Cocoa Butter Banana Bread

Banana Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup cocoa butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup flax, ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
  • 1 cup pecans, crushed

Directions

Mash the bananas with a fork until mostly smooth. Mix the melted cocoa butter, bananas, eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, then stir in the flax and salt. Stir together the dry and wet ingredients until the dry ingredients have just been moistened. Stir in the chocolate and pecans, then pour into a prepared 5″x9″ loaf pan. Bake for 75 minutes at 325ºF until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

And now for the details…

Before getting into the full story, I should probably mention that this banana loaf was much more in the crumby cake side of texture as opposed to the more typical ultra moist banana bread. This is a texture I prefer, but if you like the super smooshy type of banana bread, this is not the loaf for you.

As far as where my inspiration came from, it was from, as usual, meandering around my grocery store. I randomly found some raw cocoa butter on sale. I stood in front of the shelf for quite awhile with the bag in my hand. What was I going to use it for? No idea. It’s supposed to be really good for you. But what are these purported health benefits of this fat compared to most others? And how would I use it? I think I melt it down as a fat replacement in meals? Surely I can figure something out. Hadn’t I heard of people putting it into smoothies at the very least? If I used it for cooking, would it make everything taste like chocolate? But most importantly it’s on sale… how could I say no?

Well, I took it home… and it sat sad and lonely in my pantry closet for months. So yeah, it was on sale, and I bought it, and then I almost forgot about the gorram thing.

So months went by and one day I had some uber ripe bananas that clearly needed a home in a baked good. Which I suppose is not saying a lot for me… once a banana has one brown spot on it, it’s too ripe for fresh eating, and is officially a baking banana. I do thoroughly enjoy me some banana baked goods, however, and a good banana bread is a pretty delicious snacking option. And then, I remembered *ba-ba-da-baaaaaa* cocoa butter! Now could be its big break!

Looking into the cocoa butter since I bought it, the health benefits that I’d thought I’d heard or read about seemed… weak. Does it provide a good fat source for folks functioning off a keto diet? It sure does… like pretty much any fat source out there. Is it quite high in phytosterols, which have claim to lowering LDL cholesterol? Yes it is… like many vegetable oils. But… I don’t follow a keto diet, and while I try to maintain an overall healthy and balanced diet, phytosterol intake is not something I am monitoring. Sure hope this stuff is delicious, cause that’s the main thing I am now focused on. Worse case, I suppose, I could slather it on my body instead and have an expensive, but delicious smelling moisturizer!

Let’s get to cooking.

My mistake when making this was to start with mashing the bananas. What I really should have started with was getting the melting process of the cocoa butter going. Cocoa butter is clearly a winner from a shelf stability perspective. It’s melting point is higher than coconut oil or butter, and it takes quite bit longer to melt down to a useable liquid than most other fat options I have used. One of my favourite parts, though: when a little bit of the melted butter smashed onto my hands while stirring, and I rubbed it into my skin instead of wiping it off. Seriously, great moisturizer if nothing else.

Before we get to the next step, preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Once you have the butter melted and the bananas mashed, mix the two together, than add in the eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. I used vanilla sugar in the recipe, which I have in my pantry by throwing a used vanilla pod into some sugar in a hermetic glass jar in the pantry. Regular sugar would do just just fine, just increase your vanilla addition to about 1.5 teaspoons.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, flax, and salt. You can buy flax pre-ground, but I buy the flax whole and grind it just before you use it. I have a separate coffee grinder that I keep specifically for grinding seeds and spices, which I used to grind the flax.

Next, mix the dry and wet ingredients until they are just combined. Next is to add the chocolate and pecans, and stir into the batter until fairly evenly mixed in.

Grease the loaf pan, and line it with parchment paper. Turn the batter out into the prepared pan, and place into the preheated oven. Bake for around 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven, let it cool, then cut and enjoy!

Happy eating.

First post… Whew. Perisky, here we come.

Perisky Dough

  • Servings: 5 dozen buns
  • Difficulty: medium
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A recipe from my Ukrainian grandma: little buns stuffed with sauerkraut, meat or stewed fruits. Sauerkraut filling recipe follows!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp fast rising yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 12-14 cups flour

Directions

  1. Mix together the water, sugar and yeast, and let sit.
  2. Warm 1/2 cup of the butter, the lard and milk together in a saucepan just until the butter and lard have melted, do not overheat.
  3. Combine the milk mixture and the yeast mixture in a very large bowl. Then mix in 8 cups of the flour. Cover and allow to rise in a relatively warm location for approximately 2 hours.
  4. After the dough has risen, mix in the salt and egg.
  5. Heavily flour your clean counter surface with remaining flour. Starting kneading the flour into the dough, adding more flour to the mixture as needed, until the dough no longer sticks to the counter surface. Transfer the dough back to a bowl, cover, and let rest for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400ºF and get the filling ready (recipe below) while waiting for the dough.
  7. Punch down the dough. Pinch off a small piece of dough. Roll into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Fill with 1-2 tsp. of your filling, then gather and pinch your dough together to close. Lay the perisky sealed-side-down on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 or until golden brown. Melt 1/2 cup of butter, and brush buns with butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Perisky Stuffing - Sauerkraut

This recipe is enough for half the dough. The remaining half of the dough can be filled with alternative fillings, made into small, unfilled buns, or you can double this recipe to fill them all with sauerkraut.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 1 jar (800mL) sauerkraut (try to avoid wine sauerkraut)
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a large sturdy pan, sauté the onion in the butter until caramelized. Add the sauerkraut, and cook until fully heated. Add fresh coarsely ground pepper to taste.

