Kitchen Therapy


The Violet Bakery Cookbook Banana Buttermilk Bread



I have a lot of cookbooks and while I may not cook from them as often as I’d like, I can confidently say that if a book has a recipe for Banana Bread, there’s a good chance I’ve made it! Paleo, Vegan, Choc-Chip, alcohol infused… I’ve made them all. Probably in the same recipe at some point.

This banana bread has been voted by the family as their all time favourite.
And they’ve eaten the many variations I’ve made… so they do speak with some authority!
It comes from the Violet Bakery Cookbook.
The bakery that made the cake for the recent Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan. It’s a book I’ve had for a while and never cooked from. However, the bunch of browning bananas sitting on my kitchen bench made this the perfect opportunity to get up and experiment.
With yet another banana bread recipe….

I made this bread twice. The first time with greek yoghurt and olive oil.
I did not have the 25cmx10cm loaf asked for in the recipe so I used a smaller tin, 23cmx10cm. The smaller tin added more height to the bread and even though I cooked it longer there was still some raw-ish texture under the bananas I had laid on top.


The second time I made the recipe with buttermilk and vegetable oil.


I bought a longer tin that the recipe calls for this time.
I followed the recipe and (obviously) the mixture spread more and cooked perfectly in the time stated in the book. Having said “obviously” I do need to add that sometimes even though the recipe is followed precisely, it still doesn’t work as it should! So it was great to see that this recipe did turn out as described in the book!

I loved the delicate, crispy layer of skin on the bread. The extra sprinkle of sugar before adding it the oven is no effort at all for great reward. It adds just as much to the aesthetics of the bread as it does the taste.

I have already made this recipe twice this week and I know I will make it again. I will definitely use the larger tin and having tried both versions, I think from now I will make it with the delicate extra virgin olive oil I buy for baking and cooking.
(Also, I can tell myself it is healthier by using the olive oil! I don’t care if I’m wrong ūüôā It makes me feel better so I’m sticking with it!)

*Also I need to add that I did not have dark rum in the house so I used my favourite Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey. I’m not a drinker however I love the smell of this bourbon!
*The recipe calls for 6 very ripe bananas, the rest of the ingredients are all measured in weight (which I absolutely loved) however the bananas are not and they come in such varying sizes, so this step does my head in!
Having said that… the first time I used 5 bananas and the second time I used 3. I think the lack of banana weight inclusion as well as the change in alcohol is testament to the flexibility of the recipe.
*I’m adding the recipe here only because it is readily available on the internet and will include the small changes I have made.

In her introduction to the recipe, Claire Ptak the author, talks about her initial resistance to add banana bread to her bakery menu. Now, some years down the track, this recipe has proven itself to be one of the most popular items in the store. 

6 very ripe bananas
150g vegetable oil (I preferred light extra virgin olive oil)
200g dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon dark rum (I used bourbon)
2 eggs
75g cultured buttermilk or plain yoghurt (I used greek plain greek yogurt)
210g plain flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons caste sugar
butter, for greasing the tin

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C (fan).
2. Butter a 25cmx10cm loaf tin and line with parchment paper.
3. Reserve half a banana for the top of the cake and mash the remaining banana well.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, vanilla, rum, eggs and buttermilk or yoghurt. Add the mashed banana and set aside.
5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Fold this into the banana mixture until just combined, then pour into your prepared tin.
6. Smooth the top with a palette knife or spatula and place the reserved banana half, cut lengthways, on top. Sprinkle with the caster sugar.
7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake has set and starts to caramelise.
(The author states she sometimes uses a kitchen blowtorch to help this process along).
8. Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Finally… and most importantly…
enjoy the most incredibly moist, yet delicate, banana bread you’ve ever eaten!
Just as I am doing as I write this x



Tarte Tropezienne


My last post was David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Pudding.
I made a double batch of his recipe three times last week.
I made it for my son’s 16th birthday and it was sooo delicious, I just kept making it again and again and again…
We kind of overdosed on chocolate last week, so this week, choosing the Tarte Tropezienne for the recipe of the week was an easy choice for us!

