BANANA BREAD … a circa World War Two recipe

 

Growing up during World War Two almost everything was rationed, or simply not available.    If you were very young during the war years you would never have tasted marshmallows or chewed bubble gum.   Gas was rationed.  We lived in the small town of Prince Albert, in the northern part of the province of  Saskatchewan.    A National Park and dozens of beautiful lakes were a short drive away.  Our Dad cycled several miles to work  saving  his gas ration coupons  for the occasional family outing.

The annual Pet Parade was a much anticipated event. Cats and dogs were coerced into sitting in small baby carriages, propped up in decorated, polished wagons or coaxed along with a leash.  Patriotic costumes were expected.    I felt quite smart dressed in a red, white and blue crepe dress.  Fortunately it didn’t rain.

This photograph of my sister Mona and myself was taken shortly before our Uncle Bert left for war.  He was one of the many who did not return.

It was important for everyone, young and old,  to do ones bit for the war effort.  We collected string, tin foil (from cigarette packages) metal and even fat.    Once a week the women in our neighbourhood met and knitted socks or rolled bandages.   Tea and only  one kind of cookie or cake was served.    Food was rationed.   My Mother came home from one of these projects with this recipe for Banana Bread.   It was the talk of the afternoon because it didn’t contain nuts, but looked like it did.  Nuts of any kind were simply not available.    This is my Mother’s world War Two  Banana Bread.   The only change I have made is to add nuts.

MRS. BASSETT’S BANANA BREAD

1/2 cup butter ( or very good quality hard margarine)

2/3 cup scant or white or brown sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda

1 1/2 cups generous of VERY VERY ripe bananas.  They should be soft and squishy in the skins

1/2 to 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Have all ingredients at room temperature

Cream butter and sugar until soft and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time.

Combine the dry ingredients and mix alternatively with the mashed bananas.   Start with one-third the flour, when this is mixed add half the bananas, now add another third of flour mix just until the flour is assimilated, add the rest of the bananas.  Mix briefly, then add the final one-third of the flour.  Add the chopped walnuts and mix briefly.

Pour into a well greased loaf pan and let stand twenty minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.   Test by sticking a cake tester or a very thin knife, into the centre of the loaf.  It should come out clean.

Banana loaf, like most loaf cakes or breads freezes well.

IN MRS.BUTTERFINGER’S KITCHEN …. BUTTERMILK BISCUITS AND SOUL

I warm my soul  in my kitchen.     Cooking replenishes my soul  when the events of the world leave me feeling sad,  exhausted and drained.    It is pleasure to  cook for my family and friends.    My kitchen is the heart and soul of our  home.    We prepare food because we must eat.   True.   When we bake  we  bring more to the table.   More of ourselves,  more soul.   We fill our home with the fragrance of baking.   Making luscious cakes, rich brownies, flaky pies we indulge our selves, and we indulge  those we love.

Our  grandchildren, Kate and Andrew,  indulge their family and friends  when they bake biscuits served with honey to accompany a roast chicken.  A lovely idea I have taken to heart.  Golden, crisp roast chicken served with mounds of delicate, flaky biscuits and sweet honey.  A delicious alternative to the ubiquitous bakery baguette.

I recommend you make these frequently.   Repetition will make you a better cook, and it is so very, very good for the soul.    It should take just twenty minutes or so from start to finish to make biscuits.

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour,     1 tsp salt,     4 tsp baking powder,     1 tsp baking soda,      3/4 cup cold unsalted,     1 1/4 cups buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 450degrees F  Makes about 16 biscuits

Mix your dry ingredients then cut in the butter.  Use two knives, a pastry cutter or your food processor.   Don’t over process you want some tiny lumps of butter to remain.  This makes your biscuits flaky.

Dump the flour mixture into a large mixing bowl, and make a hole in the middle of the flour

.  Add the buttermilk and mix using the handle end of a wooden spoon.  This little trick stops you from over mixing your dough.  Mix just until  the flour mixture starts to come together.

