Banana Coconut Mini Bundt Cakes

When the bunch of bananas you bought for breakfast and healthy snacking have passed their natural prime, fear not! It just means the bananas are now perfect for use in delicious baked goods like breads, muffins, and cakes. I took things a step further by digging out my vintage mini-Bundt cake pan, and the results, as you can see, were quite lovely.

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Raspberry Lime Buttermilk Quick Bread

Last week we had extremely unseasonably warm weather up here in New Hampshire, and it was a glorious preview for the upcoming summer season.  To celebrate, I threw open the windows, dug out my favorite Minnetonka moccasins, and got outside as much as possible.

I moved up here in November, when hibernation mode kicks in and everything slows down.  It’s been a long winter.  Walking around my neighborhood last week, I saw dogs lounging on porches, grills emerging from their winter tarps, and the beginning of forsythia buds on the bushes.  All were welcome sights, and have me positively yearning for the warm half of spring and the heat of summer.  I have a car for the first time in over 5 years, Mount Monadnock down the road, and an endless stream of events and festivals I’ve always wanted to go to at my disposal.  I want to see and experience everything.  (Insert silent cry of “Who’s with me??” here)

Not so welcome were the sounds of Keene State students driving or stumbling by my open windows, but hey, I spent the last six years in Boston.  I can manage.

A big part of my job for Yankee Magazine right now is testing recipes for the next “cookbook-azine” we’ll be putting out in the fall.  Here’s a sneak peek at some of the things I’ve been making.  I can’t have you thinking I’m not cooking like a maniac over here, even if I can’t share it.

Asparagus Vinaigrette, Fan-Tan Rolls, Cheese Straws, Coffee Cloud Sponge Cake, Old-Fashioned Soda Crackers, Blueberry Boy Bait

I had some leftover buttermilk from the Fan-Tan Rolls, so I tapped into some of my early-summer cravings and made a loaf of buttermilk quick bread, flavored with frozen raspberries and lime zest.  Raspberry Lime Rickey, anyone?

The bread was just what I thought it would be — tangy, zesty, and a good way to kick of the warm weather season, even though I know it’s going to be awhile before summer officially arrives.  As I am typing this, the thermometer in my kitchen window is flirting with freezing.

It’s all part of the fun of living in New England, and of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way!  Not really…

Raspberry Lime Buttermilk Quick Bread
Adapted from The Kitchn

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest from one lime


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.
  4. Slowly pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and lightly fold with a rubber spatula for a few strokes.  Add the raspberries and lime zest and fold a few more times until just combined.  Do not overmix.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Print the recipe for Raspberry Lime Buttermilk Quick Bread.

pretzel bread

Pretzel Bread

When I was in Fort Myers last summer visiting my cousin Jaime, she introduced me to pretzel bread.  I am a lifelong soft pretzel fan, but had never seen it in loaf form, just the usual twists and nuggets.  The bread Jaime had was rich and buttery with a golden pretzel “crust” and lots of coarse salt.  It was addicting and delicious, and once I had it, I knew I didn’t want to live without it.

It took me awhile to get working on a batch myself, but this weekend’s snowstorm gave me the perfect opportunity. The extra step where you boil the dough in a bath of baking soda is what makes it pretzel bread, but don’t be alarmed by the extra step. It’s easy and kind of fun.

pretzel bread recipe

After just 25 minutes in the oven, they were perfect.  Also, anything that gets melted butter slathered on it right out of the oven can’t be bad.

pretzel bread butter

Having two small loaves is helpful for portion control, but it also makes this pretzel bread recipe perfect for gift giving. If you can part with one.

pretzel bread

My house smelled like that pretzel stand at the mall. It was awesome – and dangerous.

pretzel bread sliced

In an attempt to be civilized, I decided to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches with the bread using Cabot shredded cheddar, sliced onions, and fancy mustard.  The results were heavenly.  One of my top grilled cheeses of all time…

pretzel bread grilled cheese

Make this bread.  Make it right now!  It’s that good…

Pretzel Bread
Adapted from Two Bites in Suburbia

1 packet (2 1/4 tsps) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 – 120 degrees)
2 Tbsp. milk, room temperature
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
3 Tbsps. melted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. coarse salt
3 cups bread flour (spooned and leveled)

4 quarts of water
1/2 cup baking soda

Coarse salt to taste
2 Tbsps. melted butter


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, milk, brown sugar, and butter.  Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes so the yeast come alive.
  • Mix in the coarse salt, then the flour, one cup at a time.  The dough will be tacky.
  • Spray a large bowl with cooking spray or coat with oil.  Transfer the dough to the bowl, flip to coat on both sides, and cover with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.  Return the dough to the bowl, flip to cover both sides, and re-cover for an hour, or until roughly doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bring 4 quarts (16 cups) of water to a boil.  Gently deflate the dough and cut in half using a sharp knife or bench scraper.  Shape each half into a round loaf.
  • Slowly add the 1/2 cup of baking soda  to the boiling water (it will bubble).  Place one piece of dough onto a large slotted spoon and gently lower into the boiling water.  Use the spoon to flip the dough in the boiling water for around 20 seconds, then lift the dough out of the water with the slotted spoon – allow the excess water to drip back into the pot.
  • Set the dough onto a greased baking sheet.  Repeat the water bath with the remaining dough.  Sprinkle both rounds with coarse salt, then slash an X on the top of each with a sharp knife so the bread can expand while it bakes.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.
  • Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.
  • Enjoy like nobody is watching, meaning it’s okay to eat a whole loaf in one sitting.  You won’t be able to help it…

Yield:  2 small loaves

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Sesame Italian Bread

The unofficial name for this bread is “Hurricane Irene Bread” because as soon as I knew I would be house-bound for the weekend, I decided I would need a loaf of something to sustain me.  I turned to my trusty King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion cookbook for a recipe, and settled on Crusty Italian Bread.