And now for the details…

I recently lost my grandma and have become extremely nostalgic for the things that remind me of her. A significant amount of my memories with my grandma take place either in her kitchen or her garden. This recipe touches on both, since, although I am suggesting using bought sauerkraut, Grandma would make the sauerkraut with cabbage from her garden. She would shred the veggie, salt it heavily to get the water to release, then put it in the basement to ferment. My grandma was the OG of the reuse movement: a large, diligently cleaned KFC bucket was the vessel of choice for this undertaking. Once emptied, the bucket was cleaned back up, and put into storage for the next time. You may note that the only two ingredients Grandma used were cabbage and salt. It is the reason I’ve suggested avoiding wine sauerkraut. It has a different flavour than a sauerkraut that only contains cabbage and salt, and wouldn’t taste nearly the same as Grandma’s 🙂

Perisky were often made for special occasions. I remember having them frequently at the big baby or wedding showers that would be held for extended family or friends of the family in local community halls across southern Manitoba. Finger sandwiches, pickles, veggies and dainties (***see note on dainties) were already on the table, but the headliner was when baskets of hot perisky were brought out out from the kitchen to signal the start of the meal.

***Dainty: noun plural dainties; Manitobism; any cookie, square, cake or other form of sweet deliciousness, placed on plates as a random assortment for sweet tooth consumption. Often placed in muffin cups prior to plating, to make them prettier (which I like to call “daintifying”). A great visual example can be found here, courtesy of Goodies Bake Shop.

A quick note on pronunciation. Despite the spelling, we never pronounced it “per-riss-kee”. The “r” is a hard roll of the tongue, almost coming out as a “d”, and the “y” at the end is more of a shortened “eh” sounds, kinda like you would use for “meh.” Also, the “s” is a “sh”, so in all you get something that sounds like “ped-ish-keh”. Isn’t learning fun?

Okay, enough background information, let’s get to the cooking.

We are going to start by mixing the yeast with sugar and water to feed our little yeasties so they will give us delicious bread. While waiting for the yeasties to eat their breakfast, we heat our milk, lard and butter. Keep the temp low-to-mid, so we allow the fats to melt more slowly, without scorching the milk. The fats in this dough recipe will hinder the gluten from getting too long, resulting in a fairly crumby (not crummy!) bread, almost pastry-like.

Melting our fats in milk

After we have fully melted the fats in the milk, mix it together with the yeast solution and dry ingredients (minus some of the flour). The result should be an incredibly soft, almost liquid, dough that we let sit in the bowl in a warm place for 2 hours to do its first rise. If you are going to cover the dough (which is a good idea to keep it from forming a dry crust on top), make sure there is PLENTY of room in the bowl for the dough to rise, otherwise you’ll end up with a sticky mess adhered to whatever you’ve used to cover it with (learned from experience? …maybe…)

First rise

After the yeasties have finished their lunch and the dough has risen, we will use some of the leftover flour to thoroughly cover the countertop and then turn the dough out onto the flour.

Soft gooey dough ready for kneading

We mix the flour into the dough through kneading, adding more flour as we go, until the dough no longer sticks to the counter. The dough will be extremely soft and sticky to start, but as we knead in more flour, the dough will form up.

Dough ready for one last rest before forming our perisky

Let the dough rest, covered, one more time. While we wait, we’ll make the filling. If you are fast with your filling, make sure you let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes before you start assembly.

In a pan, melt the butter, then add the sliced onions, and cook slow over medium heat to caramelize to a nice golden brown.

Not a lot smells better than onions getting toasty brown in butter…

When the onions are ready, we add the sauerkraut. If you’ve chosen to use a wine or vinegar sauerkraut, you will likely need to drain the kraut first, but I find most of the salt-based krauts have very little liquid in the jar and can be added directly to the pan. We sauté the kraut and onions until any liquid that did exist has evaporated, then add some nice coarse black pepper to taste preference. Now is a good time to preheat the oven (400ºF).

Tasting just a little bit will be necessary to ensure quality, right?

Now we are ready to assemble! Punch down the dough, and then pinch off a small portion for your first bun. The amount you pinch off should about 50% to 75% of the size you want your buns to be. You might need to flour your fingers a little bit to make the dough easy to work with. With a light touch, roll the dough into a ball, then flatten into a pancake.

Add 1-2 tsp of your filling to the centre of the dough, and pinch the outsides together to form the bun. I’ve found it easiest to use a fork for sauerkraut, and twirl the fork in the sauerkraut like you would with spaghetti to get a nice dense little filling piece to pinch around.

Once we’ve pinched the dough into a little bun, we place the bun sealed-side down on a cookie sheet. We will continue stuffing until we’ve filled the sheet, and then place in the oven. My original recipe said 12-15 minutes, but I’ve found it typically takes 15-20 minutes for the perisky to reach the right amount of golden. Why the extra cooking time? Am I making the perisky too big? I might be. My grandma had opinions on the sizes… I think it had to do with the care and time involved, but my grandma usually made her perisky, perogies and holupchi quite small, and anything that was too big was considered poorer quality… eek.

Once golden, pull the perisky out of the oven and brush some melted butter (salt it, if it is unsalted butter) and let cool. You’re ready to eat! Careful! The insides will be steaming hot!

As an end note, you can fill the perisky with all kinds of different fillings. I had more dough than sauerkraut filling (I only made a single recipe of the sauerkraut filling), so also I made a thick applesauce with crabapples, butter, sugar and cinnamon and filled the rest of the dough with that. My dad also has memories of one of his aunt filling them with stewed dates, and a friend of mine had a family member who would fill them with a bacon and ham filling, which I feel I will need to try and recreate at some point because that sounds amazing. The possibilities are endless!

I’m excited to start this cooking adventure with you all, stay tuned for more posts!