Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

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The royal part of this quick bread is the fact that it is the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s, recipe.

The story goes that when she and her husband, Prince Harry, visited Australia in October of 2018, Her Royal Highness baked the now-famous banana bread in the kitchen of Admiralty House in Sydney. It was after a long day of engagements, well into her pregnancy.

To quote google, “As if juggling pregnancy, jetlag and 16 days of speeches, meetings and handshaking with Prince Harry wasn’t enough, the Duchess took it upon herself to make homemade banana bread for morning tea.”

Okay, well I think most of us who’ve been pregnant could have managed all of this and more, but whatever….

The bread isn’t just your ordinary loaf. It has crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, and, as the Duchess put it, “too many bananas.”

The recipe might not be the exact recipe of HRH, because I saw many versions online, some containing walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon, but the bread has indeed become famous.

This is the recipe that my sister has always used, and she highly recommends it. Me? I hadn’t even heard of HRH’s banana bread. But it is good!

Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated ginger*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with butter; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mashed bananas, melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth and evenly combined.

Add the grated ginger, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir just until combined with no dry spots. Stir in the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until bread has risen, is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.


Remove the bread from the loaf pan and let cool completely at room temperature before slicing and serving.

* Instead of fresh ginger I opted for 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. I was worried that I couldn’t smoosh and properly disperse the fresh ginger.

The banana bread is very good, and somewhat unique. I’m glad I used the ground ginger.

I had to try it warmed with butter, although the bread itself is moist.

It’s certainly pleasing enough to be not only a snack but a dessert.


HRH the Duchess obviously has a loving heart and great sense of community, because she helped compile a cookbook, entitled Together: Our Community Cookbook, published in September of 2018 and not yet available in the states. Proceeds benefit the Hubb Community Kitchen, located in London.

Quoting google, “The Hubb Community Kitchen is a group of women who have come together to prepare fresh food for their local community. After being displaced following the Grenfell tower fire, some of the local women needed a place to cook fresh food for their families.”

Gordon’s Christmas Muesli

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I’m a big sucker for both Gordon Ramsay, and Christmas. Especially Christmas, but I really respect Gordon Ramsay.

Because he wasn’t well known in the U.S. until he exploded onto food television, many Americans weren’t aware that he’d had a long, tough, distinguished and successful culinary journey up to that point.

And he still is successful. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars.

Gordon, since we’re on a first-name basis, and Christmas are represented beautifully in a book called “Christmas with Gordon, published in 2010.”

I’ve bookmarked many recipes, and made a few since I first bought the book. But this year while looking through it, a recipe popped out at me that I thought would also make a great gift, which is Christmas Muesli.

It’s not an especially unique recipe, especially for Gordon Ramsay. Beef Wellington is typically associated with the Ramsay name. But I’m excited to make the muesli as gifts.

It’s been many years since I made my own granola. It was so healthy, that only I would eat it. Lots of raw grains, rolled grains, toasted grains, toasted nuts, toasted seeds and no sugar. Yep, that’s why I was the only one who liked it.

But this recipe doesn’t contain lots of sugar. Instead there are an abundance of dried fruits. And, it’s also pretty.

Here’s the recipe.

Christmas Muesli
Makes about 1.3 kg
printabe recipe at bottom

400 g porridge oats
75g unsweetened desiccated coconut
100g skinned hazelnuts
100g skinned Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
180ml water
120ml groundnut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
75g pitted dates, roughly chopped
75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
50g crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Combine the oats, coconut, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, brown sugar, and ground spices in a large bowl. Mix well.

Whisk together the water oil, vanilla and salt and then stir into the dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture out in two large, shallow roasting trays.

Toast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring and swapping the trays occasionally, until the muesli is golden and crisp, checking frequently towards the end.

Leave to cool.

Stir in the dried fruit and crystallized ginger.


Store in an airtight container.

I found some tall containers that would be perfect for the granola, and used a plastic baguette bag to line them.

Much prettier!

Enjoy with milk or any milk substitute, or plain yogurt. It’s honestly the best granola I’ve ever had! I’ve already made another batch…

 

 

Holiday Brownies and a Santa Timer

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I was never a huge fan of brownies. Maybe because the only ones I tasted came from a boxed mix. But once I started making them myself from scratch, especially with good chocolate, my viewpoint changed.

Over the years, mostly for the holidays, I enjoy making brownies with various ingredients, which is what makes baking them so much fun. Of course there are nuts, and chocolate and toffee bits, but also additions of liqueurs, like Amarula or Bailey’s. I’ve even made excessively rich brownies with layers of fig and raspberry jams. Almost too sweet, but really festive.

In any case, two things happened recently. Now that the holiday season has begun, I decided I would test out a recipe for brownies that I’ve been eyeing a long time. It’s very chocolatey, using only bittersweet chocolate, and there’s a topping of dried cranberries, pistachios, and candied ginger. Isn’t that intriguing?!!

Also, I received a lovely gift of a Santa Timer. I immediately fell in love with this little guy, mostly because I adore anything Christmas, but I also thought how much fun children would have with this timer.

Santa Timer 0700_C
If you check out the link to the Holiday Timers website, there are other holiday timers, and they’re available on Amazon.

The timer isn’t only cute, but when the alarm goes off, Santa talks and Christmas music plays. Oh, and it has a magnetic back. Fun!

