July 4, 2008
Or, Musa acuminata arcana.
A lot of people that like to cook say “I don’t bake,” in terms of finality that kind of unnerve me; it’s like baking is some sort of arcane study that’ll melt the eyes of the unruly acolyte. Cooking, they say, is more of an essay question, but “baking is an exact science”.
Bzzt. For one, that’s a tautology, America and for another, you’re wrong. All you need to do is pay attention. Don’t drift. Don’t lose focus. Eyes on the prize, America. C’mon now.
Today we are going to make banana bread. Well. Today I will recount how my mother and I made banana bread, not long ago. And no, it wasn’t hard. There is nothing arcane or convoluted about it. Exact… well, okay, yes it’s exact. But how hard is it to get teaspoons of things correct? If you’re a scatterbrain, like me, just try not to bake alone. Or just, y’know. Pay attention.
This recipe comes from this pretty obscure collection that my family’s temple published in 1994; it’s called Tradition in the Kitchen 2, and you could probably find it on eBay if you wanted to buy it that badly.
You will need:
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- a stick of butter (a half-cup)
- 1 cup of mashed ripe banana (or simply two bananas)
- a touch of water
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- grease and a greasing implement
- a 9-inch-long, 5-inch wide, three-inch deep loaf pan
- a stand mixer
- an oven
- sensory organs
- hands (mechanical or organical)
- okay, enough fooling around. Let’s get to:
Prepare your oven: get it humming at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and get out your stand mixer, and PREPARE FOR CREAMAGE.
Butter gets a bad rap. I will admit to using it sparingly. My friend H. will tell you, though, that one of the greatest pleasures in life is fresh bread with good butter, and no false-prophet non-hydrogenated vegetable oil spread can ever replace it. You could use Smart Balance or margarine or deathly unbutter or whatever suits your needs; but use a half-cup of it, and make sure it’s room-temperature but not melty. This is also a smart balance.
(oh ho ho.)
Throw the sugar and the stick of butter together in the bowl of the mixer and whir it until it looks like this:
When I cream butter and sugar, I like to leave it a little clumpy, kinda like that. S’how my mother does it. Then you beat an egg into that clumpy sugar-butter mixture; things’ll get a sight creamier yet.
Then, find the ugliest, blackest, squishiest banana in your home. Like this one.
And then try and find another one. You’ll need two; as you can see we only had one really squishy ripe banana, and the other one was normal. The reason it needs to be really ripe is for its sweetness. Man, ripe bananas are weird-lookin’ when you peel them. When my mother pulled off the peel, the inside looked furry. Look at that. Isn’t that weird?
Weiiiiird. Mash it with a fork and then mix it with a few tablespoons of water – one or two, maybe. (David, what about the exact science?)
Now the Dry Team, as Alton calls it:
We don’t sift flour in my house. My mother will take a butter knife, stick it in the flour container, wiggle it around vigorously, and declare, “It’s sifted!” Maybe when my parents make cakes with cake flour. Maybe only then do they sift.
So, uh, sift two cups of flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of baking soda. Stir it with a spoon; get it all incorporated.
Then you are ready, America, to begin landing your troops. (Izza peoples gonna die? … Sorry. [I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.])
The secret here, so saith my mother, is to add the mashed banana and the flour-mix in alternating batches – don’t put in too much of anything at once; this alternation guarantees a good texture.
So a little bit of flour,
And a little bit of banana.
Eventually your batter should take on this consistency:
And now it is time for chocolate chips. We use a rather heaping cup. You may use however much you wish.
Everyone has their own method for greasing a pan. In my house it’s that tiny scrap of margarine in the foil that’s been in the fridge for two months. Like, that’s The Thing You Use For Greasing Pans. Not a bad plan, I think, but I guess you could use one’a them Pam-type sprays.
Once you have prepped your receptacle for batter, engage your Spatular Delivery System and try to get all of it out of the mixing bowl. Some batter may remain in the bowl. This is when your SDS enters its Phase Two mode of utility. The following photos may be graphic, and extremely offensive to some viewers. Possibly humiliating to this writer.
But I don’t care. The batter is SO DELICIOUS.
Place the loaf pan, now so delightfully full of whatever batter you didn’t eat (America, thou glutton!), in your 350-degree hotbox for an hour.
And an hour later, you have:
Slice and enjoy.
Now you tell me how hard that was!
Also, happy Fourth of July.