Thursday, February 28, 2013

favourites: february 2013

Break from studying.

It has been really warm and nicely sunny the past few days, making me sure that spring is here. That said, the weather forecast is promising a cold weekend with freezing nights and I already see bowls of soup and cups of warm beverages being enjoyed. Still, the hope of spring is here to stay.

  • This black tea cake with honey buttercream would be perfect with that cup of tea in the afternoon. Or maybe with a cup of coffee so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds, coffee and tea.
  • These Vanilla Lemon Swirl Bars will definitely be in my near future. They look oh so amazing and I just happen to have a jar of lemon curd waiting to be used.
  • How to dry a bottle. I love bottles, especially the cheap but good-looking ones from IKEA, and here's a great way to dry a bottle after washing it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

cowboy cookies

When life gets too hectic, what do you do?

I have an ability to make my life rather busy at times. Somehow it all builds up, unnoticed. In the midst the daily routines, you start new projects, help a friend or a family member, find a new hobby, work on that never-ending to-do list or on your New Year's resolutions. Suddenly, you find yourself staring at your calendar with that to-do list in hand, wondering where to fit in everything that needs to be done this week - or today.

Eventually there will be a time when you have to sit down, to schedule your life all over. Something needs to be cut out, set aside for a moment or two until you can catch up on your life again. Or if you are in denial, you try to continue to make it through. I have tried that as well.

Texas Cowboy Cookies

But when life gets hectic? I start baking.

It should not make sense to me, that out of all things I can do I always go back to baking. Yet it somehow does. Though baking takes time and energy, both of which I lack at times, the result is worth it. And these cookies are somehow perfect for this situation. They are everything at once and first, it is difficult to get a clear picture on exactly what they are trying to be. Sweet and crunchy, yet also slightly chewy in the center. Packed with all the good stuff; chocolate, coconut, oats. It doesn't take long for everything to fall into its place and suddenly, these cookies were just that thing that was missing.

And it doesn't hurt that these cookies are huge.

Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies
adapted from a cup of mascarpone
makes about 1 1/2 to 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

170g (3/4 cup) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional) *

Preheat oven to 175C (350F).

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, beat together the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in the sugars and beat for a couple minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, rolled oats, coconut and nuts, if using.

Drop 1/4 cup of dough on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches between the cookies. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, then turn the baking tray around (front to back) and bake for another 8 to 9 minutes, until the edges have slightly browned.

* Note: Because of nut allergies in our family, I didn't add nuts to these cookies. The original recipe calls for pecans, though I think walnuts would also be delicious.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

sour cream banana bread

When we lived in the States, I used to babysit for a Finnish-American family with three sweet under 4-year-olds. Let me tell you, all of those kids absolutely loved bananas. There would always be a huge bunch of them sitting on the kitchen counter and the kids would munch on them whenever given one. Sometimes, though, it happened that a few of those bananas went brown. Those times, the mom would bake banana bread that, in my opinion, was the best of them all.

Somehow, though, I never got the recipe. Since moving back to Finland, I have been making banana bread every now and then, trying different recipes to find the right one, like hers. Finally, a few months back, a friend of mine had baked banana bread and to my surprise, it tasted very much like the banana bread I had been craving for so long.

Banana Bread

Bananas in this household usually get brown and baked into something. I buy bananas every now and then, usually for running fuel, or sometimes Grandma gives me a bunch. Often I manage to eat only one or two before they are sitting forgotten in a corner, getting brown. Yet, I find it difficult to feel bad about this because brown, spotty bananas mean delicious baked goods. And those baked goods are made without guilt because hey, those bananas really needed to be used.

This banana bread is sweet with a hint of caramel, thanks to the brown sugar and vanilla. The spices come through just so, deepening the sweetness and the flavour of the bananas. It is somewhat dense, yet with a soft, tender crumb. You can skip the crumb topping if you want more of a breakfast-like banana bread; for me, this (like all banana breads) falls into the dessert category and the crumb topping is more than welcome.

Sour Cream Banana Bread

Sour Cream Banana Bread
adapted from Allrecipes
makes 1 (9x5-inch) loaf and a few muffins OR 2 smaller (7x4-inch) loaves

I halved the original recipe as it is rare that I would have 6 very ripe bananas at the same time. If at any point you do have, though, I'd suggest making the whole recipe (that is, doubling this recipe), yielding three (9x5-inch) loaves, and freezing one or two.

2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

90g (6 tbsp) butter
3/4 to 1 cup white sugar (depending how sweet you like)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
225g sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
a good pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of cloves

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
40g cold salted butter

Preheat oven to 160C (325F). In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp white sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Grease a loaf pan (or pans) and dust it with the cinnamon sugar.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).

In a small bowl, rub together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and cold butter until the mixture resembles sand. Sprinkle the crumb on the top. Bake the 9x5-inch loaf for about 1 hour 15 minutes, 7x4-inch loaf for about 1 hour and muffins for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Sweet bunch of roses (3/365)

I have been busy and feeling under the weather this week, and therefore there is no planned post. So here is a peek into what my life is like right now, or parts of it, at least.

READING for the university entrance exams coming in May.  I just started this week and so far, I am exhausted and overwhelmed. I'm hoping it will get easier soon. Other than that, I am pretty much reading just my Bible because there's too much going on in my head right now. This post about fear has been on my mind a lot lately, as well.

THINKING ABOUT limits in my life. Mostly because I feel like I have been pushing myself too far and still it feels like not enough. And, well, there is only so much I can do. I have also been thinking about how what I believe about God affects my experiencing Him. He is Almighty, He can do anything and everything. But if I don't believe He can do something when He tells me He will? Well, that's a thought right there. Putting faith into action, is what I am getting at here.

LOOKING FORWARD TO a trip to the US in June. Nothing has been set or booked yet but I am looking into what there is to do and to see in Orlando. Also, I am looking forward to banana bread. There are four large bananas browning on our kitchen counter, which means I'll be making banana bread this weekend.

LOVING the snow, which honestly surprises me. Usually in February, I am getting pretty fed up with the cold and snow but right now it is so beautiful outside. I have also been loving our Saturday breakfasts lately. Last Saturday, it was crepes. This Saturday, who knows.