CHEW THIS! Mona Brown’s Famous Zucchini Bread

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Saturday, September 7th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Mona Brown’s Famous Zucchini Bread
Blaise Doubman

I have known Inga Neal, owner, mastermind, recipe developer, cook, baker and genius for a few years now, but have known her business, “Temptations” even longer. She is a wise woman and has given me great advice over the years. Every time I talk with her, it is like talking with an old friend. The people in New Castle and surrounding areas would have to agree about her fun and unique personality and would have to agree about it being a contributing factor as to why her restaurant and catering service are so successful. “Temptations” is located in New Castle at 2001 South Memorial Drive and is open Monday through Friday from 11-2. They have anything and everything under the sun, including but not limited to, chicken and dumplings, chicken and noodles, cube steak, bbq pulled pork, chicken fajita wrap, BLT and turkey club. They also offer salads such as taco salad, crispy chicken salad and their chicken salad plate. Homemade sides include, broccoli and cauliflower salad, pea salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, grape salad, potato salad and many more delicious offerings. And, we can not forget her famous “Sweet Shelf”, which offers everything from brownies and banana cake to cherry almond bars and butterscotch fudge! So, reading all of that, are you hungry yet!? Ha!

After getting acquainted with Inga, and sampling some of the most delicious potato soup and caramel corn that I have ever had, the conversation quickly turned to food and recipes. Inga told me that her mother, Mona Brown, had a recipe for zucchini bread. It was not just your typical zucchini bread recipe either; this one was “award winning”! Of course, I figured that the recipe would be top secret and I would never get my hands on it but to my surprise Inga shared it with me! She explained that the recipe was featured in “The Courier-Times” and earned her the title of “Reserve Champion” for “The Courier-Times’ 12th Annual Readers Recipe Review”! Inga was kind enough to not only send along the recipe but a photo of the original article that ran in the paper so many years ago! The article stated that the bread was a “spicy loaf with an unusual ingredient – a box of butterscotch pudding mix!” Inga has the original recipe hung up in her shop as a loving tribute and memory to her Mom. I tried the recipe immediately and I instantly fell in love! This bread is unlike anything I have ever had before and highly recommend you try it for yourselves! Inga said that her Mom, Mona, loved being known for this bread but also loved baking other delicious types of breads. Mona baked up until she was 90 years old! Now that is an inspirational woman! Inga also surprised me with her Mom’s “Grand Champion” recipe for her “Jade Express Chicken with Rice” which is also fabulous! But you will have to wait until my next installment for that recipe and the story behind it!

Mona Brown’s Famous Zucchini Bread

This bread can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to four days. If you would like to use walnuts and raisins in this bread, as the original article describes, add about ½ cup of walnuts and 1/3 cup of raisins. To bring out the walnuts flavor, slightly toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Inga has since added her spin to this original recipe by using cinnamon spice instant oatmeal, instead of the original flavor and by freezing the bread to give the flavors and textures a whole other flavor profile.

3 large eggs
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups shredded zucchini, slightly drained
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups white all-purpose flour
½ cup instant oatmeal
Small package instant butterscotch pudding mix

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large or two small loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl mix together the large eggs, white granulated sugar, vegetable oil, prepared zucchini and pure vanilla extract.

In another large bowl whisk together the baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, white all-purpose flour and instant oatmeal.

Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until mixed well.

Stir in the instant butterscotch pudding mix and pour batter into prepared pan / pans.

Bake, in preheated oven, one hour for large loaf pan, 30-45 minutes for small loaf pans.

Remove, allow to cool slightly before removing and continue to cool or serve warm.

Ask and Answer: I have had a few questions about my recipe for “Magical Chocolate Cake” and if you can make the frosting using different types of chocolate chips. Yes! Use dark chocolate, milk chocolate or even white chocolate chips! My favorite would have to be the semi-sweet variety though because I really think the flavors pair best with the chocolate cake.

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CHEW THIS! Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake 

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Saturday, July 6th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake
Blaise Doubman

Indiana strawberry season seems to be short and fickle. I cannot tell you how many times my Dad, Jamie, has missed the season by just a day or two. “Bell’s Strawberry Farm” is where my family and I visit every strawberry season. Located in Hagerstown, Indiana at 16447 IN-38 it is a must see stop for anyone and everyone loving strawberries. They have a couple of options available at their business. You can “pick your own” or simply just buy what has already been picked. For those who know me, you can guess my favorite option! Ha! I buy what is picked. They also offer other delicious things such as local honey, Amish baked goods and homemade strawberry freezer jam. Let me talk about their jam for a minute. It is fabulous! I have made strawberry jam for years and even shared a recipe here with all of you for my version a couple of years ago. Their strawberry jam though, beats mine, yes there I said it! Ha! Delicious on toast, bagels, waffles, ice cream or even just a simple spoon.

