Hamburgers & Buns

Hamburgers!  You guys must be thinking that I finally got a grill, right?  After all that time at the apartment coveting our neighbor’s grill, smelling the sweet smoky aromas that wafted up to our second floor windows, but knowing that we were not renewing our lease, so getting one would be a pain.

And now we have a house, so there’s no excuse to not have one, so of course we do have one…it’s just that it’s still in the box.  Yeah, I know, for shame.  Hear me out though, the assembly instructions are as thick as a science textbook, and I might be good at Ikea assembly, but there are no gas lines and fire and heat running through my Ikea furniture.

I’m just afraid to mess it up, and so is Luke, but getting a father person over to our house to help set it up has proven difficult.  So in the box it will stay, probably until after the wedding.

I cooked these burgers in a pan on the stovetop, setting off the smoke detector no less than twice, even though the hood fan was on.  Of course I made my own buns (they were huge, I had no idea they’d rise so much…and many large “bun” jokes ensued).

I doctored mine up with some sautéed mushroom, cheddar cheese, and a caramelized pineapple ring, in addition to some parsley for greenery because for some reason I had forgotten to buy lettuce.

Please disregard my veiny hand

Neither of the boys (Diego and Luke) complained since I’m pretty sure they are both allergic to all green, leafy foods.  I also made some oven fries to accompany our burgers.  Definitely a good meal for our first entertaining stint in the new house.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Adapted from Foodie Bride

Makes 8-12 buns

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, or olive) plus more for greasing the rising bowl

2 large eggs

3 Tbsp sugar

3 ¼ cups flour

1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, add warm water and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit 10 minutes, until frothy.  Add the, oil, 1 egg, and sugar to the bowl.  Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough holds together, about 2 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If not, add additional flour by the Tbsp.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been lightly greased with oil.

Cover it with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-1 ½  hours.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.  Turn out the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and each half into 4-6 pieces (make them smaller than you might think for a bun, they will rise).  Roll into rounds and flatten with the palm of your hand onto the baking sheet; placing buns about ½ -1 inch apart.  Cover with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes + oven preheating time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water.  Brush the buns with the egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Classic Hamburgers

 A Bashful Bao Original

Makes 4 patties

1 ½ lb 80/20 ground beef*

salt and pepper


8 oz button mushrooms

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 pineapple rings

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp butter

slices of cheddar cheese

condiments of your choosing

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper and form it lightly into 4 patties.  Be careful not to handle the beef too much, the more you handle it, the tougher your burgers will be.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, place the patties in the skillet.  Cook until the meat is fully cooked on the underside, about 3-5 minutes, then flip them over and continue cooking to your desired level of doneness.  Remove from skillet, place on sesame buns and top with your favorite accoutrements.

For these burgers, I sautéed the mushrooms until soft in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and smoked paprika.  I also sautéed the pineapple rings in butter and brown sugar until brown on both sides.  And of course, a nice slice of sharp cheddar.

*For hamburgers, you really want to use an 80/20 mix of ground beef.  You need that fat to ensure that it retains moisture.  Anything leaner and you will have a very dry hamburger.


Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Sometimes I do silly things.  Occasionally, my mom is there to take a picture of it.  I was trying to get Izzy to climb on top of me…but she had other plans.

Also, this kitty really wanted in to our house.  For obvious reasons, I could not oblige, though my kitty-in-distress senses were tingling beyond belief.  However, not enough to sacrifice the well being of my bunny or Luke who is allergic.

When the mountain of summer produce arrived, I was so stoked.  I watched gleefully as my mom pulled the bags of peaches and little blue boxes of blueberries out of her car.  She plopped them down on the kitchen counter, along with something I did not expect.

It was long and green, and I definitely did not recall asking for anything matching that description.

But then I remembered how my mom had kept bragging about her abundance of zucchini, and realized she was passing the bounty on to me.  Oh joy.  For the record, I do not enjoy eating gourd vegetables.  Squash in all its variations and zucchini just don’t do it for me.  So as I stared at that green tube of a vegetable, I thought, “What the heck do I do with this thing?”

Thankfully a quick internet search brought up quite a number of tasty looking options, and I finally settled on this quick bread.

You can’t taste the zucchini at all (bonus), and what you do taste is a whole lot of chocolaty goodness.  Double bonus.

When I cut the ends off of the zucchini to grate it, both ends started sweating.  I guess it knew it was being done in.  If your zucchini sweats too, make sure to dry the grated bits before adding them to the batter, as you don’t want that extra moisture in there.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes one 9×5” loaf

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (one medium) shredded zucchini
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5” loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold the batter together until almost no flour remains. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips, ensuring that they are evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Thyme Honey Flatbreads

With an intense line-up of summer produce baked goods on the way, I thought I’d keep things fresh by mixing it up as we go along.  You can only look at so many berry recipes before they become less and less attractive, the novelty of summer’s bounty slowly fading, giving way to ambivalence .

So, in order to make sure we all stay really excited about berries, cherries, and stone fruit, I’m gonna throw in an occasional monkey wrench.  Something simple, nothing too fancy; recipes that might come in handy if you’re planning on having one more party before the kiddies go back to school and summer turns into glorious fall.

