A tree branch cracked and fell in our driveway last night, blocking us in our home until an arborist cleared the way. That left us with time to be creative and make something in the kitchen with what we had available. A small hand of bananas was starting to turn dark, an indicator that it’s prime time to make banana bread. We did not have any walnuts on hand, but a little streusel sprinkled over the top is a nice touch in their place. Any muffin is made better with streusel!
Makes 10 mini loafs
4 extra-ripe bananas
2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus 3/4 cup
1 cup of vanilla’d sugar, plus 3/4 cup
1/2 cup of softened butter, plus 1/4 cup and 1 tbs.
2 large eggs
1 tbs. of buttermilk
2 tsp. of cinnamon, divided in 1 tsp. and 1 tsp.
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of baking soda
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and lightly spray a mini loaf tin with nonstick spray; a regular muffin pan is fine, too, but line it with paper cups. Prepare the streusel first by combining 3/4 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup and 1 tbs. of butter, and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Mix with a fork or a hand mixer until lightly crumbly.
Mix the remaining flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda, sifting in a large bowl so that it’s evenly combined. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas extremely well so that there are no lumps. In another mixing bowl, with a hand mixer on speed 2, combine the remaining sugar and butter for about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg at a time with about 10 seconds in between, still mixing on speed 2. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, then mix for 3 more minutes until light and fluffy. Briskly mix in the mashed bananas, but don’t overmix at this point.
Add the sifted flour to the wet ingredients and, with a hand mixer no higher than speed 2, combine. With an ice cream scoop for easy distributing, fill the mini loafs about 3/4 full. Sprinkle streusel over the tops to your liking – each loaf could easily accommodate 2 tbs. to 1/4 cup of streusel. Loafs will require 28-32 minutes to bake, while muffins need 22 minutes. Let cool before depanning.
We have to qualify this monkey bread recipe with savory, because some people think of monkey bread as a sweet treat. This one is fun to make, especially for children, so have the young’uns join in under your supervision.
Makes one loaf
3 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 1/3 cups of butter, divided in 1 cup solid and 1/3 cup melted
4 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of warm water
1 tbs. of dry active yeast
1 tbs. of garlic powder
1 tbs. of sugar
1 tsp. of dried basil
1/2 tsp. of dried oregano
Mix the warm water with the yeast and sugar in a bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes until it’s bubbled up and activated.
Put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix the 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk into the yeast mixture, then add to the flour. Combine with the dough hook on speed 1 until the flour has absorbed the liquids. This mixture will be dry, so as it combines, add the solid 1 cup of butter 1 tablespoon at a time to make it moist and tacky. Turn the mixer to speed 2 and continue mixing for 8 minutes.
Transfer the dough from the mixer bowl to a cutting board and gently shape it into a ball. Put the dough ball back into the mixing bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place the bowl in a warm area, like in the oven with the oven light on. Leave alone for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until it has doubled in size.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan with all the herbs, seasoning, and garlic over low heat. Coat the bottom and sides of a large loaf pan, or whatever you have laying around with tall sides, with the butter but not all of it – save some to layer the dough. Sprinkle roughly 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese on the bottom of the pan.
Remove the dough from the bowl and, on a cutting board, cut the dough into 1″-strips. Cut these strips in turn into cubes, essentially.
Roll these mini lumps into smooth balls, and place a layer of balls in the bottom of the pan. Spread with some herb butter, and sprinkle with cheese.
Continue layering with dough, butter, and cheese, just 2 layers deep so you have room for the dough to proof once more.
Cover with plastic wrap and let raise in the oven with the oven light on until it has doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from the oven and take off the plastic wrap, and preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, depending on the type of pan you use.
Let cool slightly before inverting the pan. Pull apart and enjoy
For 31 years now, the third weekend of August has been the time of the Hayward Zucchini Festival. What we saw today was entertaining, and what we tasted was delicious. It was a little tricky finding our way but once we got to the secured parking lot on Bohannon Middle School’s grass playing field, we spent hours wandering around Kennedy Park enjoying the festival. From rides and carnival games with hermit crabs for prizes, to jewelry vendors and all kinds of foods, it was easy to spend the day here, especially when the weather was as beautiful as it was.
As the zucchini capital of California, Hayward would be remiss not to honor the farmers in the community, rural and urban alike. Entries are accepted through the second day for six different categories of competition, from weight to color variation.
We entered Kennedy Park on the far corner from all the hot food stands and trucks, so we got to walk around and tour the grounds before finding our way to Sweet Delights of Stockton. They didn’t disappoint with this alternative quesadilla, as cheese and zucchini were all it took for a savory sensation. The gooey cheese is the hallmark of a good quesadilla, but the fresh vegetables made all the difference.
