When my wife and I were in Paris last year, I did a baking course. Nothing terribly complex, but just enough to refresh my memory on the fine art of baguette making. Of course I paid attention, I asked questions, I made lots of notes on technique and timing, and then, at the end of the day, my wife and I got to eat what I made. A bottle of wine, some cheese, a tin of sardines and the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. Need I say more!? I don’t know whether it was the atmosphere of where we were, the wine or really – my baking, but everything was just better. Ah, Paris in the spring!

During the class, one of the many questions I asked the Chef, “why do our (Canadian) baked goods i.e. croissants and baguettes, just not taste the same as what you make here in Europe?” He was very polite and clearly has been asked this before. His response “while you have great Canadian wheat (and he was right about that!), we have double zero (“00″) European wheat; but what really makes the difference is the butter. French butter is 84% or higher fat, Canadian butter is mandated at 80% fat”. Does it really make that much difference – I pursued. “Well”, he said, “you did ask the question so it must make a difference”. So the neckerchief was thrown down, I had to try for myself. I did buy and bring back some European “00” flour (apparently it’s available here in some specialty Italian food stores but at a higher price). So where am I going with this?

In comes Churn 84, produced right here in Stirling, Ontario. Actually my friend Howard, an avid supporter of mine (not to mention very accomplished in the kitchen, and, well in life really) found this product and sent me some packages. It is a European style butter in that it has a higher fat content – almost 4% higher, depending on the brand you buy. So now I really have to give this a try. But making puff pastry for croissants takes time – not difficult, but takes time as you have to spread the butter onto the dough, fold once, twice and three times, then repeat this process three times, did I mention the resting time in between each iteration. So I thought I would start off with something simpler.

Banana Bread! Yes I know I’ve done one before but this isn’t just any recipe, it’s from the domestic doyenne herself, Martha Stewart, and one I’ve been making for years – foolproof and with consistent results. I remember watching her on TV when I was younger. Her recipes were always good to go, but I think what I like best about her is the ease at which she makes everything look. Anyone can do what she does – well not quite, it takes an immense amount of talent and a certain amount of determination. She is another one of those people that kept my heart in the kitchen while my life was in banking. I promise I will make the croissants Howard! (Here’s a great link to an article in the Globe and Mail from February 2012 which talks about the higher fat content and Stirling Creamery’s Churn 84 breakthrough – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/food-trends/in-search-of-higher-fat-butter/article547827/?page=all). Since writing this article, Stirling 84 comes in salted and unsalted. The taste is a bite back in time to Paris. The proof is in the taste. As always – enjoy!

1/2 cup (1 stick/113g) Churn 84, salted (butter), at room temperature, plus more for pan
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup very ripe bananas mashed- about 2 bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Butter or spray a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and set aside
Using your electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add eggs, and beat to incorporate
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt
Add to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined
Mash the bananas separately then add them to the butter/flour mixture
Add the sour cream and yogurt, the vanilla – mix
Add the nuts and stir, pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour minimum, test with a wooden skewer, it should come out dry or with moist crumbs attached
If it doesn’t, set the timer for 5 minutes and test again, repeat until the skewer comes clean – it took 1 hr and 10 minutes in my oven
Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool – oh yes, wait till it cools to slice (like that’s gonna happen!!!).
As always – enjoy!

banana bread sterling6a


banana bread sterling2a