Bites from Europe: A Post in Photos, Part I.

I spent four months in Europe, most of that time spent either on trains or somewhere on campus buckling down on schoolwork. One thing I wish I’d done more: photographed more of my meals & snacks.

Train life: One of my European staples, very early one, was the nutty, seeded, grainy bread found in bakeries and grocery stores.

Train life: One of my European staples, very early one, was the nutty, seeded, grainy bread found in bakeries and grocery stores.

Italian food in Budapest: cheese & herb-stuffed chicken topped with tomatoes.

Italian food in Budapest: cheese & herb-stuffed chicken topped with tomatoes.

Tiramisu in Roma on Mardi Gras.

Tiramisu in Roma on Mardi Gras.

Cold "pasta fresca" from a cafeteria on a Roman side street.

Cold “pasta fresca” from a cafeteria on a Roman side street.

More pasta in Roma - the best I had abroad!

More pasta in Roma – the best I had abroad!

Une crepe au jambon et fromage in Lisieux, France.

Une crepe au jambon et fromage in Lisieux, France.

Pain au chocolat in transit from Lyon to Barcelona.

Pain au chocolat in transit from Lyon to Barcelona.

A very unfortunate sandwich (brie and cranberry - delicious in theory, not so much in practice) but wonderful bravas in the background (small potatoes).

A very unfortunate sandwich (brie and cranberry – delicious in theory, not so much in practice) but wonderful bravas in the background (small potatoes).

The best way to finish off a not-so-good lunch: deep, dark, and dare I say deadly, chocolate cake from a professional pastry chef.

The best way to finish off a not-so-good lunch: deep, dark, and dare I say deadly, chocolate cake from a professional pastry chef.

Maria's fancy chocolates; the flavors included olive oil, rosemary, and lemon.

Maria’s fancy chocolates; the flavors included olive oil, rosemary, and lemon.

Churros con chocolata in Barcelona - or, in Catalan, xurros con xocolata. This might have been my favorite dessert in all of Europe. The churros were freshly fried then promptly sugar-coated at a small place down the road; we carried them in white paper cones to a cafe where we ordered our hot chocolate, a drink so thick you can't sip it - it MUST be eaten with a spoon, or consumed on a churro!

Churros con chocolata in Barcelona – or, in Catalan, xurros con xocolata. This might have been my favorite dessert in all of Europe. The churros were freshly fried then promptly sugar-coated at a small place down the road; we carried them in white paper cones to a cafe where we ordered our hot chocolate, a drink so thick you can’t sip it – it MUST be eaten with a spoon, or consumed on a churro!

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Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars.

That title is a mouthful

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of delicious.

Sometimes, I expect myself to give lengthy, eloquent blog posts. Here’s a story, let’s have a laugh or poignant moment, now let me tie it into a baked good and tell you why you should bake and then consume it.

By “sometimes”, I mean “usually.” And by “usually,” I mean “always.”

I’ve never been very succinct.

I’m giving myself a break, a mental break. I know that if you’ve stumbled down the page this far, you’ll probably like the recipe. These bars are dense, thick, satisfying, comforting. Let them be a rainy-day treat, enjoyed with a cup of tea by an open window, or a sweet square to slow down your crazy mornings.

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Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes an 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup mini pretzels

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with parchment paper, or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. As the dough begins to come together, slowly add the milk and mix until the dough forms.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Press into the prepared baking dish. Arrange the pretzels on top of the dough, pressing in lightly. Bake for about 17-20 minutes, until edges are brown. Cool completely and cut into squares. Devour.

most ardently.

(I love you.)

  1. All of these dresses. All. Of. Them.
  2. Portable burrito. When I was in Poland, my friends and I had the misfortune of dining at a “Mexican” restaurant, a night which became one of my regretted adventures. But, going to Chipotle in Paris (we were homesick!) made up for it. Burritos for days.
  3. Honey Almond Quinoa Granola. Do you know how much I adore Kristin’s blog? A lot. This granola looks to die for.
  4. Gregory Alan Isakov. Be still my heart. My roommate and I listened to this song all semester, and it’s still as gorgeous as ever.
  5. Music to my little introverted ears.
  6. Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies. Yes. Please. In my mouth. Now.
  7. Just for fun. Because who doesn’t like ridiculous looking cats?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, revisited.

[PSA: Wordless Wednesdays has moved to currently unnamed Friday in honor of this recipe.]

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Hi, my name is Cakey, and I’m perpetually five years old.

I like to make messes. I like to play with the bubbles in the sink when I wash dishes. This weekend, I bought two coloring books. Last week, I ordered chicken strips for dinner with friends. When I was at a boy’s house, he asked what I wanted to drink – of course, I asked for a juice box. Part of me still wants to scream when I sit down in the dentist’s chair. A very large part of me.

Eventually, adult mode kicks in – flour is swept up, Anna Karenina is opened & read, and yes, please, I would like a side salad.

Oh, and packing for school happens.

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It’s that time of year again, when all my friends leave for college, leaving a week between me having friends and me heading back to campus. Thus, separation anxiety sets in, sadness ensues, and my oven mysteriously turns on.

I went back to the start to revisit one of my very first recipes. Kathryn & I baked it with the idea of sending some of it to a boy. Strangely enough, I baked it again this time with the same intention, for the same boy who is once again going to be six hours away from me for a few months. C’est la vie.

At least this time he’s fully aware of the intention behind the banana bread. I’m twice as alluring when I’m holding a freshly baked loaf of one of his favorite foods.

