagged this recipe for peach pandowdy. And then, of course, forgot all about it. Luckily, seeing all of those peaches reminded me that I had business to take care of. So I handled my business. There is something really beautiful and rustic about pandowdy, especially when baked in a cast iron skillet. Initially, I felt that the ginger in this recipe was a bit overwhelming, but after it cooled for an additional hour, it seemed less intense and I actually rather enjoyed that unexpected hint of ginger. While I really liked the peach and blackberry combo, I feel that this would be just as good with the blackberries omitted (which is what I’ll try the next time someone brings home a lifetime supply of peaches). Either way, it’s a winner. I like to think of this little number as summer in a skillet. Rodney will be thrilled.

gingered peach and blackberry pandowdy

from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson

serves 8-10

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for dish

1 disk all-butter pie pastry

4 peaches, pitted (2 lbs prepped)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

juice of 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 dry pint (2 cups) blackberries

all-butter pie pastry

makes 2 disks

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup cold unsalted butter

1/2 cup ice water, or more as needed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the pie pastry:

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl, stir to combine, then put the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until super cold.

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes, then add it to the flour mixture and toss to evenly coat. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, food processor, electric mixer, or your hands, just until the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly and the butter is about the size of peas.

Stir the water and lemon juice together, then drizzle over the dry ingredients, tossing with a fork to distribute the liquid. The pastry will be shaggy but should hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand; if not, add an additional teaspoon or two of ice water.

Dump the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and press down on the dough, folding it over on itself a few times until it holds together. Try not to handle it too much, or it will warm up and may become over-developed. Divide the pastry into 2 equal parts and shape each piece into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

For the pandowdy:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan (skip this step if you are going to bake in a cast iron skillet).

Wash the peaches, pierce the skins all over with a fork, then slice each peach into 10 to 12 slices, depending on the size of the fruit. Put the peaches in a bowl, add the sugar and lemon juice, and toss gently until evenly coated. Set aside for 15-20 minutes to draw out some of the juices.

Strain the peach juice into a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. Rub the cornstarch, candied ginger, ground ginger, and salt together in a bowl.

Roll the pie pastry out a little larger than the diameter of your pie pan. Place the pie pan upside-down atop the pastry and use it to cut the pastry to size.

Add the cornstarch mixture and reduced juice to the peaches, add the blackberries, and stir gently until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared pan and top with the pastry circle. If the crust is a bit larger than the pan, tuck it inside the pan. Place the pie on a baking sheet to collect any drips.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Cool for 1 hour before serving, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ( I liked it best after it had cooled for about 2 hours).


This dessert should be eaten soon after it is made, but any leftovers can be covered with a tea towel and stored at room temperature until the next morning.

peach ice cream

Summer almost always arrives late in the Bay Area. This year was no exception. We finally had a few real-live summer days the last week of August; it was a record breaking 95° in San Francisco! Needless to say, it was pretty spectacular, especially considering that this summer has been a bust as far as the weather is concerned. So spectacular, that I did whatever I could to make the most of the heat (and find relief from my non-air conditioned house). I ate cold oysters on the half shell. I drank delicious beers and had what Sara and I refer to as “das burger” out on the patio of one of my favorite bars. I slept with an ice-cold water bottle in my bed which, by the way, is genius if I do say so myself. And I made ice cream.

Earlier this year I popped into Sur la Table to buy a cake pan. I came home with an ice cream maker. This is very typical of my behavior. It remained in the box for months just waiting patiently for someone to put it to use (also very typical). Meanwhile, I had been dying for an excuse to make ice cream. But it never got hot enough. And I’ve been preoccupied with other projects. So in the box it stayed. Until this little heat wave came along.

I requested a copy of David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop from the library at the beginning of summer with the intention of putting my new ice cream maker to good use early in the season. I’ve recently adopted the practice of checking out cookbooks from the library before adding them to my permanent collection. I’m a bit of an impulse buyer(see above), so I think of it as a preventative measure. After weeks of waiting, the book finally arrived just as it was starting to get warm out here.

I love David Lebovitz. His blog is my favorite of all the food blogs I follow. It’s full of information about food and restaurants and Paris and Parisians (and their quirks) and sometimes the most random yet fascinating topics are addressed. I also find him hilarious. Seriously, the man is a riot and reading his posts always puts a smile on my face. I wish we were eating/drinking buddies or pen pals.

When several pounds of peaches magically appeared at my house, I took it as a sign to make peach ice cream. The combination of peaches and cream really is a no-brainer. One of my favorite summer time snacks is sliced peaches dipped in sour cream (don’t knock it till you try it). So I was pleasantly surprised to find that David’s peach ice cream calls for sour cream in addition to the usual heavy cream found in most recipes.