So here is this holiday’s brownie recipe, inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit.
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Holiday Brownies with Dried Cranberries, Pistachios, and Ginger

1 stick, or 4 ounces unsalted butter
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided
Two oranges
3 ounces dried cranberries, preferably non-sweetened
3 ounces whole pistachios
1 1/2 ounces fine, crystallized ginger
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 11.5 x 7″ baking dish with foil, leaving an overhang.

Butter the foil using the end of the butter stick. Then place the butter and 8 ounces of the chocolate in a pot placed over a pot of hot but not boiling water.

Melt the butter and chocolate, and when it’s smooth, remove the pan and let the chocolate mixture cool. The best advice I ever read about the process for tempering/melting chocolate, is that you are not cooking the chocolate, you are slowly melting it. If you haven’t tempered before, take your time and do it over the lowest heat.

Once it’s smooth, remove the pan from the water and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

With the remaining 16 ounces of chocolate, chop the bars somewhat finely and place 8 ounces onto two squares of foil. You will have two piles of chocolate, at 8 ounces each. Set aside.

Zest the oranges, and place on a piece of foil or a small bowl. Set aside.
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Place the cranberries, pistachios and crystallized ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.
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Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and the salt in a large bowl, until light and fluffy. This should take about 4-5 minutes.


On low speed, gradually beat in the chocolate mixture, and then the zest.

Add the flour and fold it in just until blended, using a spatula, then fold in approximately 8 ounces of chopped chocolate.


Spread batter in pan and smooth it as best you can. Bake for 25 minutes. And you can bet I used the Santa Timer!

Remove the baking dish from the oven and immediately sprinkle the top with the remaining 8 ounces of chopped chocolate.
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Let sit for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to soften, then add sprinkle on the cranberries, pistachios, and ginger.
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Let the brownies cool completely and set, for at least 3 hours. Then slice carefully.

The original recipe called for melted white chocolate to be drizzled over the top of the brownies, but I thought that a bit too much chocolate, although it would be pretty. I guess you could use a caramel drizzle as well.
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But I didn’t think a drizzle was necessary!

Be aware, however, that these brownies are sweet, rich, and gooey.

Semifreddo

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Semi freddo means half frozen in Italian. It’s a pretty good description of this dessert, which stores in the freezer, but gets soft within a few minutes at room temperature. It’s really not like ice cream. It’s like a sabayon folded into whipped cream, but then slightly frozen. Is it worth it? Yes!!!

I’ve actually made this dessert three times before. Horrors. I know. I usually make something new when I have an excuse to make a dessert, like for company. But this semifreddo is so good that sometimes I need to make it just to be reminded how delicious it really is.

This version uses dried fruits and crystallized ginger, and is topped with a berry sauce for a pretty presentation. But I’ve also made a pumpkin version that was incredible. In fact, I should make that for Halloween… I could probably make one a month easily, using whatever is in season – think strawberry, cherry, cranberry, citrus, etc… Semifreddo of the month club!

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Anyway, this dessert is very easy although it does take time. Fortunately, it can be made the day before, and just taken out of the freezer before serving. If you’ve never made a semifreddo, it’s time you did!!! It’s delicious and elegant.

Semifreddo with dried fruits and crystallized ginger

2 3/4 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Riesling
2/3 cups white sugar
Zest of one large orange
1 cup mixed dried fruits, I used plums and cranberries
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Then refrigerate until needed.
semi13

Place plastic wrap going both directions in a large loaf pan, with plenty hanging over. My pan is 9″ long, but 6″ deep. And this recipe fills it up.
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Have the orange zest handy.
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And have the dried fruits and ginger handy as well.
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Place a large pot of water on the stove on simmer, large enough to create a bain marie for your mixing bowl.

Then place the egg yolks, wine, and sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat the three ingredients until nice and smooth, then place the bowl over the simmering water.
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Continue beating.
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And beating.
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You will notice the mixture increase in volume, and also become lighter in color.

After about ten minutes of beating or so, depending on a few factors, it will thicken as well.

Test the mixture with a thermometer – it should reach 160 degrees Farenheit.

When this happens, remove the bowl from the water, but continue beating until it cools, which should taker 7 or 8 minutes, depending on a few factors. If you want, have a pan of icy water on hand to put the bowl in, like I did, to expedite the cooling of the sabayon.

After it has cooled off, beat in the orange zest.

When you are sure that the mixture isn’t warm anymore, begin folding the whipped cream into the sabayon.
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Gently but persistently fold in the remaining cream. You don’t want any streaks.

Then fold in the dried fruit and ginger.
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Place gently in the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
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Immediately place in the freezer. After about one hour, cover the loaf pan with the overhanging plastic wrap. I also add another layer of plastic wrap to insure that the semifreddo doesn’t absorb any off flavors from the freezer.

The semifreddo can be made up to 3 days ahead, but I always make it a day ahead. To serve, I unwrap the semifreddo and turn it out onto a flat serving platter. Let it warm up for a few minutes, then slice it into 1/2″ slices. You can always use a knife that is held under running hot water to make the slices, then wipe the knife after each slice and repeat.

Top with a nice amount of chilled berry sauce and serve. Additional berries are optional.

note: All kinds of different additions can be used in a semifreddo, but I stick with smaller pieces of dried fruits. Larger, dried cherries might interfere with the slicing process. Also, nuts like pistachios and chopped macadamias would be fabulous as well. It’s a very forgiving dessert!