Oh man.  I cannot wait until fall.  But let’s shove those feelings aside and try to enjoy the present.  However muggy and oppressive that present might be.

Flatbreads.  I love flatbreads.  I like tearing them apart and smearing them through a big bowl of hummus, or making them into little pizzas.  Or just noshing on them late at night because they’re so darn tasty on their own.

This particular version features thyme, which I grow in a tiny pot on my porch.  If you are without access to fresh thyme, you can easily sub in dried, or feel free to use different fresh herbs; may I suggest rosemary, dill, basil or oregano?  Fabulous.  You could even top them with some of this salsa.

Thyme Honey Flatbreads

Adapted from The Baker Chick

Makes 3 large flatbreads

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp thyme leaves, removed from stem, divided use
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ cup water

2 Tbsp honey
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 450°F and put a heavy baking sheet or pizza stone on rack in the middle.

Stir together flour, 2 Tbsp thyme leaves, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water, oil and honey, and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (while keeping remaining pieces covered with a kitchen towel so they don’t dry out) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round.  Don’t worry about making a perfect circle, just make sure the dough is thin.
Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of remaining thyme on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet or pizza stone and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8-10 minutes. Transfer flatbread to a rack to cool and discard the parchment paper, then repeat the process with each of the remaining dough balls.

Store the flatbread in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.


Maple Blueberry Granola Swirl Bread

This wonderful loaf of bread keeps in line with yesterday’s theme of combining two different kinds of baked good together.  Today, instead of cupcake on cookie action, we’ve got granola swirled and baked inside a loaf of bread.

I first attempted this loaf while still in college.  Back then, my knowledge of yeast wasn’t as large as it is now, and I used rapid rise instead of active dry.  This resulted in a dense dough that was extremely difficult to knead and didn’t cook through in the middle.  The bread turned out rather hard to cut, and eating it was great exercise for my jaw.

Next time I’m making two smaller loaves.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed every slice of it.  You can imagine my joy at making it this time with the correct type of yeast.  The dough was soft and malleable, and the resulting bread was fluffy and delicious.

But let’s not forget about that granola swirl.  I can’t seem to get enough of carbs.  Using maple syrup, brown sugar and dried blueberries as sweeteners, the granola is amazingly tasty in its own right, and I wish I had made a double batch to keep some around for snacking.

Maybe I’ll go do that now.  Whether you make extra granola or not, this loaf of bread is sure to please.  The added sweetness from the granola makes this a great snacking bread, as well as a good candidate for bread pudding or french toast.

I just want to dive right in…hmm maybe I’ve been watching the Olympics too much…

Maple Blueberry Granola Swirl Bread

Adapted from Sugar Plum

Makes one very large 9×5” loaf*

For the bread:

1 cup warm milk, divided (100°-110°F)
1 tsp+ ½ cup sugar
2 ¼ tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter, divided use
3 large eggs, at room temperature, divided use
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup, divided use
1 ¼ tsp salt, divided use
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups bread flour
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (or you can use all all-purpose)

For the granola:
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup sweetened dried blueberries

First make the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together ½ cup warm milk, 1 tsp sugar and yeast until combined and let sit for 10 minutes or until it’s all foamy. Add 2 Tbsp melted butter, additional ½ cup milk, ½ cup sugar, 2 eggs, 3 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp salt and vanilla to yeast mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in bread flour and all-purpose flour until combined and the dough comes together.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky.  Place in a large mixing bowl lightly covered with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm area for 1-2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a small cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Coat the insides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  *I would advise you to prepare two loaf pans if you can.  My loaf ended up being so large I had to form it into an “s” shape to fit it into the pan (see photo above).  Next time, I’ll make two smaller loaves.

Next make the granola.  In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp melted butter, the last 1 Tbsp maple syrup, additional ¼ tsp salt, brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Stir in pecans and oats until combined. Evenly spread the mixture onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until granola is fragrant and golden brown. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in blueberries until combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11×15 inch rectangle. Brush dough with remaining Tbsp melted butter. Sprinkle granola evenly on top, leaving a 1/2” border. Starting at one end, roll the dough up jelly roll style, pinch and tuck ends under, and place in loaf pan. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk remaining egg together with a Tbsp of water and evenly brush on the surface of dough. Bake for 20 minutes, cover with foil, and bake an additional 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of bread reaches 180 degrees F and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing bread to a wire rack to cool completely.



The Best Banana Bread

I love food that’s served with a story.  Not that everything needs a story.  Sometimes the idea you have for that new brownie-peanut butter cookie-banana cream pie hybrid recipe is just as inspiring as that shabby old note card for bean dip that’s been passed down on your mother’s side for eight generations.

Not the prettiest, but trust me, it’s soooo delicious.

Don’t worry, this post is not about bean dip from the 18th century.  I highly doubt they had bean dip back then anyway.  At least, my Eastern European ancestors probably didn’t.

This post is about banana bread.  There is a literal myriad of banana bread recipes out there, and every time I come across one, I calmly read it, appreciate it, and move on.  Because I’ve already got a fantastic banana bread recipe, courtesy of my mother.