When my copy of Baking Chez Moi first arrived, way back at the beginning of Tuesdays with Dorie, the Tarte Tropezienne caught my attention immediately. I love brioche, I love pastry cream!
I’ll be honest though, I felt a bit hesitant making this.
Making dough has always made me nervous. I think mostly because I don’t do it that much.
I made the dough as Dorie said, using the paddle attachment of my Kitchen Aid and I made a  soft, sticky, runny paste!
So I started again and this time I used the hook attachment and it worked! I beautiful smooth ball of dough formed, joy!
I made the dough and pastry cream one day and the next day I baked and assembled the cake.
I could not find pearl sugar so I bought sugar cubes and smashed them. Oh my what a mess!
I had bits of sugar all over the bench, floor and in my hair. But it looked so pretty I didn’t mind one bit!
I love this cake! It turned out delicious.

I am looking forward to reading what the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie group thought of this month’s recipes! I’m already thinking about Betty’s Chocolate Cake I’ll be making next time!




Flour’s Famous Banana Cake – Recipe Review

Flour bakery banana bread

School is back for 2016!
Routines are slowly taking shape and the craziness of summer holidays is beginning to settle.
Each day now, I walk my son to school and as he heads off to class with his teacher, I, along with many other parents head straight to the little coffee shop tucked in amongst a few local shops across the road. The coffee is fantastic and I always order it to go, however most of the time I end up sitting at a table catching up with a friend.
It’s a routine I enjoy.
Today, after dropping off my son, I met my friends, we bought our coffees to go and this time we did take them away with us. We decided to walk them back to my place and enjoy the banana bread I made the previous night.

When my children smell banana bread baking they feel comforted.
They love the smell that fills the house.
However… they are also very clear that after trying many version of banana bread over the years their favourite recipe is for the¬†Banana Espresso Choc Chip Muffins from the Baked¬†cookbook (see photo below).
(I usually leave out the espresso but don’t tell them that, it makes them feel grown up!)


Yesterday however, I had to break it to them that I would be trying a¬†new recipe from Joanne Chang’s Flour book.
The recipe is from her first cookbook, pictured below on the left.
I bought it a while back however after falling ill I couldn’t do much more than stare it for a long time.
There are SO many recipes I want to try however yesterday I had the bananas on hand. ¬†Being unwell has taught me to grab opportunities that come up, no matter how small they may seem and to not over think things. This may sound simple, however my nature has always been to deliberate painfully¬†over what to cook for so long that I end up making nothing. So with my new philosophy guiding me, I decided to make Flour’s Famous Banana Bread.


It felt good to be making something, even if it was “just another banana bread recipe” ūüôā
The recipe can be found all over the internet, here is one link for this recipe from the food network.

Coming together over banana bread is not something new however there is a reason a lot of us do it. It is comforting and nourishing to the soul and it tastes so damn good!
The grown ups really enjoyed this recipe, however the kids can’t go past the choc chips in their favourite banana muffins. I get it, who doesn’t want chocolate thrown into an already awesome tasting treat?!

I didn’t add the walnuts to the recipe (there are too many nut allergies in our house) and I think it still tasted really good. I liked the moist topping that developed on the cake and the inside was surprisingly light. I would definitely make this again, it was easy to make and well worth the effort.



Olive, Cheese and Sundried Tomato Bread


I love going on holidays. I am always planning the next trip.
To me, it doesn’t matter if¬† it’s a lengthy overseas¬†stay or a weekend away, I get ridiculously excited.
It’s a break from the every day.
An adventure.
And best of all I get to see how other people live!
There’s something intoxicating about that (for me, my husband just thinks I’m weird!).

