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It’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S Bread

Here’s my first post. Banana Banana Bread



So Emily sent me a message earlier and asked if I would like to contribute to the blog from Philadelphia, PA. I finished up all my homework and said hey why not. So I live in a dorm room that has a “full size” kitchen. Meaning I have a full size oven and refrigerator, and countertop space… not so much. I have a 2×2 workspace and that is being generous.


When I was looking up recipes for Banana Bread I stumbled across some that require a lot of ingredients and equipment. While reading through the recipes I said to my self, “I don’t have a lot of the equipment or ingredients needed to make this recipe.” It might be because I live in a dorm with very few useful cooking and baking supplies or that I’m an inexperienced baker. (It’s a combination of both.) So I kept on looking until I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com that required few ingredients and very high reviews. So why not give it a try?


Since I live in a dorm, let me describe the conditions I have to work in: No power mixers, very little workspace, one whisk, one mixing bowl, one 8 in X 4 in baking pan (the recipe calls for a 9X5 pan), and that’s about it. So here is a picture of all the workspace I have when all of my ingredients are out on the counter that I need to use to bake some delicious banana bread.

Workspace in a Dorm

So I got to the first step where I’m supposed to mix the flour, baking soda, and salt into the mixing bowl when I already encountered a problem with a lack of equipment. First problem: I only have sea salt in a grinder so I have to grind all the salt I need in order to get it out of my grinder. Second problem: I only need ¼ of a teaspoon of salt. Too bad I only have a ½ teaspoon available to use. Looks like I’m going to have to guesstimate the amount of salt I’m using.


Next step: Time to cream together the brown sugar and butter. No problem, except for the fact that I’m already out of mixing bowls. So I’ve reached step two and I’m onto my third problem of the recipe. No more mixing bowls. In order to continue with this recipe I’m going to use my cereal/ soup bowls to cream the butter and brown sugar.


  • Just as a reminder- I have to cream it together by hand. In my cereal/ soup bowl. With a dinner spoon. Take a look.


Creaming the Brown Sugar and Butter by Hand

Ok now next step beat eggs. Can I go through one step of the recipe with out encountering a problem? I am out of mixing bowls still and had to mix the eggs in a measuring cup. Lucky me!


Next step: Mash bananas. Where can I mash the bananas? I know in my Tupperware! It is a bit comical to see.


Mashing Bananas in Tupperware


Ok so after this last dilemma. Things started to go smooth. Everything mixed together into my bowl and poured it into my baking pan. So now I have to play the waiting game.



I won the waiting game and everything finished baking in about 64 minutes. Not too bad. The banana bread finished a nice golden brown on one side and a little darker on the other side. But hey, can’t complain about this results while bread baking in a dorm room missing a lot of equipment. One last problem- no cooling rack. Looks like I’ll have to use a dinner plate. Now it’s time to let it cool and then time to chow down!


Hot Bread

Overall this recipe is not too bad. It tastes pretty good and is really easy to make. If I can make it in my dorm room lacking a few things here and there you should have an easy time with this one.

Great Cooling Rack


If I could I would add some walnuts, or some chocolate chips or something to this recipe. Just to dress it up a little bit. It’s a bit plain but hey that’s why the name is Banana Banana Bread. Just bananas.



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Casatiello, a Neapolitan Easter bread, is also known as Tortano in other parts of Italy. The word casatiello is derived from the Neapolitan word for “cheese.”

Casatiello is enriched bread, much like brioche, with the addition of cured meat and cheeses. Traditionally, Italians add salami and pecorino-romano and/or provolone cheeses.

Like many other breads, casatiello has religious significance. The rising dough represents the resurrection of Christ on Easter. The traditional circular shape represents Christ’s crown, and the eggs on top signify His rebirth.

To incorporate the meat and cheese, Reinhart kneads in these additions. However, while researching other recipes, they call for the dough to be rolled out flat, sprinkled with meat and cheese, and rolled up like a sandwich loaf. The traditional casatiello is topped with raw eggs, covered with dough crosses. When baked, the eggs atop the casatiello are similar to hard-boiled eggs. Reinhart bakes his bread in tall mold, like a coffee can, lined with a paper bag. However, many traditional recipes call for the dough being shaped in ring and baked in a tube pan.

