Moist Banana Bread Recipe

Moist Banana Bread Recipe
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Improve Your Demeanor with Lemon Verbena

This herb is little used medicinally as it is a relative newcomer to Europeans and North Americans, being introduced into Europe in the late 18th century by the Spanish from its native Argentina and Chile. However it shares certain qualities with lemon balm, being a sedative and digestive aid. Taken as an infusion, it is also reputed to ease bronchial and nasal congestion. The tea has a delicious fresh lemon-lime taste with an even stronger citrus flavor than lemon balm.

verbena is a tender perennial and best grown in a pot in our climate. The roots
are tender so it’s recommended to keep the herb in a pot even when planting out
in the summer. In its native habitat it will grow into a 15-foot high shrub,
but in colder climes it rarely exceeds six feet. Even in South America it is a
deciduous plant and will lose its leaves in winter. The herb can also be grown
as an annual, but it is best propagated by cuttings.

verbena unfortunately is susceptible to both spider mites and whiteflies. A
strong jet of cold water is your best weapon against these pests. The herb is a
heavy feeder and will benefit by regular applications of fish emulsion. Unlike
most herbs, lemon verbena prefers rich, moist, but not soggy soil. The flowers are tiny, tubular, lavender
colored and generally appear in late summer and fall.

In teas
and cooking only the leaves are used. The leaves are long and pointed and when
fresh, tough. If whole, they should be removed from dishes before serving.
Dried, they can be finely crumbled and added to the batter of carrot cake,
banana bread or any baked dessert where a lemon flavor is desirable. Finely
chopped fresh, or crushed dried lemon verbena is delicious added to rice just
before serving, especially with fish.

fresh or dried leaves can be added to any dish where the addition of a lemon
flavor enhances the taste, including fish, poultry, marinades, salad dressings,
preserves and desserts.

For fans
of bread pudding, here’s a great dessert using the herb:

Bread Pudding with Lemon Verbena and Fresh Berry Sauce

12 x ½ inch slices bread, crusts removed

2 cups of milk

1 cup fresh minced lemon
verbena leaves

½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon

Berry Sauce

2 Tbsp. butter

4 cups of fresh (halved and
hulled) or frozen strawberries

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon

2 cups of fresh or frozen red

Dry the
bread slices in a 250-degree F oven for about 15 minutes. Then increase oven
temperature to 300 degrees. In a large bowl combine the milk, lemon verbena,
vanilla, salt and nutmeg. Tear the toasted bread into pieces and stir into the
liquid. Allow the bread to absorb the liquid. This will take about 10 minutes.

In a
small bowl combine the eggs, sugar and lemon juice. Beat until the mixture
turns light yellow and a ribbon forms when the beaters are lifted. Stir into
the bread-milk mixture. Pour into a buttered two-quart baking dish. Bake about
50 minutes or until the top is set and springs back from gentle pressure.
Remove and set aside.

To make
the berry sauce, melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over
medium-high heat. Add the strawberries and cook about five minutes. Add the
sugar and lemon juice and cook for two more minutes. Add the raspberries and
remaining butter. Cook just until the raspberries and soft and warm. Serve
bowls of the bread pudding with the hot berry sauce.

verbena was once used cosmetically, but there is some indication that the herb
may make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. It does however make a fine
addition to this:

Herbal Mouthwash

3 cups of filtered water

1oz. of fresh lemon verbena

1oz. of fresh peppermint leaves

1oz. of fresh rosemary

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the
herbs and remove from heat. Infuse (steep) until cool. Filter out the herbs and
bottle the liquid. Keep refrigerated and warm before using if preferred.

Because of its relative modernity,
lemon verbena has few legends surrounding it. However, the herb hung around one’s
neck or some of the juice drunk is supposed to protect one from dreams. It is
also used in love spells and is reputed to make the wearer attractive to the
opposite sex.

Bruce Burnett is an award-winning writer, a chartered herbalist and author of HerbWise: growing cooking wellbeing. Bruce and his wife Delaine own Olivia’s Fashion, Furnishings & Gifts ( in Ladysmith, BC Canada. Read more published articles by Bruce Burnett on his websites: and

Monday, August 3, 2009

All About Baking - Quick Breads

The Versatile Quick Bread

It's no wonder quick breads are so popular. They are easy, fast-as the name implies, nearly foolproof, versatile, and oh, so good. We commonly know them as sweetened loaves with fruit or nuts, somewhere between yeast breads and cakes in texture and sweetness. They are leavened with baking powder and baking soda. Banana bread and date nut bread are typical though some books list recipes for savory varieties.

Quick breads have less sugar and less fat than cakes. The nuts often found in quick breads add to the fat content. The fruit adds to the moisture as well as the flavor. Because quick breads tend to be drier than cakes, they are often spread with butter, cream cheese, or jam. Peanut butter is one of our favorite toppings.

