Monday, February 25, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lately, it seems that Manhattan can't decide whether or not it's still in the throes of winter or en route to spring. Saturday was a dreary, rainy day, one which evidently turned me into a hermit, favoring the warmth and coziness of my apartment over the chilled dampness of the outdoors. And what says cozy better than muffins, I ask? I know, brilliant segue way. 

In all honesty, these muffins were a bit of an accident. It started with a bunch of overripe bananas, as most banana baking adventures do. Initially thinking of some sort of bread, I realized that I have yet to purchase a proper bread loaf pan. Which of course, only left one option! 

Muffins! And then I remembered the dreaminess that is Paradise Bakery's banana chocolate chip muffins. Located in Aspen, CO (and Denver as well, I'm told), Paradise has these incredibly rich, buttery muffins that were just the perfect pick-me-up after a long rehearsal (at last, you say, a music reference! Don't worry, this is not turning entirely into a food blog). Sadly, they carry lots of peanut butter baked goods, so last summer I steered clear and therefore have been seriously, seriously muffin deprived.

So here it is, an adapted banana bread recipe (from Shauna Sever, of course) with a few modifications, the most important of which including chocolate. If anything, make these so you can experience the joy that is mashing up bananas and so your home will smell as incredible as mine did!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Shauna Sever's Banana Bread recipe, inspired by Paradise Bakery

Yields 12, large muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas, smashed
1/4 cup plain, greek yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, combine bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla (and yes, this will look like baby food at first). Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry to combine, being careful not to over-mix (second consistency note: it takes a bit of folding for the ingredients to truly combine--don't worry, it's not too much flour). Add chocolate chips, stirring to incorporate. Bake for 20 minutes, until tops are lightly golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean (or, if you are running low on supplies like myself this evening...a chopstick). Remove from the oven and cool, first in the tin and then on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Until next time,

Saturday, February 23, 2013

NYC: Hell's Kitchen Favorites

Awhile back, I posted some of my Los Angeles favorites. I'm so lucky to live in Hell's Kitchen now, which is absolutely overflowing with amazing restaurants, cafes, and bars. Here are my favorites so far:

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What: Kahve--tiny coffee place with delicious brews and super friendly baristas
Where: 9th ave. off of 52nd st.
I love: the almond chai tea latte, the joy of finding a table, and the exposed brick

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What: Casellula--wine bar with an incredible menu
Where: 52nd st., between 9th and 10th ave.
I love: the reds by the glass, chistorras in a blanket, pig's ass sandwich, mac and cheese, and chocolate cake served with fresh cream

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What: Totto--authentic ramen house [note: cash only and be prepared to wait in a long line during prime meal times!]
Where: 52nd st., between 8th and 9th ave.
I love: the totto spicy ramen

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What: Aaheli Indian--tiny, hole in the wall restaurant with fantastic Indian food
Where: 9th ave. between 54th and 55th st.
I love: the all you can eat buffet and selection of southern Indian dishes on the menu

What: Print--Ink 48 hotel's swanky, Michelin star rated restaurant [note: with a price tag to match]
Where: 11th ave. and 48th st.
I love: the brunch menu, especially the semolina french toast with marscapone and fresh berries

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What: Amy's bread--breads, cakes, and confections bakery with cafe seating
Where: 9th ave. between 47th and 46th st.
I love: the rosemary loaf

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What: Bocca di Bacco--delicious Italian food
Where: 9th ave. between 54th and 55th st.
I love: the homemade garganelli pasta

As you can see, this is already a fairly limited radius! There are still so many places to try. Happy eating!

Until next time,

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Few things are more comforting in life than the simple basics, something I find especially true with baking. When you're having a rough day or longing for the simplicity of childhood, nothing quite hits the spot like a chocolate chip cookie (or the dough, for that matter!). I've tried quite a few chocolate chip cookie recipes in my baking adventures thus far, but this one is consistently the best by far. It's chewy, with plenty of moisture and depth of flavor, thanks to the added richness of a higher brown-to-white sugar ratio and an extra egg yolk.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, based on the recipe by Shauna Sever

Makes about 18 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled (the best part about using melted butter: not having to wait for butter to come to room temperature and easy, smooth mixing)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I like to use high-quality vanilla extract for this recipe, if available)
1 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like to mix both semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips--Ghirardelli 60% cacao premium baking chips are excellent)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix in the flour, soda, and salt mixture before adding in the chocolate chips.

Form large balls of the cookie dough, about 1/4 cup each, into rounds and slightly flatten each one. Arrange on the cookie sheet with enough room for the cookies to expand (about six per sheet). Bake for 15-17 minutes, just until the cookies begin to turn light brown. Allow cookies to cool, first on the sheet and then on a wire rack. Enjoy!