Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Quickest Way To Santa's Heart - Christmas Baking!

I loved giving and receiving baked goods for the holidays.  Knowing the person took time to make it with love, and you're anything like me, you want to get every detail right in presentation.  Experimentation is always fun, too, adding different ingredients and having a little fun with different recipes.

I've been posting photos on Facebook of the stuff right out of the oven with my iTouch, with some fantastic feedback and demands for recipes.  So, I relent.  Here they are - and the best part is that you can probably mess with 'em a little yourself!

:: Banana Apple Cinnamon Tannenbaum Cakes ::

Banana bread is a staple of mine, and it's popular wherever it goes.  I have a few variations and 'secret ingredients' depending on what's around in the kitchen.  Here's the basic recipe to build from:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • approx. 3 ripe bananas (add another half or full one if you want, s'okay)
This recipe was given to me from a former roommate's mum, written hastily on an auto parts memo pad.  There's no specific order to combining ingredients, just throw 'em all in a big bowl and mix away till it's nice and smooth.  Bake for about an hour or so until those toothpicks come out crumb-free.

Here are a few 'ingredient variations' that I've made:
  • I've used brown sugar instead of white, making the bread more dense and moist.
  • I don't really melt the butter anymore.  In fact, soft margarine is just as fine.
  • Baking soda or powder is really interchangeable in this recipe.
  • I've used bananas in all sorts of states; frozen, ripe and fresh.  For best banana flavour, catch 'em when they're bruising and black.  If you're buying bananas for future baking use, leave them out on a wood surface to bruise, them throw them in a safe place in your freezer.  Preferably where your boyfriend or husband doesn't throw the ice cream.  Fresh bananas give the bread a nice light flavour, not too overpowering.
  • Mix in fruit!  I had finely chopped up some Spartan apples and added a dash of cinnamon into the batter for the Banana Apple Cinnamon Tannenbaum Cakes.  Previous recipes have also included strawberries, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, whatever cereal's in the cupboard, marshmallows, cookie crumbles, candies, all sorts of stuff.  
I've got these individually wrapped in plastic wrap and tucked away in a strong cookie tin in my freezer.  I've read that so as long as the wrap is good, your banana bread will keep for a few weeks.  I'm not too worried - these babies will be consumed before too long.  Like I said, they get around, and they're popular.
    :: Chocolate Mint Cupcakes ::
    :: Chocolate Tannenbaum Cakes with artisan strawberry-rhubarb jam filling ::

    These delectable beauties came from a devil's food cake mix.  Dollops were dropped into paper cups and sprinkled with crushed peppermint and chocolate mint candies.  The mini-Christmas tree baking tins (also used for the banana muffins above) were so much fun!  The cupcakes somewhat overfilled the tins which made for nice snacks during the rest of the preparation process.  After cutting the tops off and leaving some nice chocolate-shaped tree cakes, I had cut them in the middle lengthwise and spread a teaspoon of a lovely artisan strawberry-rhubarb jam, given to me as a gift for attending a colleague's wedding.  I threw them in the freezer for now, hoping I'll get a chance to coat them in melted chocolate and turn them into little Jos Louis.

    Here's a few more brainstorms for cake filling:
    • Fluffernutter (for those not in the know, it's spreadable marshmallow!)
    • Peanut butter - check for allergies!
    • Favourite jams, jellies or preservatives
    • Hazelnut spread, or your classic Nutella
    • Pie filling
    The jam I had used for these chocolate cakes was a homemade jam given as a gift, so it was something I wanted to use sparingly, or for a special purpose.  I admit - I had a few.  They're so good.

    I've got a few more recipes I've found in some interesting places I'd love to share.  I'll be trying out some more over the next few days or so, so keep an eye out here and on the Facebook page for more fun Christmas stuff!

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