Quick breads tend to be more dense and moist than muffins though the batter for quick breads can be baked in muffin tins. Generally, muffin batter is thinner than quick bread batter.

Quick breads are wonderfully versatile, appropriate whenever the richness of a cake is undesirable. They are often served at breakfast and brunch, for snacks, and they finish a meal well in place of a sweeter dessert. When used for a dessert, they can be topped with ice cream or a syrup. Slices can be toasted or dipped in eggs and made as French toast. They make great sandwiches-though a bit fragile unless "stuck" together with cream cheese or peanut butter. Try a fruit filled quick bread topped with shavings of ham or turkey.

How to Bake Quick Bread

There are two methods for mixing quick breads: the creaming method and the muffin method. With the creaming method, sugar and fat (butter, margarine, or shortening) are beat together to entrain air in the mixture and provide added lift to the batter. With the muffin method, the liquids are combined in one bowl, the dry ingredients in another, and then the two are mixed together. The creaming method tends to make a more cake-like bread. The steps for each method follow.

The Creaming Method

1. Place softened butter, margarine, or shortening in a bowl. Add the sugars, spices, and salt and beat until light and fluffy and air is entrained throughout the mixture. (Do not let the butter or margarine get warm enough that it approaches the melting point. Friction from the mixing, especially with an electric mixer, will increase the temperature.)

2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

3. Add any liquid ingredients and stir lightly.

4. Stir or whisk the remaining dry ingredients together. Add them to the mixture and stir until just combined.

5. Remove to the baking pan(s) and bake.

The Muffin Method

1. Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together to thoroughly disperse the salt, sugar, and leavenings throughout the flour.

2. Combine all the liquid ingredients including the melted fat.

3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Mix with a spatula until just combined-some lumps may remain.

4. Remove to the baking pan(s) and bake.

Pointers for Success

1. Do not over mix. Over mixing will develop the gluten and make the bread tough instead of tender.

2. Choose low gluten flour, either pastry or all-purpose flour. Bread flour will make a tough loaf.

3. Do not scoop the flour. Sift or whisk the flour to make it light and fluffy, not packed, then spoon it into the measuring cup.

4. The creaming method produces a more cake-like product and is well-suited for those recipes that have a high fat or sugar content. Consider the creaming method for those recipes that call for more than four tablespoons of butter per loaf.

5. Bake soon after mixing before the effect of the leavenings begin to dissipate.

6. If you use dry milk in your recipe, add it to liquid ingredients so that it can be stirred and thoroughly dissolved.

7. Commercial muffins tend to be very high in fat and sugar-more like a tea cake than a bread. Your quick bread should be more bread-like and not as rich as commercial muffins.

8. Grease pans well and consider dusting the pans with flour as well. (If you use butter, always dust your pans to absorb the water in the butter.) With the high sugar content, the loaves tend to stick in the pans. Non-stick pans are helpful.

9. Breads are easier to remove from the pan if they set for five or ten minutes before removing the bread.

10. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into a crack in the center of the loaf. If the bread is done, the toothpick should come out clean.

11. Quick breads are best if they are tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator overnight. After the bread has completely cooled, wrap it tightly in plastic or foil. As the bread chills, both the flavor and the moisture permeate the bread. The bread can be stored in the refrigerator for five to seven days.

12. Quick breads can also be frozen. Place the wrapped breads in freezer-grade plastic bags and freeze them for up to three months. When ready to use, thaw the loaves in the refrigerator while still wrapped.

Troubleshooting Tips

1. Cracked top: A cracked top is desirable and not a fault.

2. Tunnels and voids: Tunnels and voids in the bread are a symptom of over mixing. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Some lumps may remain.

3. Tough texture: A tough texture instead of a tender texture is another symptom of over mixing. Occasionally, too high of baking temperature will cause toughness.

4. Soggy texture: If the batter is left for too long before baking, it may be soggy or sunk in the middle. If the there is too much liquid or not enough leavening, the bread may be soggy.

5. Coarse, crumbly texture: The bread should be moist and dense. Too much fat or too much leavening will cause the bread to be crumbly.

6. Bitter, soapy aftertaste: Too much baking soda or baking powder will create an aftertaste.

7. Too thick or too brown of a crust: A tough thick crust may be caused by too high of oven temperature or too much sugar.

8. Greasy crumb: Too much fat will create a greasy texture.

9. Crisp edges: Too much fat or too much fat and sugar will create crisp edges.

Dennis Weaver is the author of "How to Bake", a free 250-page e-book. Which is free at The Prepared Pantry The Prepared Pantry sells bread mixes and other baking mixes and offers a free Bread Center with recipes and techniques.