From August’s neighborhood of her youth, California Corn Roast came from Grass Valley and got a big line forming for their bacon-wrapped hot dogs with zucchini. Hebrew National dogs and thick spears of zucchini sat in a lightly grilled bun piled with grilled onions. Condiments were available if wanted, but we liked it just as it was. The sweet onions juxtaposed the savory, salty kick of the meats, while the zucchini provided an earthiness that brought everything together. There’s nothing too fancy about this, but if you like zucchini, this is sure to please.
Many groups came out today selling goods as fundraisers. The Pentecostals of Hayward drew us in with their selection of muffins, all zucchini based but with variety among them. Regular, with raisins, with raisins and nuts, and with chocolate, we didn’t think there could be so many types of zucchini breads! Apparently this is a big deal for the church’s community, because they even put together a thick cookbook of zucchini dishes. We bought a copy, and we’re curious to see how many tasty zucchini recipes fill the pages.
Michelle’s Golden Brown Breads can be found at the farmers’ market on Sundays at Jack London Square in Oakland. Today Michelle came with a selection of zucchini bread loafs. We chose the butterscotch version, with butterscotch visible on top and also marbled through the bread. Dense, moist, and rich, it’s great by itself but we’re imagining it a la mode.
Right around when we thought there couldn’t be any more sweet zucchini goods, Bella’s House of Sweets came into view. After trying four of the cupcakes and drooling over the mini macarons, we might have to visit the San Leandro bakery sooner than later. We sampled red velvet, double chocolate, carrot cake, and zucchini cupcakes, all light in texture yet deeply flavorful. The zucchini cupcake in particular was all we could hope for in zucchini bread: mildly sweet, spiced with earthy tones, topped with cream cheese frosting, and a light caramel drizzle.
Once we ordered two of four zucchini-based items at the Siva Indian Food Services truck, August sat down with one of the daughters of the family business for a henna tattoo. It was rough keeping still for 30 minutes for it to dry, but let’s hope it’s worth it and the students at school approve!
There were so many stands with deep fried zucchini, but Siva’s zucchini pakoras ranked among the best. A light but crunchy breading had surprisingly little grease, and it was seasoned well so that it didn’t need an extra sprinkling of salt out of the fryer. A thin, dip-like hummus was a nice change from ranch, which was what every other food stand had to offer with their deep fried zucchini.
When we see lamb we get it, and Siva’s curry with lamb and zucchini was no exception. We chatted with the matriarch and she said that zucchini was not something she normally used as the feature in a dish, but we thanked her for being one of the few out of dozens of food vendors that provided something more than deep fried zucchini – even while many vendors had no zucchini at all. The entrees like this curry come with white rice, dhal (the yellow lentil and potato dish in the foreground of the picture), chapati (thin, flat wheat bread), and raita (a cooling yogurt condiment, hiding behind the chapati). All exceptionally fresh ingredients tasted great with the lamb, which wasn’t gamey or too tough.
Technically food but not in the food area of the park, we found a few stands with edible goods ready to take home. Since August can never have too much dessert, we picked up a small bag of Black Tie Caramel. We tried a snippet of salted caramel on site, and it was super soft and perfectly salted. The smooth kind without nuts, like we got, was recommended as a nice touch to stir into coffee.
Primo’s Gourmet Food Co. showed mustards, fruit butters, and salsas at two tents. Fruit butter is essentially jam without pectin or seeds, resulting in a smooth and almost syrup-like spread. We tasted the berry pie butter and got a jar to use on toast and bagels for school morning breakfasts.
Tres Classique is going through a transition. Due to suppliers discontinuing the balsamic vinegar that they use for their base, Tres Classique is refreshing their ingredients as well as their label. We saw Tres Classique items as well as the new California Balsamic line, and after sampling several, Zach picked out a sweet balsamic that tasted like apple pie. He’s looking forward to using it as a dessert pairing with fruit and ice cream.
The drying process is rough, trying to keep the skin still and not bump into anything. But once the minimum time was up and all the bits of henna had flaked away, August was left with a beautiful design. Hopefully this will last at least a week, although sometimes henna designs can last three weeks, so we’ll see!
We came home loaded with loot and stuffed with zucchini. The festival was well organized with multiple bands scheduled to play, marauding trash patrol, and an efficient parking system. Happy but not overwhelmed, we had a wonderful time and think that anyone who likes zucchini should make their way here if possible. Although, even if you don’t like zucchini, there are tons of vendors with no zucchini on hand, so there’s no excuse not to come.