What I Like To Bake (When I'm Not Making Pizza)

I love making pizza -- playing with the dough, shaping, adding ingredients, and baking the pies. At the same time, I'm a pretty good pastry chef. Henry (my son, now age 7) is my right hand in the kitchen; he really likes to cook with me, which is super fun. Here's some things I've made most recently, and you'll note some of the handiwork is his: 

The Best Banana Bread

To make really good banana bread, you have to first toss in the freezer any bananas lying around that aren't nice enough to eat. Leave them in the freezer and when you have five or six, you're good to go. (Remember to get a single, good banana for the garnish.) Leave them on the counter to thaw, drain all the resulting juice into a strainer, and reduce the liquid to ~¼ cup. Add that into the mashed bananas and the resulting flavor is stellar. The garnish really makes it sing:

Henry makes a mini version:

Cinnamon swirl bread

Cinnamon swirl bread is a favorite of the family, and Henry loves to help. The bread, 1 part unbleached white all-purpose flour, 1 part whole wheat flour, rises beautifully:

And then Henry punches it down:

In the meantime, make the filling:


Roll out and brush the dough with milk to make the filling stick:


I always keep an extra bit of bread for Henry to make his own mini version. Sprinkle the crumble, being mindful of the edges (or the filling will fall out). 

Use your fingers to pull the bread into itself as you roll, to make the roll as tight as possible. If you don't, you might end up with a really good tight center, but with big empty gaps, like this: 

Henry did an excellent job on his mini loaf:

Here is what we end up with:

Fruit-filled Galettes

Galettes are one of my favorite things to bake. When you find nice fruit at the farmer's market, you might come home with lovely things such as black plums (the skin is dark, the flesh is not) and white peaches.

I like cooking the galettes until the edges of the fruit start to char slightly:

Dessert pizza

Of course, sometimes pizza and pastry intersect. The lovely fruit I found at the market made its way into this, a dessert pie that turned out spectacularly, I must say. I place the fruit so it hangs off the edge, leaving its mark on the crust:

Homemade fig newtons

A ton of leftover figs (the ones that didn't end up in the dessert pie above) made their way into a batch of fig Newtons. This batch in particular lacked its typical sweetness, so I added some additional brown sugar and a decent amount of homemade maple syrup to punch up the flavor. Make sure the surface you use to roll out the dough is very well-floured, or the dough will stick. Once the dough is the right size, cut it in half the long way and use your spatula or dough scraper to loosen the dough before you put your filling in. It's ten times easier when you loosen the dough at each step of the process; if you don't keep the dough loose, it will tear when you try to fold it over.