Cinnamon Crisp-Topped Cream Cheese-Banana-Nut Bread
• 3/4 cup butter, softened
• 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (1 1/4 pounds unpeeled bananas, about 4 medium)
• 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon melted butter
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
How to Make It
Step 1
Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Step 2
Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8- x 4-inch loaf pans.
Step 3
Stir together brown sugar, 1/2 cup pecans, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture evenly over batter.
Step 4
Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.
Clear-The-Cupboard Cookies
• 1 cup shortening
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup uncooked regular oats
• 1 cup flaked coconut
• 1 cup crisp rice cereal
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
How to Make It
• Step 1
• Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; add sugars, beating well. Add eggs, beating until blended.
• Step 2
• Combine flour and next 4 ingredients; gradually add to sugar mixture, beating after each addition. Stir in coconut, cereal, vanilla, and, if desired, pecans.
• Step 3
• Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets. I like to use golf ball size balls.
• Step 4
• Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.
How To Make The Best Homemade Vanilla Extract
• Grade B Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans
• Vodka 80 proof (vodka has the most neutral flavor but you can also use bourbon, brandy, or even rum as long as it's 80 proof)
• 2 ounce brown glass jars
• 4 ounce brown glass jars
• Metal funnel for pouring
• For single-fold vanilla extract like the kind you find in most stores: Use .8 ounces (or 22 grams) of vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka
• For double-fold vanilla extract much stronger flavor and many professional bakers prefer it: Use 1.6 ounces (or 44 grams) of vanilla beans per 1 cup of vodka)
1. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla flecks inside. Add the flecks and the beans to the vodka in a glass jar with a fitted lid. Place the extract in a dark, cool place, shaking occasionally. The extract can be used in as little as 8 weeks for gets better and better with age. For far better results use after 6 months and for optimal results wait a year.
2. Once the extract is ready, place the funnel on the glass jars and fill them with the extract. Slice the vanilla beans to fit the length of the jars and place about 2 pieces in the 2-ounce jars and 4 pieces in the 4-ounce jars. That way the extract will continue to "ripen" as it sits.
Recipe Notes
One of the most important factors that determines the quality of the outcome is how long you allow the vanilla extract to age. While you can use it in as little as 8 weeks the flavor becomes vastly superior the longer it ages. For better results wait 6 months, for best results wait a year. I make a large batch every year to use the following year, that way I always have 12-month aged vanilla on hand.