This ice cream is everything ice cream should be: sweet, creamy, refreshing and good to the last drop. The peach flavor was perfectly pronounced and the lemon juice and sour cream really tie it all together. I am seriously contemplating making a few more batches while peaches are still in season. But there are so many other flavors I can’t wait to try! Looks like The Perfect Scoop will be joining the permanent collection.

peach ice cream

from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

makes bout 1 quart (1 liter)

1-1/3 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 large peaches)

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

a few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches (see below), slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.

Puree the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

*An easy way to peel peaches is to cut an X at the bottom and then lower them in a pot of boiling water for about 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a colander and shock them with cold water, then let them cool. Afterward, the peel should slip right off.

grapefruit pudding

I live in a part of California that is blessed with extremely mild weather almost year round. So all of this rain that’s been coming down the last two months is giving me a bit of cabin fever. Instead of focusing on all the things I can do indoors, such as cooking or baking or blogging, I’ve been daydreaming about beach days and picnics and coastal drives.  I’ve been pining for Big Sur.

Big Sur is one of those places that just nestles itself into your heart. There’s something magical about being surrounded by all of that ocean and all of those trees. While I have the good fortune of living less than three hours north of Big Sur, I am now realizing that my last visit there was back in 2003. I was recently reminded of my love for Big Sur when I caught a documentary on PBS about the artist Emile Norman, who made Big Sur his home back in the 1940’s and remained there until his death in 2009.

I’ve more recently fallen in love the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook that has made its way into my hands. It is yet another reason for me to get myself back to Big Sur. The book is really an homage to the town of Big Sur and all of the artisans who have made it their home and is filled with beautiful photos and mouthwatering recipes. I love the layout of the cookbook; each chapter is designated a month of the year and lists the featured dishes like a restaurant menu. And what a coincidence it is that I was compelled to make the grapefruit pudding that is the dessert for February.

This grapefruit pudding is not your mother’s pudding. It is surprisingly light thanks to the egg whites and has that refreshing citrus quality. If custard and souffle had a baby, it would be this pudding. The top is airy and cake-like and the bottom is similar to a lemon curd. I like to think of it as having the best of two worlds in one lovely confection.

grapefruit pudding

adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

serves 6-8

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil

1/2 cup fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, strained (about 1 or 2 grapefruits)

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup whole-milk yogurt

1/2 cup crème fraîche

grated zest of 2 grapefruits (finely chop zest if using a microplane)

4 eggs, separated

powdered sugar, for dusting

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350°F. Coat a 10-inch round baking dish lightly with non-stick spray or vegetable oil. Set aside.

Combine the sugar flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, whisk together grapefruit juice, yogurt, crème fraîche, zest, and the egg yolks. Pour the grapefruit mixture into the well and whisk to combine.

In an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the grapefruit mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the pudding is set but still jiggles in the center, rotating once halfway through. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.

Greetings from Big Sur circa 2003.

celery root soup

It has been unusually cold in my neck of the woods this winter, and all I want to do is lay in bed with my hot water bottle (because I’m secretly an 80 year old man) and look at cookbooks. And eat everything. All the time. I’ve been craving belly warming things, like stews and soups and hot beverages. Luckily for me, the holidays left behind a few ham bones, which made excellent split pea soup, and turkey carcasses so there have been several soup du jour at my house over the last few weeks.

Since someone has been in lazybones mode lately, a result of December being the crazy busy month that it was, I only want to make things that require little effort/minimal dish washing and soup seems to fit the bill very nicely. I’ve been really into creamy vegetable soups that don’t actually involve a whole lot of heavy cream so I decided it was time for a celery root soup, which I’d been dying to make for weeks.

This recipe immediately caught my eye because it starts off with a little fried bacon, followed by leeks sauteed in the reserved bacon fat. I am a firm believer that bacon makes everything better (I recently met a very lovely young man who was sure he won the heart of his partner with homemade bacon infused bourbon) and I’m pretty sure that that philosophy applies to this soup. The smokiness of the bacon gives it this extra bit of flavor that might be lacking otherwise, and the crispy bacon garnish adds just the right amount of texture. It’s one of those soups that you just can’t wait to go home and eat, especially on a cold day.

celery root soup with bacon

adapted from Gourmet

serves 4

3 medium leeks (3/4 lb), white and pale green parts only

3 bacon slices or 1 tablespoon butter if omitting bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 lb celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 cups water

1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/3 cup inner celery leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup half-and-half

Halve leeks lengthwise, then coarsely chop. Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out onto paper towels and pat dry.

Cook bacon in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.

Reserve 2 teaspoons of fat from the bacon, then add oil and cook leeks over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add celery root and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add water and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until celery root is very tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in a blender  or food processor until smooth. Return soup to cleaned pot. If soup is too thick, thin with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. Stir in salt, pepper, and half-and-half and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm. Top with chopped celery leaves and coarsely crumbled bacon.