Their strawberries and strawberry freezer jam got me to thinking about homemade strawberry shortcake. I usually buy an angel food cake to go with strawberries during that time of the year and always insist on buying one instead of making one from scratch! Why? There is literally very slim difference in taste, texture and even ingredients between the homemade and store-bought variety. Making an angel food cake from scratch is a very touchy thing because you cannot deflate the egg whites and you must keep things at a certain temperature. Plus, have you ever tried to cool one? Once removed from the oven, it must be turned upside down for several hours before removing and serving. Maybe it is just me but that just seems like so much work for something that tastes identical to something you can buy for less than $5! I have had taste test after taste test, and nobody could tell the difference between homemade and store-bought angel food cake. For this recipe though I was inspired by the old-fashioned flavors of an actual shortcake. I wanted the taste and texture from what I remembered when I was younger. This recipe is so easy to whip up and will keep at room temperature for several days. Warm a slice up or serve it cold and top with strawberries and whipped cream. I love this summertime dessert and is even delicious topped with frozen strawberries and ice cream! Happy Summer!

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

This can be made ahead and wrapped in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months. If chilled or frozen, remove and allow to thaw at room temperature before cutting and serving.

2 sticks unsalted butter, soft
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a regular sized loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl beat the soft unsalted butter for at least 15 minutes until extra light.

Gently pour and beat in the white granulated sugar.

Beat in the large eggs, adding in only one egg at a time.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the white all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.

In a glass measuring cup combine the milk, pure vanilla extract and pure almond extract.

Alternately add the wet and dry ingredients to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir the mixture well to combine after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 65 minutes.

After baking, remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Carefully run a knife outside of the shortcake, loosening the edges. Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper to cool.

When cooled and ready to serve, cut thick slices with a serrated knife.

Store leftover pieces tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.

Ask and Answer: I have been getting a lot of messages about how to properly melt chocolate. There are lots of way to melt, or temper, chocolate and I find the easiest way in the microwave. Start by adding the chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and add in a tablespoon of solid vegetable shortening or coconut oil. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth, combined and melted. Use as desired.

CHEW THIS! Grandma Barbra’s Homemade White Bread

Grandma Barbra’s Homemade White Bread

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, March 17th 2019 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Grandma Barbra’s Homemade Bread Memories…
Blaise Doubman

I have fond memories of my Grandma Barbra and I making homemade white bread in her kitchen on cold winter days with her giant white electronic bread maker. I remember thinking it was the coolest machine at the time and often wondered how it worked as it did. I think we only made white bread and never did expand into other kinds but that white bread was some of the best of my life. We would get the machine greased and ready, measure and pour everything in and prepare for the baking. It took hours, because the bread would be mixed, then it would rest, mixed again, rest, mixed again, baked and then finally cooled. Our first several loaves were always lopsided, but it did not matter. It was delicious! We did finally figure out how to maintain the shape of the loaf and then there was no stopping us! Ha! I still remember removing the bread from its container and placing it on a plate. We would try and slice the bread but would usually end up just breaking it up into chunks with our hands, buttering each piece with lots and lots of butter and eating it while still extremely hot. I have so many wonderful memories with my Grandma Barbra and I love her so much. She has taught me so much about life, in the kitchen and out of. I joke with her that I am writing a memoir of our crazy times together and that I am going to title it, “NUTS”. She always laughs at this.

When developing this recipe, I wanted to try and steer away from a bread machine, simply because a lot of people do not have them anymore. I think somewhere in the early 2000’s bread became “unfashionable” and people stopped eating, and making, bread as much. Therefore, almost eliminating bread machines completely. I am not a follower of diets, fad or otherwise, and I love bread! Of course, I limit myself, everything in moderation including moderation, but I love a slice of warm white bread with tons of butter on top. My friend, Cindy Shelton, also loves hot bread and butter. Maybe I will make her a loaf of this bread soon. If you know someone who loves bread, take a little time and make them a loaf of this bread! It makes 2 loaves so one for you and one for a friend! This also makes the perfect gift.

Grandma Barbra’s Homemade White Bread

I always use active dry yeast, not the refrigerated yeast packets that you can find at most grocery stores. I find the active dry yeast to be better, and fresher believe it or not, than the refrigerated version. I also use Kosher salt for this recipe, as well as all my other ones. I highly recommend investing in a large box of Kosher salt for your cooking and baking needs. The flakes of salt are larger, therefore you can use less salt in your finished dishes.

2 cups warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
5 cups white all-purpose flour

Start by combining the warm water with the active dry yeast in a large bowl. The water needs to be warm to the touch but not hot. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. However, if the water is too cold, the yeast will not bloom. I use the hottest tap water I have and then let it cool down for about 2 minutes. Add in the melted butter, white granulated sugar and salt. Stir.