To start, I began a biga on Friday night.  After 16 hours it was bubbling and happy.

Then the rest of the dough started to come together.

After rising, shaping, and rising…it was time for baking.

And once cooled, it was time for slicing, toasting, buttering, and eating.

I repeated this process numerous times over the course of the weekend, since I was fortunate enough to not lose power, and it more than satisfied my fondness for snacking while reading, playing online Scrabble, and catching up on BBC mystery series.

For my fellow East coasters, how did you spend Hurricane Irene?  I especially want to know what you ate…you know, the important stuff.

Italian Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour


Biga Starter
1 cup cool water (65 degrees)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast

1/4 cup cool water (65 degrees)
2 – 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsps. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsps. salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Sesame seeds


For the Biga

Mix together all ingredients until combined, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12-16 hours at room temperature.  The bubbles will tell you it’s ready.

For the Dough

  • Add the water to the biga and mix together.  Add the flour, yeast, and salt and knead until smooth – 3 minutes by mixer or 5 minutes by hand.  The gluten will have time to develop more during the rise so don’t go crazy with the kneading.
  • Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover.  Let it rise at room temperature for another 90 minutes.  To help the gluten, gently deflate the dough from time to time and give it a flip in the bowl.
  • Divide the dough into three pieces, and then braid them together.  Set the braid on a lightly greased baking sheet, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow it to rise for another 60 – 90 minutes or until slightly puffy.
  • When the second rise is almost finished, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Using a pastry brush, coat the braid with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.
  • Bake for 25 – 35 minutes or until it has a hollow sound when rapped, and the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
  • Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

Note:  I did a poor job with this loaf, so yours will most likely look a heck of a lot better than mine.  I think I over-kneaded it the first time around, didn’t add enough flour because I underestimated the humidity in the air, then didn’t let it rise long enough during the second rise.  Having said all that, you can see that I STILL ended up with a tasty loaf that more than satisfied my toast cravings while Irene made me stir-crazy.  And it just means I get to try it all again!

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Braided Challah Bread

Last Sunday I had zero plans and the weather was unpleasant.  Basically…a perfect bread day.

To be honest, even if the sun had been shining and I only had a few hours, I would have still made time for bread so I could use my  King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook and dough whisk, both gifts from the KAF Blog and Bake retreat.

I knew I wanted to try another braided bread, so challah was an easy choice.  It’s braided, but also eggy and sweet and irresistible.

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Banana Nut Bread

At used book stores I always make a beeline for the cookbooks, and once I find them, I zero in on any with those terrible plastic toothed spiral spines.  The ones that inevitably fail to do their job of keeping the pages together.  To me that spine means the book was compiled by a school, church, charity, etc. and will most likely contain a jackpot of cramped, typed recipes with strange names and an alarming abundance of shortening, sour cream, mayonnaise, whipped topping, and cans of condensed soup.

Powerless to resist their grassroots charm, I have a large collection of these greasy-paged gems.  I’ve noticed, however, that I never consider them when I am hunting for a recipe.  Instead I turn to my coffee-table style cookbooks or the web, where I know I will see gorgeous photos and read dozens of reviews for every recipe.  This seems unfair to my “novelty” cookbooks, so I have decided to turn to them more often in the coming months……and I am hoping they deliver. 

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Cranberry Lemon Bread

I have been heavy on the pumpkin this fall, so it only seemed fair to add another cranberry recipe to the roster before we switch gears to winter.  I was disappointed to see a lot of cranberry bread recipes calling for canned cranberry sauce.  Say what?

I finally found a nut bread recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cook book with a variation for cranberry nut bread.  I omitted the nuts and swapped out the orange zest for lemon zest.  It seems to be an unofficial rule that cranberries go with orange and blueberries go with lemon, but I don’t support that rule.

This bread is delicious.  The lemon zest is subtle in both appearance and taste, but definitely balances the tartness of the cranberries.  I had actually never baked with fresh cranberries before and I admit I was skeptical when I started chopping them and saw their hollow, teeny-seeded interior…but the end result was delicious.  And lovely in color.

I am headed to my parents for a few days to celebrate the holiday and visit with family and my mom’s 3 Siamese cats (you may remember them from this post).  John will be in Plymouth with his family, and while I am sad that we have yet to spend a Thanksgiving together in 3 years, the history nerd in me can’t argue with someone spending Thanksgiving in actual Plymouth.  Or with his terrific family!

Of course, my family is wonderful, too.  I always look forward to Thanksgiving because it’s an occasion to just sit around the table and visit and eat and tell stories and make each other laugh.  I am so grateful to be a part of it.     

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful (and delicious) holiday.


Click for the full recipe