Now( still in the bowl)  knead it lightly six or seven times gathering it into a large rough ball as you do this.   Do this quickly.    Have a light touch.

Put this rough mixture onto a lightly floured board and pat the dough to the thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Cut with a biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet about one inch apart.   Gather the left over scraps together to form rough biscuits.  Don’t press or kneads these pieces, it will toughen them.   Bake 15 minutes.

Serve immediately!   Slather on butter and honey and indulge with your lovely roast chicken.

Chefs notes:  You can do some prep ahead of time.  Mix the flour mixture and butter and store  in the fridge until needed.  Then all you have to do is just add the buttermilk and bake.

 

ZEN AND THE ART OF BAKING BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY

There is no perfume in this whole wide world that can match the aroma of freshly baked bread.    To fill your kitchen with this evocative smell.  To cut thick crusty slices  spread thick with butter and jam.  To share this pleasure with friends and family.    This is love in the shape of a simple loaf of home made bread.

You can  accomplish this in just five minutes a day.  I promise you.    It is so simple.  You can do this  if you can hold a wooden spoon, and have a big mixing bowl or container and two loaf pans.   Step one you mix water, yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil all together into one easily mixed dough.  This is done in a few minutes.  No kneading.   Step two you leave the dough to rise on your counter.  It rises to heady heights but you don’t punch it down.  Step four you refrigerate it and let it have a good rest.    When you are ready to bake your bread you  remove a portion of the dough, form it into a ball, then into a loaf shape and sit it in a loaf pan to rise.  All that’s left it to bake your bread and then indulge in the joy of home made bread.

This recipe is unbelievably simply.  BUT IT WORKS.  You  can mix and store the dough in the same container using only a wooden spoon.  A stand mixer is nice but not necessary.  You need two loaf pans (if baking all the dough).  And that’s it.  You can store the dough for up to seven days in the refrigerator and bake bread when every you like.  This bread recipe is so obliging.  It’s not messy.  It requires little space.  Perfect for small kitchens.  And even better for vacation cottages when the nearest store is ten miles away.

This WHITE BREAD MASTER RECIPE  is from the book HOLIDAY AND CELEBRATION BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY by Zoe Francois.

Go to  MRS.BUTTERFINGERS for this amazing recipe.  Never, ever buy bread again.

 

MENU FOR A PERFECT PICNIC

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Rillettes of Pork.  The name sound like something you would like to take on a picnic?   You know – one of those picnics where you spread heavy blankets and soft cushions over fragrant grass.   Throw a checked tablecloth down.  Unload crystal wine glasses, linen napkins and heavy silver from an ancient picnic basket.  You open a terrine of  rillettes of pork.  Smear it generously on crusty bread.   Add some sharp, sweet gherkins.  Open a bottle of good red wine. Utter Bliss.

Rillettes of pork is a type of French pate famous around the Loire.  It’s sold everywhere in charcuteries and I even spotted it in supermarket.  The ingredients are very basic – Boston butt and pork fat. These are the two main ingredients of divine pate the English call “potted meat”. If you can find a good butcher shop selling organic pork and organic pork fat that is the best way to go.  If that is not possible buy a very fatty Boston butt  and use fat cut from the meat.  You also can use fresh pork belly.  Since we raise our own pork I used the”fat back” in this recipe.

Chunks of pork and fat are braised slowly until the moisture evaporates the meat is fork tender.  The meat and fat is mashed and packed into a terrine or small ramekins.  The fat that tops this decadent bit of delight has simmered with the meat and for me it is the best part of pork rillettes.   There is a little back and forth  into the refrigerator but the recipe is easy.  Most of the time spent is the slow simmering of the meat so do plan to make this when you can pop back into the kitchen and keep an eye on things.  The rillettes will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.  You can also freeze pork rillettes.