I love going to shopping centres, discovering new stores and even going into the supermarket to see foods we don’t have back home.
At the Ala Moana Shopping Centre in Honolulu the boys discovered the Lego store, my daughter fell in love with Hot Topic and I found Williams-Sonoma.
I loved that shop!
So shiny and pretty!
Every time I use the things I bought in that store, I am flooded with happy memories of our holiday.

Recently I was looking for cooking schools in Sydney when I read that Williams-Sonoma had not only opened their first store outside the US in Bondi, but also their first ever cooking school was there as well!
A couple of days later my friend and I drove across the Harbour Bridge to Bondi and I was shopping in one of my happy places.
I fell in love with this dish, as soon as I came home I washed it and started making this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe.


Looking at this dish made me HAPPY! (Seriously, ridiculously, insanely happy!)

As the loaf cooked I kept looking in the oven… smiling. So pretty…


My son came home from an excursion to China Town where he used the money I gave him for lunch to buy a remote control car and helicopter. It was raining outside so I had two 13 year olds and two 5 year olds racing cars and helicopters indoors and it was cool because I had a pretty dish that made me smile!
It was that simple.


The loaf was… nice.
I added sundried tomatoes.
I preferred eating it cold the next day.
I didn’t think it was anything special to be honest, but I am glad I made it.

I’m looking forward to reading what the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie group thought and the ingredients they added to their bread!


Focaccia with Caramelised Onions, Spinach and Goat’s Feta Cheese


Bread, in all its forms, excites me.
My husband had no appreciation for bread when we met.
His exposure to bread was limited to white sliced sandwich bread.
(How that happened still boggles my mind!)
Initially he humoured me as I dragged him around bakeries.
I’d buy loaves of crusty bread and break off chunks to snack on as we walked.
He thought I was weird.
(He told me this much later btw!)
It shocked me.
I thought everyone did that!

Over time he accepted the little chunks I offered.
Slowly, he developed a taste and appreciation for bread.
Today I can proudly report he even has a favourite crusty bread, sourdough.

Our children are all bread lovers.
Our local bakery is very much a part of their lives.
On weekdays, we walk up to the bakery for coffee, bread and cheese & bacon rolls.
On weekends, the kids in the neighbourhood make their way there for lunch after running around all morning.
They pull up some crates at the front of the shop and plan the rest of the day over some meat pies and sausage rolls.


So this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia recipe had me excited!
And, if I’m to be honest, a little apprehensive.
Eating bread is one thing.
Making it is another!
My expectations were low, so to see the golden, crispy focaccia come together was incredibly satisfying!

I halved the recipe and then divided the dough I had, into two equal balls.
The first one I topped with olive oil, salt and a sprinkling of thyme and rosemary.

With the second one I got more adventurous…


I found a recipe for Cheesy Focaccia with Caramelised Onions and Sauteed Spinach in my copy of Baked: Elements.

I decided to try a somewhat modified version of their topping…


This was absolutely delicious!
The plain focaccia was crisp and crusty.
Best eaten fresh out of the oven.
The second one however was softer, the topping gave it a moistness that made it delicious warm and cold.

The recipe for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie dish can be found at our host’s site, ¬†Wandering Through…
The recipe for the topping follows..

Caramelised Onions with Sauteed Spinach and Goat’s Feta
(adapted from Baked: Elements)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
goat’s feta, enough to crumble on top¬†

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan over medium-low heat, add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Set the onion aside when finished.
2. Add the spinach to the pan and cook until spinach is soft. Set aside to cool and squeeze the spinach dry when cool enough to handle.
3. When the focaccia is almost cooked (about 15 minutes), pull out of oven and brush with remaining olive oil. 
4. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and salt.
5. Top with onion, spinach and crumble goat’s feta cheese.¬†
6. Place focaccia back in oven and continue baking until the cheese starts to brown. 



