21 December 2014

Baking for Friends and Family

RvH's first selfie.

RvH loves home-baked goodies, so I always try to include a couple of treats at her birthday and at Christmas. Banana bread is a given, and lately giant M+M cookies, ever since she declared then her favorite.

I'm lucky enough to have the world's best banana bread recipe. The original came from one of those spiral-bound women's club cookbooks, where everyone includes their best time-honored recipes. This one came from a local doctor's wife--from when Crystal Lake was a small city and most everyone had some connection to everyone else. That all changed with the 1960s suburban migration, expressways, and the resultant housing boom. We moved to CL in 1975 just when that small northern Illinois city began to be referred to as suburban. 
Anyway, I digress...

(Helen Hillstrom, from the Crystal Lake Collection, 1987)

1/2 cup Butter
1-1/2 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 cup Bananas, mashed****
4 T. Sour milk* or fresh milk soured by adding 1 T. lemon juice to 1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 cups Flour
1 tsp. Lemon rind, grated**
1/2 cup Nuts, chopped***

What has always set-off this recipe from others is the addition of lemon zest. Who knew?! Over the years, I've incorporated a few changes from the original:
  1. Use sour cream rather than buttermilk*
  2. Increased the lemon zest from 1 tsp. to @ 2 tsps.**
  3. Toast the walnuts before adding to the batter***
  4. Dice, rather than mash the bananas **** 
  5. Butter and sugar the baking pan(s), rather than butter and flour


For the M+M cookies, I just use a standard recipe--Tollhouse works. This time I used the recipe from the Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips bag. 

My process is to add @ 1/2 cup of the Chocolate Chips to the raw dough, then scoop (@1/3 cup) the dough into 2" balls, and bake according to recipe.

These are 2" in diameter.

Just as soon as the cookies come out of the oven, I quickly press the M+Ms into cookies  Very quickly. Get someone to help you if you are doing more than just a few cookies at a time.

These cookies are @5" in diameter.

CA and my sister JL each enjoyed a sampling tonight. The rest of the cookie balls are frozen in a Hefty zip bag--some to be baked on Monday for the Fun Kids and the final 4-5 I'll bake on the day RvH and I meet to exchange gifts. 

Sometimes I give the frozen cookies as a gift,
along with baking instructions.

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