RILLETTES OF PORK  – a delicious appetizer and part of your menu for a perfect picnic.

 

 

CRANBERRY CHRISTMAS BREAKFAST MUFFINS

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Just down the road from us cranberries grow.   It is a glorious sight when the cranberries are ready to harvest and they flood the fields. The fields become lakes of bright red cranberries.  The harvesters appear to be walking on water as they push water reels or “egg beaters” to churn the water and loosen the cranberries from their vines.

Our generous friends share this harvest with a five gallon pail of ruby red cranberries dropped at our doorstep.  I wash and pick through the berries.  Dry them very well then freeze them for baking and for relish.  Right now you’ll find bags of fresh cranberries in the grocery stores.  Buy an extra bag or two and freeze them for use during the long winter months.

This is a lovely treat for Christmas morning.   Not too sweet but with a lovely burst of cranberry flavour.  The muffins would be delicious with ham, bacon or sausages.   Muffins freeze well so do some baking ahead and enjoy while you’re opening your Christmas stockings.

CRANBERRY MUFFINS are filling my kitchen with the smell of fragrant baking.  The recipe is is easily doubled.  Start baking!!

 

RETRO GARLIC BREAD

 

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BEL’OCCHIO   …   the beautiful eye

RETRO GARLIC BREAD

Garlic bread  is so retro, so seventies, so easy to make,  that we forget why everyone enjoys it.  Home-made garlic bread is the first thing everyone reaches for at the table.    Five ingredients, three steps, that’s all you need to bake up an unforgettable loaf that puts grocery-store versions to shame.  Unsalted butter and fresh garlic are the not so secret ingredients.  Don’t even think of substituting  garlic salt or powder.    For the oh- so- simple recipe for this addictive bread click on RETRO GARLIC BREAD.

SCRUMPTIOUS FRUIT SCONES

Making scones is so easy and the results are so spectacular.  Over the years I have tried many recipes but this is the all time best.   From start to finish you can have scones on the breakfast table in just over 30 minutes.

First of all turn your oven to 400 degrees F. and have the rack in the centre of the oven.

Collect the ingredients and have everything at room temperature except the butter.  If you haven’t done this ahead of time heat the egg in a bowl of warm water and gently warm the buttermilk in the microwave.

You’ll notice the amount of buttermilk is not precise.  The amount you’ll need will depend on the humidity that day. You want just enough liquid to hold your dough together.  If you get too carried away with adding the extra buttermilk don’t worry.  Just drop your scones on the baking sheet.  I promise you they will still be delicious.

The secret to making perfect scones and biscuits is too make them quickly – your dough looking a little ragged.

The next cool morning make yourself this treat.  Click on SCRUMPTIOUS FRUIT SCONES          for the recipe.

EMMA LAKE SUMMERS … Beach Breakfast and Lemon Pancakes

Summer at the lake.

When you say these words  you conjure up memories of sunny days that last forever.

Floating

Weightless in the water.

Sand scrubbed bodies

stretched out to the sun.

Long, delicious summers beside a small, quiet lake.  Emma Lake.

Beach combing (a very young me and my older siblings) found an injured falcon.   Our father made a  splint and  bandaged the wing.   We fed him raw meat. He   became very tame while the wing was healing.     Then one day he was just gone.  On the beach we found bits of the bandage and a few feathers.  Our falcon was flying free high above us.

We had a tiny cottage on the lake.  A low bench of sand and birch trees shielded us from the  winds off the water.  Against the bench of sand our Father made his outdoor kitchen, a few steps from the cottage.  He cooked on an old black kitchen stove.  A wooden table scrubbed white was both a prep counter and a place to eat.

On the weekends our Father would drive up to the cottage –   the car filled with fresh produce, groceries and most important baking he had done during the week.  Our favorite treat was Royal Bread Pudding.  It was  creamy,  cinnamon flavoured, raisin filled,  bread pudding topped with a layer of pastry and then vanilla icing.