Raisin, Walnut and Pumpkin Loaf

I left out the cranberries from this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. I couldn’t find fresh or frozen ones anywhere! To be honest, fresh cranberries are not something I see too often in our stores. Plenty of dried cranberries! Especially Craisins! They’re actually very popular as a healthy snack. But no fresh ones, so I left them out!
I’m also writing this waiting in line to go on the Arkham Asylum ride at movie world on Queensland’s Gold Coast…
So it’s going to be short n sweet!
I didn’t particularly like this bread.
I was excited to make it, baking with pumpkin isn’t a big Aussie thing (unless I’m missing something?)! I love the idea of desserts with pumpkin! We tend to keep pumpkin as something you serve alongside a meal or in a salad. So this recipe was new and exciting for me!
Having said that I found the taste bland. Maybe more sugar would have helped? I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s tips once we get back!

Rebecca has the full recipe for you at This Bountiful Backyard if you’d like to check it out!


Bubble Top Brioche

I’m not sure how other countries format their school year but here in Sydney, Australia we have 4 school terms that go for 10 weeks each. The kids have two weeks off school at the end of every 10 week term. Except for Christmas, when they have 6 weeks off school.

We are half way through our Christmas school holidays and next week we leave for 2 weeks in Hawaii! Yay!
I can’t wait! It’s been about 15 years since I was last there and I have such great memories from that trip and now I get to make new ones with my children!

My husband is excited for the opportunity to have a break and spend time with his family.
My 14 year old daughter (who couldn’t wait until January 1st so she could announce that next year she’ll be 16) can’t wait to go to Hawaii so she can get a tan her friends will be jealous of.
My 11 year old son has decided he wants to learn to surf (and befriend the penguins that are at the resort).
And my 4 year old son is just outraged we chose to go to Hawaii over Queensland, where all the theme parks are!

I am looking forward to going to the beach, just like we do here at home…
Without having to clean the sand out of my car or wash the endless stream of beach towels!

So I really wanted to do one last French Fridays with Dorie before we take off for a few weeks.
And as usual I picked the least practical day.
We had a great, but very late night, at an Irish/Italian wedding…

Followed by an early to start to meet friends at the water slides. They slid non stop for 8 hours…

And then, to top it off, a bunch of the boys came back to our house for a sleepover.
At 10.30 that night they settled down to watch Batman so I took this opportunity to start the dough!

I was exhausted but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed making the dough.
It felt incredibly good and satisfying.

The next morning I finished the recipe and they returned from the park having discovered new ways to ride their scooters and skateboards…

They ran inside demanding to know what smelled like croissants!

The brioche rolls were fresh out of the oven and they really did smell like freshly baked croissants.
When I pulled one apart it was incredibly soft…

And light. And fluffy. And totally delicious!

They shoved them in their mouths.
Some with jam and cream…
Others with Nutella.

They all agreed Dorie’s Bubble-Top Brioche tasted great!
I can’t wait to see what the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie team came up with!


Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns

This Month’s Fresh From the Oven Challenge was Hot Cross Buns set for us by Sarah from Simply Cooked.

Year after year I buy hot cross buns, however my feelings towards these great smelling rolls are somewhat ambivalent.
I love raisin toast, I love cinnamon so why the ambivalence?
My only guess is that in bun form, there is too much crust!
I love the soft, tasty insides however the crusts on both these buns and raisin toast leave me feeling “meh”.
Nevertheless it’s tradition and each year I buy them.
However this year, the kids made it clear the only way they would go near a hot cross bun would be if I bought the choc chip version.
And I have to admit, our local Baker’s Delight store makes a great choc chip hot cross bun!

I’ve never made hot cross buns before and I knew as soon I saw the recipe that I wanted to try a chocolate version!

So with my little helper ready to go…

And Sarah’s recipe from this gorgeous little book…

We created Hot Cross Bun magic!

The house was filled with the most incredible, satisfying, cinnamon aroma.
The baking created a festive mood.
It signalled the arrival of Easter!

