How to make banana bread

It’s a lovely quiet summer morning. The kids are still asleep and your partner is somewhere in the house. You shuffle into the kitchen, put some water in the tea kettle and turn it on. While you wait for the water to boil, realize that you could might as well mash the four overripe bananas on the kitchen counter. Find a bowl (just under the cupboard with the mugs) and mash. 

Mashing bananas only takes a minute, so the water is still not ready. Turn the oven to 350 and add an egg to the bananas. Decide to replace the sugar with honey because you have an awful lot of honey right now. Check quickly to make sure that honey is a one-to-one substitute for sugar. It is! Add ½ cup of honey and – because the water is almost ready – use ⅓ cup canola oil instead of butter today. 

The water has boiled. Spoon out the tea leaves and set the tea to steeping.

Put a dash of vanilla in the mix. Oh, and maybe a dash of salt. Add 1½ cups of flour right on top of the wet mixture. Sub in some whole grain flour for some of that because it’s healthier, right? Um… double-check the recipe on the post-it on the fridge. Where is it? There! Behind a receipt. Receipt… recipe… receipt… recipe…

Our time-tested banana bread recipe – more or less

Yes: 1 tsp baking soda. Dump it on top of the flour. Go ahead and add 1 tsp of baking powder, too. Gently stir those two into the flour so they don’t clump, then give thes whole mixture just a few strokes so it’s moist

The tea has steeped plenty long enough. Take out the tea leaves and set them aside.

Check the cupboards for extras. Today you will throw in some unsweetened coconut, a generous handful of walnuts and another of chocolate chips. Grease a loaf pan, pour the batter in, and pop it in the oven.

Add some milk to your tea. Start to sit down and realize that if you don’t set a timer, the bread will burn. The recipe says 50 min but the honey is sticky… Go for an hour.

Pour a cup of tea, sit down and read.

When the next person comes into the kitchen, agree that the bread does, indeed, smell wonderful.

(I love this banana bread recipe. I’ve made it a million times and it’s both easy and flexible. It makes great muffins, too – though do NOT cook those for an hour! The honey in today’s bread made for a really sticky loaf, so I can’t call it a resounding success, but it still tastes pretty good.)

Dutch Baby

My younger son trudges sleepily into the kitchen, still snuggled in a brown minky blanket. “‘Morning, Mama,” he says, as he shuffles over to give me a hug. Up close, he contemplates me for a moment, then apparently decides to go for it, “Can you make us a Dutch baby this morning?”

It’s Tuesday, but COVID19 and closed schools mean there’s no particular rush to get out the door, so it’s easy for me to say yes, even though I made this yesterday. I stretch away from the kitchen island where I was trying to sneak in a little work before the kids woke. Then, I begin a series of actions so familiar that I do them without thinking.

I wash my hands and turn to the oven: preheat to 425. Open the drawer by the stove and pull out the middle-sized bowl. Scoop half a cup of flour – no need to be too precise – and use the same measure for half a cup of milk. Find a fork. Mix – or not. Crack in four eggs and mix again.

Shoot! I forgot – again – to put the pan in the oven. Ah well, there’s still time. My son picks his head up from the counter as he sees me rummaging for a pan. “Can you use the small one?” I produce our smaller cast iron skillet, “Sure.” Lately, he’s liked a denser pancake; for a while we used the bigger skillet to get really airy ones.

Now, butter in the skillet – 1 Tbsp? 2? I don’t know or care: I just eyeball it – and skillet in the oven to preheat while the butter melts.

A few minutes later, I pull the pan out, swirl the melted butter to coat the bottom and sides, and scrape in the eggy mixture. Everything goes into the oven, and I head back to my seat to finish a few final minutes of my own work before the parenting work takes over for the day.

My mind wanders briefly to my high school friend, Julia, whose blog post nearly a decade ago brought this recipe into our house. I regularly think of her while I cook this. It’s funny, I muse, the people who change our lives. So often, I think about the big picture: “Who was your biggest influence? Who is your hero? Which person changed your life?” When I answer, I rarely think of my daily routine, the small things that make up the bulk of my life. But how many times have I made Dutch babies in the last decade? Easily a hundred; probably many more. I bet my boys will grow up to make these for their families. Our lives are better because of Julia. I doubt she even knows. Later today I will make tagine and think of my friend Erin, remember a moment in her mother’s kitchen when she showed me how accessible couscous recipes really are; then, as I add salt, I will think of an ex-boyfriend’s mother who told me once that when she’s cooking soups or stews she usually adds as much salt as she thinks she’ll need and then just a little more. Works like a charm.

My older son straggles into the kitchen, bed-headed and groggy. “Dutch baby? Sweet!” he  plunks himself down in a seat at the table.

The 9-year-old has set up vigil in front of the oven. He loves to watch this simple pancake puff to enormous proportions. Somehow, the flour, milk & egg transform themselves into a glorious airy breakfast concoction in a mere 12 minutes. Soon enough, perfection:

 

Perfection in the form of a puff pancake. What a gift! And who knows? Maybe you will read this post, make a Dutch baby for breakfast someday soon, and find that your life has changed just a little bit, too.

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