Breakfast was cooked and eaten outside.  Dad would scour the top of the stove clean, then build a roaring fire.  He would use the entire surface of the stove to cook light, delicate brown rounds of  “flap jacks”.  These he would spread  thick with butter, sprinkle with sugar and then a  squeeze  of lemon.    Stacked  high, kept warm in the oven  he continued to flip pancake after pancake.  Warming in the oven the butter melted into the sugar and lemon and drizzled into sweet pools around the pancakes.  Ah, sweet heavenly delights.

LEMON SUGAR PANCAKES

Whisk together in a large bowl:   1 1/2 ups flour, 3 tbsp. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together in another bow; 1 1/2 cups milk, 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, 2 large eggs room temperature, 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined.  Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto a heated griddle nudging the batter into rounds.  Cook until the top of each pancake is speckled with bubbles  and some bubbles have opened, then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned.  Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200°F oven.

To make Lemon pancakes, butter each pancake with soft butter, sprinkle generously with sugar, squeeze lemon juice over and top with another pancake.  You can make several small stacks or one large cake.  Just be sure to make lots.  Enjoy!

PS:  Emma Lake was internationally know for it’s Art School.  Artists from around the world would spend their summer at the EMMA LAKE ART SCHOOL.

SPICY CORNBREAD MUFFINS

Today I made cornmeal muffins to accompany tonight’s dinner of smoking hot chili.  It’s that kind of day here in the lower mainland.  The wind has been roaring across the delta, the skies are gray and I felt the need to punch it up a little.  The best part about this easy recipe is that not only is it delicious, moist and tender, but it freezes beautifully.  It compliments the one-dish chili and turns supper into an occasion.

ZUCCHINI LOAF … a light, tender quick bread.

Every morning I check my vegetable garden.  Every morning I am rewarded with zucchini.  I  lift the large leaves to find these green treasures. I like to pick zucchini when they are very small and tender.    I wanted to make zucchini loaf, but  to take it up a notch.   I salted the zucchini to draw out the moisture.    The results –  a spectacularly light loaf, and well worth this extra step.

ZUCCHINI LOAF  (makes 2 loaves)

3  zucchinis grated (about 4 cups)

1 1/4 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tbs ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups white sugar

l cup vegetable oil

2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

1 cup golden raisins

Soak raisins in warm water for 30 minutes.  Drain thoroughly in a colander or strainer;  set aside.

Clean the zucchini and trim the ends. Do not peel.  Shred with a medium sized shredder.  You should have about 4 cups when finished.  Sprinkle the zucchini with l tsp of salt and place in a large bowl. Mix it with your hands to evenly distribute the salt.  Place a heavy plate on top of the zucchini and weigh down with food cans.   Allow it to sit for 20 minutes to purge itself of liquid.  Empty the zucchini into a colander and squeeze to release the juices.  Dump the grated zucchini onto a tea towel that has been folded in half, roll up and give it another good squeeze to remove even more liquid.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175degrees C).  Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans and set aside.

Set aside 2 tbsp of the flour.  Sift together the remaining flour, soda , spices and remaining 1/4 tsp of salt.  Don’t be tempted to omit this step.  The sifting makes for a lighter loaf.

Beat eggs on medium speed(using the  whisk) for about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar, a little at a time and beat for a good 45 minutes.  The mixture should be light in color and thick.  While beating, slowly pour in the oil.

Change to your K blade.  Add the vanilla to the eggs and then add the zucchini.  Add  the dry ingredients, a little at a time and mix just until the dry ingredients are mixed in.  Do not over mix.

Combine the remaining 2 tbs flour, nuts and drained raisins in a small bowl, mix  together to coat.  Fold into the batter.  Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees f (175 c) for about l hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove to a rack to cool for ten minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on a rack completely.

Dust with a little powdered sugar if desired.    Make yourself a cup of Earl Gray Tea and enjoy.   You deserve it.