This is the banana bread I grew up eating, whose smell could banish any amount of Saturday morning drowsiness from my sleepy head.  Now, it’s the banana bread that Luke calls his favorite, the banana bread we first made together in a tiny apartment kitchen back in college.

We bonded over this banana bread, a bond that led to a relationship, an engagement, and in a few months, a marriage.  Yes, it’s that good.  It’s a moist bread, with a tender, dense crumb bursting with banana flavor.  I’ve been tempted to add chocolate, nutella or peanut butter to this recipe to see what would happen, but as of yet, I have not had the courage to make such an alteration. Maybe someday I will.  And I will dub my new creation my own and serve it to my own sleepy-headed children.  Obviously, I’ve got quite a few years to perfect it!

Mom’s Banana Bread

Recipe via my mom

Makes two 9×5” loaf pans or 1 bundt/tube pan

(I like to halve the recipe to make one loaf pan)

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs

3½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup buttermilk

6 small or 4 medium bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir in the mashed bananas.

Pour batter into greased loaf pans or bundt/tube pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes for the loaf pans and 1½ -1 ¾ hours for the bundt/tube pan.  Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, invert and serve!

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Having guests over for dinner reminds me that I really like having people over for dinner.  We hadn’t entertained in a while, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Only now that I have this lovely little food blog, taking pictures of my dishes in larger company takes a little explaining.  Like yesterday, when I arranged my plate full of food, tweaked the positioning of some items, then picked up the entire place setting and transported it back into the kitchen for better light.

Thankfully Luke explained why I was leaving the table so abruptly, and I didn’t feel too embarrassed.

On a random side note, there was a point in the dinner, closing in on Izzy’s dinner time, that I peered around the corner of the dining room to spy on her, only to find her sitting at the closest end of the pen glaring at me.  I think she was trying to send me rabbit-hypno vibes.  It was kind of creepy but cute at the same time.  Also, we have a family of rabbits living in a bush near the back of our apartment.  Now I get to watch two sets of rabbits!!

While I make bread of course.  I had some leftover pesto from the chili recipe I posted about earlier this week, and wanted to do something different with it.  Different meaning not smother pasta with it.  So I smothered some dough with it.  Then I topped the pesto smothering with a layer of queso fresco.

Totally delicious, though I suppose you can make the queso fresco optional.  Or sub in feta or goat cheese.  Either which way, if you are a pesto lover, you will unequivocally enjoy this bread.

Pesto Swirl Bread with Queso Fresco

Adapted from Mmm is for Mommy

Makes one 9×5” loaf

¼ cup warm water
1 package dry active yeast
¾ cup buttermilk, lukewarm
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup pesto

1 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta, or goat cheese

In a large bowl, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes or until it starts to foam.  Add in the buttermilk, oil, flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix for about a minute until the dough starts to form.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead, adding flour if dough is too wet or water if dough is too dry.  Knead for 3-5 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, spray a large bowl with non-stick spray or olive oil, put the dough in the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.

When doubled, remove dough and place on floured board and roll into a rectangle approximately 9 x 13 inches.  Brush with pesto, then sprinkle the cheese over the pesto layer and roll up like a jellyroll, pinching seam and ends firmly to close (roll the shorter side, the roll should be the right size to fit in your loaf pan).   Place into a greased 9 x 5” loaf pan and cover with towel and let rise for another 1 ½ hours.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done and hollow-sounding when tapped.  Let cool on wire rack completely before slicing.

Cornmeal Apple Bread

As a student, I was always very conscious of deadlines.  Because I work horribly under pressure (probably why I’m such a bad test taker), I always liked to get assignments and papers done early and then have time to go back over them a few times to make sure I had exactly what I wanted to hand in.

But it seems my deadline awareness only pertains to physical assignments.  Yep, it’s my academic dirty secret: I am really bad at studying.  I always think to myself, ‘It’ll be ok, you know the material, you’ll do fine…’ and honestly, I usually did ok.

Except now I’m facing a bigger test, the GRE.  The test that could (and probably will) ultimately decide where I go to grad school.  So obviously I need to do well.  And to do well, I need to study.  But getting myself to do it is sooo hard.

I’d much rather have staring contests with Izzy, who sleeps with her eyes open so I always lose, or bake up a loaf of cornmeal apple bread.

Don’t worry though, I made flashcards and am brushing up (or should I say dusting off) my math skills, and I’ve still got a month.  The next step is to start taking practice tests every chance I get.  I’ll get there; I’m getting there, but in the meantime, here’s some bread I made while I probably should have been studying.  The cornmeal in the batter gives it great texture and substance, and the sweetness of the apples makes it a great breakfast or snack option.

Apple Cornmeal Bread

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Makes one 9X5” loaf

1 cup buttermilk

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

½ cup sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp salt

1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces

½ cup dried apple, diced

 Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 9X5” loaf pan and set aside.

Whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter and eggs in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, making sure they are evenly combined.

Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry, stirring until everything is just moistened.  Gently stir in the fresh and dried fruit, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 50 mins to 1 hour, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 10-15 mins before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding.  Invert and cool right side up.  Serve warm with jam or butter.