Feminine wiles, indeed.

Enough of the romance mush. Allow me to turn your attention to banana mush instead.

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I made a few more tweaks from the recipe I originally adapted from the great Joy the Baker, although very few. There seem to be varying opinions on the addition of vanilla extract to banana bread – this time, I added it to deepen the sweetness of the bananas. Self-control is null and void when it comes to vanilla.

Happy accident! My four pound Nestle chocolate chip bag (finally) ran out, leaving me with no choice but to chop up some dark chocolate sitting in my fridge. Chopped chocolate is, to me, more aesthetically pleasing than

This has become an all-butter/no oil recipe. A lot of bakers like using oil in breads and muffins to keep them moist (hold up, I hate that word with a passion. Unfortunately, it’s the only one that conveys what I’m trying to say), but then you miss out on the flavor the butter gives.

Finally, I added a crumble. Banana bread covered in sugar, oatmeal, and walnuts makes it a little more special.

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It’s as spectacular as it was before, only better. Do I contradict myself? (Very well, then I contradict myself.) This is probably the best banana bread you’ll ever eat – the perfect balance of sweet banana, smooth peanut butter, and just enough chocolate to round it out.

I’m still five years old when I make this bread, considering I had to taste-test it. Several times. This might’ve fueled my recent child-like spontaneity.

Embrace your inner child.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (printable recipe here)
makes 1 loaf pan (can use a cake pan or muffin tin)
originally from Joy the Baker
adapted from yours truly

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 4 medium) mashed oh-so-very ripe* bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Optional oat-nut topping

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a loaf pan; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combing flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate medium mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, and melted butter.
  4. Beat in eggs, then sugars, until mixture is smooth.
  5. Barely fold the wet ingredients into the dry, until the mixture is mostly combined but a few flour streaks still remain. Fold in chocolate and nuts.
  6. If desired, in a small bowl, combine brown sugar, walnuts, and oats for oat-nut topping. Set aside.
  7. Pour batter into prepared baking pan; sprinkle with oat-nut topping or brown sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes. Invert loaf onto a wire rack to cool completely. Devour.

*NOTE: If your bananas aren’t yet ripe but you’re craving banana bread anyways, place them (skins still ON) on a baking sheet and stick them in a 350 degree F oven for about 35 minutes. The peels will turn black, but the inside will be ripe and sweet (and very easy to mash). Proceed with recipe.

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Black banana peels, mmmmm.

 

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Hey, you! Yes, you! What do you think of my tweaks – unnecessary or delicious? Do you have a favorite banana bread recipe or add-in of your own?

Coconut, Almond, & Chocolate Chip Scones.

(Or Almond Joy Scones. Or, more fittingly, Almond Joy the Baker Scones. Have I ever mentioned how much I adore her blog? I do. A ton.) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My mother decided to reorganize our silverware drawer. After five and a half years of living in this house, we’ve only had the drawer one way, even after we got new silverware. Now, I’m unconsciously reaching for a knife when I want to eat cereal and finding spoons when I really just want to make a PB&J. Sometimes, the changes are bigger than that. Sometimes, friends will choose to go away permanently, whether on amiable or unfriendly terms. You might uproot your life and travel across continents to chase (and, hopefully, find) your dreams. Routines change; “normal” changes. You find yourself in strange places and even more bizarre scenarios, and as you fumble through life, you do your best, you fight the fight, you gulp the coffee and breathe the best you can. Life is rough. Breakfast can make it better. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Mornings feel like the calm before the storm, especially if you’re up before dawn, which is one of the many reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Settling into a routine gives you a bit of solid ground to stand on. Thus, I bring you scones to help the transition between “blissfully enjoying my 4th hour of sleep” and “I forgot it’s Monday” and all the other worries and anxieties on your mind. Soft, buttery, coconut-y, and comforting, like little bits of home. Biscuits and scones are some of my favorite baked goods to make – no waiting for butter to come down to room temperature, and plus, you get to use a pastry cutter. Or your hands. Like playing in the dirt, except you’re playing with butter and flour. And you’re not in small, flowered overalls. I’d say the most important point in this recipe is the toast the coconut and almonds beforehand. Heat brings out the best in both of those ingredients. And these little biscuits can be adjusted to your sweet tooth, or lack thereof. More coconut? Fewer almonds? White chocolate? Go for it. Whatever makes you feel most at home – whatever’s gonna get you through the day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Make these tonight. Throw one in the microwave or toaster oven tomorrow morning as you’re rushing about, trying not to forget shoes or whatever weekend project you were assigned or all the things your child needs at day camp. Take a bite, take a breath, and go get ’em, tiger. This is your week.

Coconut, Almond, & Chocolate Chip Scones (printable recipe here!)
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes about 10-12 large scones

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or a mixture – I used 3/4 cup whole wheat and the rest AP)
  • 2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup almonds, slivered or chopped
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • additional sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place coconut and slivered almonds on it. Put in the oven to toast for 10-12 minutes, checking once or twice to make sure it doesn’t burn. When coconut is golden, remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until butter and flour are mostly combined. Set in the fridge for a few minutes.
  5. Whisk together buttermilk and egg.
  6. Remove flour and butter mixture from the fridge; add coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips. Stir together, then create a well in the center. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the well all at once.
  7. Stir until wet and dry ingredients are just combined (preferably with a few visible flour streaks).
  8. Place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Work the dough into a disk with your hands. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the scones and place on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake scones for 14-18 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and devour.
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the aftermath.