Hot Cross Buns
makes 24

4 cups  flour
190 ml lukewarm milk
125 ml lukewarm water
1 x 7gram package active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
65 grams sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
55 g butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
200 grams choc chips 

orange glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon orange juice


1. Combine 125 grams of the flour, the milk, water, yeast, and 1 T sugar in a bowl and beat well.
2. Set in a warm place until frothy.
3. Melt butter then put aside to cool.
4. To the bowl containing the yeast mixture, add the remaining sugar, salt, melted butter and spices.
5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
6. Add another 125 grams of flour and beat for 5 minutes with an electric mixer.
7. Gradually add the remaining flour and choc chips.
8. Turn mixture onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (8 – 10 minutes). I chose to beat it with paddle attachment in my KitchenAid for the whole time.
9. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top of dough.
10. Cover with kitchen towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size.
11. Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead lightly for 2 minutes.
12. Divide dough into 24 equal parts and shape into buns.
13. Place well apart on greased baking tray.
14. Cover and let rise until almost doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
15. Make a cross on each bun with a razor blade or sharp knife. (Which I forgot to do!)
16. Bake at 375 F (190 C) for 15-20 minutes or until golden in colour.
17. Cool on wire rack.
18. To make the glaze, mix all the ingredients.
19. Drizzle over buns once they have cooled in a cross design.


Puff Pastry Breadsticks and Twists

“Why did they have to taste sooo good?!”
My husband moaned as he sat there clutching his stomach, feeling sick from overeating (again)!
But wait it gets better…
I was trying to come up with a title for my post and he suggested ‘sex on a stick’!

What can I say? He really did like these… his favourite was the sweet chilli twist.

I really wanted long puff pastry straws however the puff pastry sheets that are readily available from Woolworths would have been barely finger length once folded so I decided to use two sheets.

I had three different fillings, so divided the 24cm sheets into 8cm thirds…

 I wanted to try the recipe as Dorie intended with Dijon mustard.
However I was in the mood to play so I also tried an olive tapenade which she suggested as a ‘Bonne Idee’ and the hot sweet chilli sauce we bought at this year’s Sydney Easter Show made by the Chilli Factory.

I smeared on a generous dollop of each topping…

Then topped them with the other pastry sheet.
Since each strip was 8cm long and I was going for long and lean sticks I decided to cut each portion into 2cm strips.

My gorgeous boy wanted to help so he got the job of ‘painting’ each strip with the beaten egg “just like at school!”

Next we topped the mustard strips with poppy seeds, the tapenade sticks with sesame seeds and the sweet chilli one’s with cheese…

The we got real fancy and decided to twist the sweet chilli straws…

After 25 mins in the oven, rotating the trays half way, the final product was truly amazing!

I really liked the mustard and tapenade straws. They tasted so satisfyingly good!
(And I already mentioned my husband loved the sweet chilli one’s!)

I made the gourgeres as well, I joined the French Fridays with Dorie Group a few weeks late and really wanted to make these.

I took the left overs to my parents to save my husband from himself!

To have a look at a range of fillings and techniques used by the other members of French Fridays with Dorie, just click here!


Ham, Cheese & Chive Muffins and Bread

I decided to make a kid friendly version of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe!

Actually, I made the bread to start with and was a little hesitant about the cheese. I used Gruyere and Emmenthal.
The smell that greeted me when I opened the packets was… well… bad!
But I’m glad I persevered.
Once the bread was in the oven, the smell changed and it really surprised me that something that started off so stinky could change so much!
I really did think that there was no saving this baby and had written it off, but suddenly, as the new smell filled the kitchen I felt hope!
I couldn’t wait to taste it and see if it was as good as it smelled.

And you know what? It was really, really good…
I swapped Dorie’s chives and walnuts for ham and shallots in an attempt to make it more tempting to the kids.
But I was enough of a realist to know that while the kids were encouraging, they would like it way more with a good dose of cheddar cheese.
So back to the kitchen and this time I dumped the Gruyere and Emmenthal for a packet of “4 cheese blend”! (It’s a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses).
I know what you’re thinking… Classy!
Hey, it worked! The kids loved them!

If you want to see many more exciting and varied versions of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe click here!