Yup, I’m going there. You can’t stop me even if you wanted to. Cover your eyes if you don’t want to read anymore about it…
Today, we are baking. I know. It’s unchartered waters for some. Baking can go terrible wrong. Haven’t you see some of those Pinterest fails? Are they hilarious…? Of course. But there is also a slight chance that those comical mistakes can happen to you. They happen to the best of us.
But there is no need to fear baking anymore because just like in cooking, there are techniques involved. If you follow the method, your cakes, biscuits, and breads should come out perfectly each time. It is a science, after all.
As with learning how to cook, we start with the simple recipes to teach us how to bake: Banana Bread. It’s the “How to Boil Water” of baking. Very difficult to mess up, I promise.
THE INGREDIENTS. I know I usually refrain from giving out measurements when I cook, but this isn’t cooking. This is the science of baking and you need proper measurements for any item to turn out correctly.
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 cups of AP flour
- 2-3 ripe bananas (depends on how banana-y you want your bread)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Chopped nuts (optional)
THE METHOD. No. We don’t just go down the list throwing everything in a bowl and hoping that it comes out of the oven looking and tasting okay. That’s just nonsense, people. It’s a simple method known as the Blending (or Muffin) Method. It’s called this because it’s the method used to make muffins, but it’s perfectly fine for making banana bread, too. It’s broken down into four parts. Four easy parts…
PART I. We start off by combining all of the liquid ingredients in a small bowl.
“Kelley, there isn’t any liquid in the recipe!” You might say in that frustrated tone of yours. Well, you are wrong. Because there are three ingredients that are considered liquids: the vegetable oil, the eggs, and the sugar. Yes, sugar is always considered a liquid because it acts more like a liquid, than a solid. Scientifically, that is. Just trust me on this one.
Mix (by hand) all of the ingredients thoroughly. Set aside.
PART II. Now, we are going to combine all of the dry ingredients. This includes everything but the bananas. Measure them out properly and sift them into a larger bowl. Give it a quick mix to make sure it is all combined.
Fun Fact Time! Ever wonder why some recipes call for baking soda and others baking powder? Both are chemical leaveners. Both serve the same purpose. So what’s the difference? You see baking soda is simply that: soda. Soda alone won’t leaven anything. It is added to recipes that include some sort of acid (the bananas in this case) and moisture. Once these three elements combine with heat, they create carbon dioxide, which makes your baked good rise.
On the other hand, baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, acid (like cream of tartar), and corn starch. This is added to recipes that don’t have any other acid in them such as a basic cake recipe. It just requires moisture and it will act similarly to baking soda when heat is applied.
Now, back to the banana bread!
PART III. In another small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. They’ll begin to break down and resemble baby food. It looks quite disgusting, in my opinion, but it’s required of us, nonetheless.
PART IV. This is the mixing part. Take your liquid ingredients and add them to the dry ingredients. Liquid to dry. Liquid to dry. It’s never the other way. Ever. It’ll be lumpy. Don’t do it.
Once this has been done, fold the wet into the dry until just mixed. Over-mixing this type of baked good will result in tunneling (holes running through the bread) and peaking (you know when you bake muffins and they bake into a point instead of a dome? Yeah, it’s because you over-mixed). Also, it’ll create this thing called a gluten network that will make your bread tough instead of soft and tender. No one wants that.
Add the smashed bananas and fold until just mixed. This is also when you would add the chopped nuts. I don’t like nuts in my bread. I prefer most desserts nut-less…Pour into a lightly greased baking pan (I prefer a loaf pan for this) until the pan is 3/4 full. My particular pan was a perfect fit, but your’s may not be. Don’t worry. Make two if your pans are on the smaller side. If it’s on the larger side, you can still use it, but your loaf will be shorter. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes. Remove and cover with aluminum foil. Bake another 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you poke it. Why the foil? Because we don’t want the bread to brown too much.
ENJOY IT. Let the bread cool and then enjoy that sucker. You baked something! You deserve to enjoy it before anybody else has the opportunity to gobble it up before you. If it didn’t turn out quite like you wanted it to, don’t worry. It will with more practice. If baking was easy, everyone would do it. Plus, if you have a dog, they won’t know the difference between good and bad banana bread. Sometimes you just have to look on the bright side of things.
Now, go off and bake you some banana bread. Or blueberry muffins. Whatever floats your boat…