08 August


Banana Peanut Butter Brownies

August 27: National Banana Lovers Day

During quarantine, online searches for “banana bread recipes” have spiked (which is way better than the number of coronavirus cases spiking). It seems that homebound people did not want to be wasteful of their limited groceries, had more time to spend in their kitchens and wanted to eat comfort food during the uncertainties in life. Having “been there, baked that” banana bread several times, we wanted to make something else with our blackening bananas.

Since we had peanut butter and cocoa powder in our pantry already, banana peanut butter brownies recipe was an easy choice to bake up besides banana bread. So if there are overripe bananas, bake banana peanut butter brownies while homebound and on National Banana Lovers Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Tasty)

Ingredients

  • 2 overripe bananas
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (we used a little less)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup peanut butter

Directions

In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla. Cream everything together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until the batter is smooth. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil/waxed paper/parchment paper, leaving a little overhang on the sides to be able to pull up the brownies after baking. Mist with cooking spray or grease with butter. Pour batter and spread evenly over the prepared pan.

Scoop out the peanut butter in random places on top. Use a butter knife to swirl the peanut butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and wait about 5-10 minutes before lifting the foil/waxed paper/parchment paper side handles and transferring to a wire rack. Cut into squares when completely cool. Yield: 16 brownies (or 9 large brownies).

Notes

  • This is a versatile recipe. Add half a cup of walnuts, chocolate chips or peanut butter chips to the batter before baking.
  • This is an eggless recipe so the brownies bake up more cake-like than packed and dense. Eggs were a precious find at the grocery stores during quarantine—just like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, yeast and flour (in our area).
  • Search our blog for other banana recipes.

Campfire Cupcakes with

Mini Toasted Marshmallows

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

Highlander likes camping but Islander prefers “glamping” (or rather just staying home to cook and blog). Although it has been a while since Highander went out with his buddies on a camping trip, Islander recalls that he would return home late at night and smell smoky. He and his friends had enjoyed sitting around a campfire catching up with stories, singing songs and cooking over a campfire, including toasting marshmallows. “Glamper girl” just toasts her mini marshmallows using a culinary torch in the comfort of her own kitchen and does not smell like smoke afterwards! Highlander the “happy camper” says that toasting jumbo marshmallows over a real roaring campfire is a more fun, social and natural experience and that she is missing out!

Whether over a campfire or by butane torch, the toasty taste of melted ‘mallows is still yummy! As summer vacation and camping season start to wind down, one can continue to go “glamping” in the great indoors and toast marshmallows for some cute campfire cupcakes, especially on National Toasted Marshmallow Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Chocolate cupcakes (any favorite from-scratch recipe or boxed cake mix)
  • Buttercream frosting (yellow, orange and red)
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Mini marshmallows

Directions

Bake and cool chocolate cupcakes.

Make frosting. Divide into three bowls. Tint each with yellow, orange and red food coloring/gel color.

In a large piping bag with tip 1M, fill with each of the three frosting colors. Or use three piping bags with a specialty coupler like Wilton Color Swirl 3-Color Coupler. Pipe swirls.

Position four pretzel sticks on top of the frosted cupcakes. Set aside. Put two mini marshmallows on toothpicks. Carefully use a culinary torch to toast the marshmallows. Place on a Styrofoam holder and continue to toast the rest of the marshmallows. Finish topping the cupcakes with the toasted marshmallow sticks.

Notes

  • Thanks to Olga W. for gifting us with the culinary torch so we could make crème brulee as well as toasted marshmallows.
  • Thanks to Karen B. for suggesting this campfire cupcake decorating technique for our blog post.

Baked Bao (with Char Siu Filling)

August 22: National Bao Day

In a previous post, we blogged about steamed char siu bao (also known as manapua in Hawaii). Islander’s brother, Kahuna, prefers the baked version so we are featuring the recipe here for National Bao Day. He thought that the steamed bao could just be baked but the dough is different, although both can be fried as well.

When he came to visit and stay with us during spring break, Islander had pre-made the filling and roux the day before he arrived and prepped the dough in the morning so it could rise while they were out enjoying the day together. By the afternoon, they assembled the bao, then took their power naps (!) during the second rise. They baked the whole batch for dinner and everything was ready when Highlander came home from work. Only a few leftovers remained, which Kahuna packed for the plane as a souvenir/snack.

The process to make baked bao looks long and laborious. But when making manapua (and memories) with loved ones, it is definitely quality time spent together and everyone enjoys the fruits of their labor. So bake some bao for National Bao Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from China Sichuan Food)

For the char siu filling

  • 2 cups char siu, diced finely
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Chop up the char siu into tiny squares. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, mix the water with the cornstarch. Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce.

Stir in the hoisin sauce and sugar until smooth and thickened. Add the char siu and mix well. Set aside to cool (or transfer to a bowl, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight until ready to use).

For the roux

  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the flour with water. Keep stirring over low heat until the mixture is thickened. Place the roux in a cup, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before making the dough.

For the dough

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 ½ cups bread flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 ½ tablespoons butter, room temperature

For the egg wash and topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • toasted sesame seeds

Directions

Before making the dough, make sure that the roux is at room temperature for half an hour and is mixed well. In a stand mixer using the dough hook, place the roux, milk, sugar and salt.

Then add the bread flour, cake flour and yeast. Knead the dough at slow speed for 10 minutes.

Ad the butter and continue kneading on medium speed for another 10 minutes until the butter is well incorporated. Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool oven until the dough is doubled in size (depending on the weather, this might take between 2-5 hours).

Remove the dough onto a clean, floured surface. Roll and cut into 8-12 pieces (depending on size preference). Take one portion of the dough and roll out into a disc.

Scoop 1-3 tablespoons of the char siu filling (depending on the prefered dough size) into the middle of the disc. Gather the edges and twist to seal. Turn into over and place on lightly greased baking sheet at least two inches apart.

Repeat the process for the other bao. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rise for another hour or until the dough has doubled in size again. Make the egg wash by beating the egg with water. Brush on top of the bao.

Sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then serve on a tray.

Notes

  • Refrigerate leftover bao in a closed container. They are best reheated in the oven for a few minutes rather than in the microwave to retain a softer texture.
  • See our steamed manapua recipe here.

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