Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread

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When I was operating my own humble little bakery, Aero, there was one item that sold out almost every day. The chocolate chip walnut banana bread. I didn’t really understand the hype around this one loaf, since deep in my heart I felt like the better items on the menu included loaves of sourdough, with or without additions, lovingly fermented over 24 to 72 hours. This banana loaf was quick to whip up, especially with my noble steed (a kitchen aid mixer that Mike got me for Christmas, five days before we were married), and since I associated love with labor, I just couldn’t for the life of me fathom why this was the loaf that flew off the shelves.

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Now with the bakery closed and with many a person finding ample time on their undoubtedly well-washed hands, I’ve decided to share this recipe with the world so that they could continue to fill bellies and hearts while I take a personal hiatus and well-needed time to myself during this stay-at-home period, which I’ve decided to look at as a gift.

But first, a bit about this recipe. This is not some grandoise, elegant and eloquent thing that I’ve creatively concocted out of thin air. It is a very basic and simple traditional recipe that has been adapted through different generations. This loaf came from Mike’s grandmother, who is a wonderful baker born and raised in North Dakota and whose magic bars and thumb-print peanut butter cookies graced our wedding reception’s dessert table. The banana bread recipe was passed on to Mike’s sister who made her own personal modifications. And after our wedding, it was shared with me on a hot summer afternoon when she and I decided to get together and bake in her kitchen. When I originally made this recipe for the first time, it was on a low counter-top, and we used what left-over ingredients were at hand, following the recipe in a blasé kind of way. No disrespect to the original recipe but we had more healthy substitutions in mind. Instead of pouring the batter into a traditional loaf pan, we used miniature loaf pans to make four teensy-tiny loaves that any minimalist would drool over.

When my sister-in-law sent me a photo of her recipe card a few weeks later, I decided to modify it a tad further. I had, at the time, Kefir instead of the suggested buttermilk or yogurt. I also had Rye grain from the Tehachipi Project, so I decided on a whim to mill Rye using my Mockmill right before mixing and to throw it into the bowl at 100% baker’s percentage. What came out was a very flavorful, dark, caramelized loaf that had a stickiness to it and a very moist, tender inside. Over the few months that I continued to bake this for others, I have decided that I preferred the recipe without chocolate chips, although my patrons fell into the two camps fairly evenly. I will leave that decision up to you.

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I personally enjoy this loaf a slice at a time with a glob of yogurt plopped on top, and granola or a seed mix strewn over it. On the side, I love having a light cup of Joe, preferably of an Ethiopian variety. This HHC cup of coffee particularly has notes of blueberry, cream, black tea and sugar. The beans come from Ecuador, which I highly recommend – I also recommend their Kenya bag with notes of lime. Currently, HHC has a promo : buy a bag of beans, get the second one at 50% off! Check out their Instagramto find out how.

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What are some of your favorite ways to eat banana bread? As dessert with vanilla bean ice cream? On-the-go with crumbs on your car seat? Like a child, licking chocolate off your fingers? Please do share below.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups freshly milled rye flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Kefir or Bulgarian probiotic yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

The Process:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Cream sugar and butter.
  3. Mix in eggs
  4. Add Kefir or yogurt and the vanilla.
  5. Add in the bananas.
  6. Add dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.
  8. Spray cooking spray on the loaf pan and pour batter into it, using a spatula to flatten the top. You can choose to sprinkle whole and half-sized walnut pieces over the bread like I do, to give it texture as well as for appearances.
  9. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the middle is cooked through, rotating at the halfway mark. You can check for doneness by sticking a toothpick or chopstick in the center of the bread.
  10. Pull out of the oven and let rest in the pan for a few moments to slightly cool.
  11. Invert out of the pan and cool completely on a drying rack.

This banana bread is photographed on East Fork pottery’s cake plate in Eggshell

At 12pm EST today, East Fork released a pre-sale event for their two Spring colors – Malibu and Tequila Sunrise.

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The eggshell plate that you see housing the banana bread is similar to the Malibu, but a little more blue than green. I would imagine that both the Malibu and the Tequila Sunrise will pair well with plates and mugs in Morel – which is the color of my Mug. However, I can see these colors standing well on their own. They are the cheer that the world needs right now and are great in preparation for the Spring ahead! I mean, just look at how fun these are!

Due to COVID-19 affecting this small business, the pre-sale means that there may be a delay in delivery since East Fork is doing their part to battle this pandemic. It also means that it is unlikely that they will make more of this color once we all return back to our daily lives, because, well, they’ll head back making the pre-orders that you’ve made. If all of this sits well with you, I implore that you please support this small business and other small businesses, most of whom will barely come out of this alive.

Their plates are made by hand, ethically and with fair wages, and they have even committed to paying their employees the next two weeks their regular wages despite closing both shops. Their dedication to quality is superb and any pots that don’t meet their standards due to minor blemishes (but with complete functionality) are currently on their site for their Seconds Sale. I have personally bought pots at the discounted prices on their Seconds Sale and I am in LOVE with them and think they are higher quality than mass-produced goods. I thoroughly enjoy dining off of their ware, and it has transformed our meals at home to something more meaningful. 