Add in 2 cups of the white all-purpose flour and stir together well. Add in another 2 cups of the white all-purpose flour and stir together well, using clean dry hands if needed.

Take the dough and place onto a clean, dry, lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for 20 minutes, adding in the remaining cup of white all-purpose flour.

The dough should not be dry at this stage but instead a slightly sticky and thick dough.

Place the dough into a buttered bowl and cover the top with a kitchen towel. Place in a warm place and let rest and rise for 1 hour without disturbing it.

After 1 hour, remove the dough and knead for another 5 minutes. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover the top with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place and let rice for 1 hour without disturbing it. In the meantime, spray 2 loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray containing flour. Be sure to grease the loaf pans generously.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough in half. Shape each half into loaf shapes and place each into their prepared pans. Cover the tops of both with a kitchen towel. Place in a warm place and let rise 1 hour without disturbing it.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake the loaves, in preheated oven, for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, unmold, slice and serve.

Ask and Answer: People have been wondering if you can substitute unsweetened chocolate for bittersweet chocolate in recipes. The answer is, no! Unsweetened chocolate contains no sugar whatsoever, whereas, bittersweet contains anywhere from 10-50% sugar. If using unsweetened chocolate in recipes you will more than likely need to add sugar for sweetness. If using bittersweet chocolate, very little sugar may be asked for. They are not interchangeable.

Banana Bread Cookies

I love banana bread and these “bites”, or cookies, satisfy that craving without having to bake – and eat – and entire loaf of banana bread! Feel free to replace the chocolate chips with walnuts or simply add both – or leave both out. Totally up to your tastes!

Banana Bread Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed bananas or 3 bananas
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl beat together the soft unsalted butter with the white granulated sugar and packed light brown sugar until the mixture is light in color and fluffy in texture. This will take about 4 minutes.

Beat in the large eggs and mashed bananas. Beat in the pure vanilla extract, baking soda, ground cinnamon and salt.

Fold in the white all-purpose flour and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Place in tablespoon size dollops onto the prepared baking sheets and leave about 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake, one sheet at a time, in preheated oven for 13 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before enjoying.

CHEW THIS! Comforting Banana Bread

Comforting Banana Bread

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The following “Chew This!” column has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times”, Sunday, September 2nd 2018 edition. By: Blaise Doubman

Facebook Questions and Comforting Banana Bread
Blaise Doubman

I have been getting several emails about my Blaise the Baker Facebook page. Let me clear the air on that subject first before we continue with my column and recipe for banana bread. My Facebook accounts, both private and public, were compromised about a month ago. I thought I had solved the various problems but the problems and issues reoccurred not long after the initial hacking. The safest thing for me to do, for my friends and followers, was to delete both accounts and start over. Facebook will not allow me to start over with my pages until a certain amount of time has passed. As soon as my pages are up and started again I will be sure to let you know the appropriate links so that you can follow along with me again.

There has been a bit of a silver lining in all of this though because it has given me a chance to really sit back and think about how I want to “relaunch” Blaise the Baker and it has also given me this wonderfully delicious recipe for banana bread! How? I needed some comfort after all the hacking news, etc. so I decided that I would develop a new recipe for one of my favorite comforting things – banana bread! This one is simple, delicious and very flavorful. I have several recipes for banana bread, one using a yellow cake mix, one calling for bits of toffee and another that uses sour cream and is studded with cranberries and walnuts. This one though is simple in process and fabulous in flavor. I take the finished bread and cut it into huge slices but feel free to cut the slices according to your tastes, or your level of comfort needed.

Comforting Banana Bread

This banana bread will last for several days when wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature. Lightly toast the bread and smear with unsalted butter or cream cheese for an even more delicious comforting treat.

1 ¾ cups white all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a regular size loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray containing flour.

In a large bowl whisk together the white all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another large bowl beat together the softened unsalted butter with the white granulated sugar until light in color and fluffy in texture. Beat in the large eggs.

Stir in the mashed bananas and pure vanilla extract. Gently fold in the whisked dry ingredients.

Add in the toasted walnuts, if using, and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated oven for 44 minutes. The top will be split and golden brown in color.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before turning it out onto a piece of parchment paper to cool completely. Cut into large comforting slices and serve.

Ask and Answer: Several people have messaged me to ask more about my position as a “Glen Oaks Health Campus Family Ambassador” and what it means. Lots of you have had loved ones admitted into Glen Oaks in the last several months and remember reading about my position there. What an Ambassador does is basically help represent Glen Oaks Health Campus as a whole. I am here to answer any questions you may have about the facility or address any concerns you may have. I also have written a “business review” of Glen Oaks Health Campus, which can be found on my website, blaisethebaker.com