In comparison to many of Reinhart’s recipes, this bread can be made in one day, rather than retarding overnight. However, he does use a sponge to add more flavor to his bread. I began by mixing flour and yeast, which I added warm milk to. I let this ferment for about an hour, until it collapsed when tapped the bowl.

Meanwhile, I shredded some provolone cheese, and diced some salami. I sautéed the salami for a few minutes, and it rendered some fat and became slightly crispy.

Next, I mixed flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid. Next, I added eggs and the sponge to the flour mixture, and mixed until it became a ball. After resting a few minutes, (known as autolyse), I added ¾ cup of room temperature butter in 4 additions. The dough was sticky and soft, and I kneaded it for about 5 minutes until it became slightly tacky and smooth.

I sprinkled the meat over the dough, and tried to knead it in the mixer. However, the salami just whizzed around the bowl, so I decided to knead by hand. After the meat was incorporated, I added the cheese, which mixed in much easier than the meat. I let the mixed dough rest for about an hour and a half, for the first rise.

Since I didn’t have coffee tins, and I didn’t want to stray from Reinhart’s recipe, I chose to bake the casatiello in two loaf pans. I shaped it like I would sandwich bread- I flattened it into a rectangle and rolled it into a tight cylinder. Remembering my mishap while shaping the brioche, I made sure to seal these loaves extra tight. After being shaped, I let the dough rise for the final time for about 90 minutes.

The loaves baked in a 350 degree oven until they were golden brown, and the insides reached about 190 degrees. Unlike the brioche, they were not glazed, but the top was speckled with dark bits of cheese.

When I cut into the loaf, I could see the bits of melted cheese, which made this cool, web-like structure in the bread. Maybe because I’m not a fan of cured meats is the reason that I didn’t really find this bread to my liking. Although I liked the rich and soft texture of the bread, I didn’t like the bits of salami. I probably should have cubed the meat finer, so it was more evenly distributed. I made this bread with my mentor, Mr. Esteban, in mind. He does not like sweet breads and casatiello is the epitome of the savory kind he would enjoy.

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Well, this may seem irrelevant as it is Greek Christmas bread and Christmas was two days ago, but it looked too good to wait another 362 more days.

Christopsomos, Christ’s Bread, plays an essential part of Christmas in Greece. Greek celebration breads are generally called Artos, but are given specific names and shapes depending on their corresponding holiday. Specialty holiday breads include Lambropsomo is the Greek Easter Bread topped with hard-boiled eggs and Vassilopita which is the New Year’s bread which has a hidden gold coin. Key differences between these breads use different fruits, have different shapes, and various additions associated with the holiday.

Peter Reinhart’s Cristopsomos is topped with a traditional cross. Other variations of this Christmas bread are decorated with pieces of dough which represent family in symbols or in cut outs of animals. Cristopsomos is a sacred Greek Orthodox bread, which is often times blessed by a priest. This bread is such a rarity that baker’s splurge on expensive, luxurious  ingredients like dried fruits, spices, and nuts.
Authentic spices include mahleb and mastic, but these are difficult to find in America. Mahleb is a spice made from the pits of dark cherries from the Mediterranean area. It is fragrant, nutty, and a bit bitter tasting.  Mastic is the hardened sap from a tree, and is ground and used for its ceder-like taste.

It begins with a poolish overnight, which adds more flavor to the bread. The next morning,  the dry ingredients are mixed, and then the poolish and the wet ingedients are added. This bread is an enrcihed bread, meaning it contains honey, oil and eggs. The texture should be soft, and the flavor should be rich and slightly sweet, much like a challah.

After the ingredients are mixed, the dough is needed until soft and supple. This was initially sticky, but after some added flour and some kneading (about ten minutes!) the dough was soft. I kneaded in cranberries, walnuts, and raisins to the dough.

I let the dough rise once for about an hour, and then divided it into thirds. One third serves the purpose of the cross, while the other 2/3 is shaped into a boule. The “cross” dough is put into the refrigerator. I let it rise for the second time for about an hour and a half, until it was double in size. However, I left to go to my friends house, so I put the dough in the fridge overnight, to retard the yeast and would allow me to have time to bake the next day.

