From the Kitchen: Ready, set, 'Let's bake!'

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By Elli Rarick

This Thanksgiving weekend you will want to have lots of baked goods on hand for your own family and any visiting relatives and friends. In addition to the traditional pumpkin, apple and pecan pies that followed the delicious turkey dinner you served, you may want a few extras to serve with coffee in the morning or as an evening snack.

Over the years, I have tried many different recipes for my old standards, quick breads; but end up making them from the same recipes I always have. These can be prepared early and frozen or made and served fresh. The wonderful aroma of pumpkin or banana bread in the oven will bring everyone into the kitchen to visit with the cook for sure.

I like to slice a loaf of each of the three kinds of quick breads that I always make into handy serving size pieces and place them in foil-lined tins. These are easy to store in the refrigerator and even easier to pull out and prepare an appetizing plate to serve whenever the occasion calls for something special.

Once again, I would like to share some additional tips on making your baking experience fun. Select your recipes ahead of time and make one overall shopping list after you have checked your pantry. This includes making sure you have all the appropriate baking pans and tools necessary to do what you want to do.

I save bananas all year long in my freezer. Just leave them set out until they are really overripe - nearly black. Put them in a freezer bag and just keep adding to the bag, etc. When it is time to use the bananas take out what you will need and let thaw just a few minutes. Cut off one end of the banana and squeeze the pulp out, discarding the skins. If you let them thaw too long, you will have too much liquid with the pulp.

Most recipes calling for eggs are basing the amount on using large eggs so, whenever possible, use large eggs or you will have to adjust the number to have the right amount. It is also best to crack them into a separate bowl first, in the event any part of the shell falls in. It is much easier to see and remove than from the dry ingredients.

When butter is called for; use butter. This will produce much better flavor and texture usually. Although margarine may be used in some recipes successfully, it may contain more water which will make cookies spread too thin. Be sure to pay attention to which recipes require softened or melted butter. To soften butter, let set out on the counter for 1-2 hours (I like to take mine out of the wrapper and place in a bowl); or to hasten the process, cut into small pieces. If melting, cut into small pieces and place in the microwave. The time necessary will depend on how much you are trying to melt.

Even though both baking powder and baking soda help your batter to rise; do not substitute one for the other. Each one plays its own role in the success of your baking.

All-purpose flour will give best results for most general baking projects. Do read your recipe though to make sure it does not call for a specific type of flour. Measure your flour by spooning it into the appropriate size cup for dry measuring and level it off with the flat side of a knife.

Choose chocolate according to what you plan to make. Normally, one would use semi-sweet or unsweetened chocolate for brownies or cookies. Dark, rich cakes and tortes are achieved by using bittersweet chocolate. Bittersweet and semi-sweet are interchangeable depending upon your taste choice. Again, check your recipe. This is one ingredient that you can experiment with to get the taste and look you want.

From my kitchen to yours; Thanksgiving blessings.

Banana Nut Bread

Jerri Smith, Women of the Moose Cookbook

1 one half cup sugar

one-half cup shortening

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

4 tablespoons buttermilk or sour milk

one-half teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups flour, sifted

one-half teaspoon salt

one-half cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease sides and bottom of loaf pan with shortening or use spray.

Cream sugar and shortening; add mashed bananas and cream. Add eggs, milk, baking powder, soda, flour and salt. Stir in walnuts. Place in prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool for 20 minutes in pan then remove to a wire rack and cool completely before wrapping for storage. Yields 1 loaf; 10-12 full slices.