In the morning, I took the dough out to warm up. After it became room-temperature, I took the third of the “cross” dough and cut it in two. I rolled each piece into a long snake, rocking my hands back and forth, elongating it into a ten inch rope. I placed the ropes in an X shape over the boule. With the ends that hung over the bread, I cut them in half, and curled the dough into a spiral. Mine kind of look deformed, but Peter’s look brilliant, and make it a very beautiful bread.


The dough is baked until it reached 190F and a deep golden brown. Immediately after it is taken out of the oven, I brushed over a glaze consisting of water, dissolved sugar, honey and lemon extract. The glaze made the loaf glisten, and made the crust sticky, and I sprinkled over sesame seeds.

The bread was delicious! It has been one of my favorite breads that I’ve ever made. It’s sweet-it tastes of warm spices and lemon, has a nice chew from the glaze and the dried fruit, and the crunch of the seeds and nuts. Mine wasn’t beautiful-my swirls looked pretty unappetizing, but, I will definitely make this again, and hopefully, I will improve at making Christopsomos.




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This is the first recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and the first recipe I am tackling for both Baking Across Country and my W.I.S.E project!

Anadama bread is originated in Rockport, MA, and dates back to at least 1915. Not just a localized specialty, Anadama bread is associated with the entire New England area.

So the story goes- Anadama bread was named after an angry fisherman’s wife, Anna, who made corn and molasses porridge for her husband everyday. Sick of the monotonous mush, he swore at his wife, “Anna, damn her!” as he mixed flour and yeast to his porridge. This fit of fury resulted in the delicious molasses and corn bread we now know as Anadama bread. I don’t know if I believe it, but it makes for a nice story.

Anyway-the recipe. Peter begins his bread with an overnight soak of the coarse cornmeal, attempting to coax more flavor out of the grain. Cross-referencing Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Anadama American Loaf,  I notice a few key differences. CI cooks the cornmeal in boiling water, in order to soften the grain. Milk is also used instead of water, resulting in a more tender loafs.

Peter’s recipe then combines the cornmeal soaker,  yeast, water, and part of the flour together. This is also used to create more flavor and prolongs the fermentation process.

After about an hour, the enriching ingredients are added- in addition to more flour and salt, molasses and butter are mixed in until the dough forms a ball. Then the dough is kneaded until it is no longer sticky, but soft and pliable.  I wanted to do this by hand, at least for the beginning of my W.I.S.E. project, so I could physically feel when more flour need to be added. The windowpane test is used- the dough when stretched between should hold a “paper-thin, translucent membrane”- in order to see if it is kneaded enough.

Afterward, the dough proofs for about an hour, or until it doubles in bulk. Then, the dough rests, is shaped and put into loaf pans, and proofs for the second and final time.

Sprinkled with more cornmeal, the loaves are baked until golden brown, or until the dough reaches about 190F, and let it cool.

It was delicious, with a tight crumb, like a loaf of sandwich bread. It’s slightly sweet, and the cornmeal lends a crunch, although I think  I could have used a finer ground cornmeal.

This  was my first recipe of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge! I just don’t know what I’m going to do with all this bread! I guess all my friends will have some!



Reinhart, Peter. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. 1st ed. . New York, New York: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 58, 108-110. Print.

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We’re siblings. We both love food. And we love to bake and cook together. The catch is that we live 3,000 miles apart.We’ve talked about starting a blog for a while now, but it’s always been a passing “Oh, wouldn’t that be cool?” novel idea. Not anymore!

We’ve fawned over Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice for years, oohing over the endless blogs following their adventure through this informative book. We’ve baked challahs, ciabattas, and croissants, baguettes, boules and bagels. Evan has even entered the world of sourdough, making his own starter out in Santa Cruz, CA, and even brought some back to me in NJ! Now it’s our turn to share our journey through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Additionally, for my senior year internship class, I’m interning at a bread bakery in Princeton, NJ, and I’d like this blog to chronicle my experiences in the bakery.

For now, it’ll only be me writing for Baking Across Country because Evan is in Antarctica on an Oceanography mission, and he’s out of commission to bake until February (although he was talking about making a new starter aboard the ship!). I hope I’ll keep everything afloat! (oh, puns.)

I’m very excited to discuss both our successes and difficulties  using the same recipe book. It’ll be very interesting how similar (or different) they turn out!

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