I know that money is tight for most right now, but if you have any to spare and would like to use it as a means to vote for the businesses that you wish to survive post-COVID-19, please do consider East Fork. Don’t all rush at once. Cheers!

My Favorite Things

1.This bakery

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for all the joy its brought me and for giving me something to be thankful for.

2. This stack of books

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for reminding me of that special day.

3. This cat curled up in a ball

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for keeping us warm in the night.

4. This matcha latte and agenda pad

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for keeping me energized and on task, respectively.

This hand-thrown espresso mug

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for mornings full of pondering and reflection.

My Favorite Things

I am starting a series called My Favorite Things, to showcase a few things a week that have brought joy. And while it focuses on things (sometimes), I hope that the posts translate to how joy can come from a handful of objects, and that fewer is, truly, better. It is also valuable to me that not all things are my own, neither are they all new. Lastly, not all things are physical, such as good mid-day lighting, or the first frosty morning. While it was originally created as a personal project aimed at de-cluttering my camera, always devoid of memory, it is also meant to be a weekly public reflection of my most gratifying moments. Without further adieu, here are this week’s favorites.

  1. This wreath

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… for signaling Fall at one of our favorite coffee spots.

2. This sticker

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… for re-vamping this phone case into something new.

3. This linen apron

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… for always being pretty, even when tossed haphazardly onto a chair.

4. This apple pie

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… the first of Thanskgiving pie orders from Aero Bakery.

5. These hardcover photo books

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… for a morning of perusing through mems, the makings of which were enjoyable indeed.

Freedom: In Taking A Month Off When Owning Your Business

About a year ago, I heard of a man who worked for himself as a photographer. During Christmas time, his calendar for booking a photo shoot was entirely grayed out, indicating that there were no days available for last-minute holiday cards of procrastinators. At first, one would think, “Entirely booked for the holidays – he must be doing well!” Until one looked at the bottom right corner and saw an asterisked note.

“*We are accepting no bookings in the month of December in order to dedicate our time to our loved ones.”

To some, they may still come to the same conclusion. “He must be doing well to take THAT much time off.” But to others, myself included, a lightbulb flickers. An “Aha” forms quietly on the lips. And I think the inverse instead: “He’s got it all figured out, that which makes him well.”


R E :   M Y  T A K I N G   A   M O N T H   O F F 

In the month of June, I turn thirty years old, with my date of birth landing directly on Father’s Day, as it sometimes does. Life has been one crazy ride these last few months, and I thought to myself, why not take the month of June off?

Okay, not entirely, persay.

But my time has been disproportionately skewed towards my recent baking venture, and I have been looking for an opportunity to swing things back to a more balanced state. I’ve missed writing, and feel the loss of the introspection that only a year ago predominated my life. Plus, I also miss that slow lifestyle that has so rambunctiously sped up. I’ve quite made up my mind. I want to be like the photographer. I have my own bakery, and no one is requiring me to bake. In an effort to exit my twenties full of opportunity for moments of self-reflection and enter my thirties with half my wits about me, I have decided not to take any orders for Aero Bakery during my birthday month.

Off course, I will still be working as a dentist during part of my birthday month (we leave for a two-week trip to Alaska towards the end – how we get our flights for free here), and I will still continue helping Rye Goods bake off their bread and pastries. But with regards to my own business, I will close in observation of this life event, and in an effort to respect my mind and body which have both been craving time and space.

In addition, I have decided to quit the midnight shifts at Rye Goods after June and focus solely on Aero when I return in July. It was a difficult choice since both gave me so much happiness, but I had to choose between the two, or continue to deprive myself of the lifestyle which I have worked so hard to build. So, you see, I couldn’t keep both. I wished not to keep both. The choice ultimately came down to which one I had more control over, and Aero happened to be the winner. 


R E :   B U S I N E S S   O W N E R S   T A K I N G   A   M O N T H   O F F

I think it’s important to address the freedom in taking time off when owning your business. While it may seem straight-forward, unfortunately, the majority of business owners do not realize this freedom. As with most American dreams, less is not considered more. Closing a business (for a month or more, no less!) is considered business suicide. Taboo, almost. Many suffer from the feeling of, “No choice”. One simply doesn’t do it. Or at least, that’s how they want you to think.

Business owners experience a lot of pressure in competing with other business owners. Held prey to a scarcity mindset (you know, that sinking feeling that if someone else is getting a customer, you are, in turn, losing one), many owners fear taking the time off. In fact, they are less likely to take the time off than a person working for someone else.

I hope to remind you that it isn’t really the case.

It takes a whole lot of courage (and even more trust) in your abilities, or self-worth, or what-have-ye.

But it’s worth it.


R E :   F R E E D O M   I N   T A K I N G   A    M O N T H   O F F 

We talk a lot here about financial independence, and it is this freedom that this life affords.
The ability to say, “No, not today.”
The ability to walk away.
The confidence that it will be there for you when you return,
and if not, then you can build another.
Eventually, I want an entire life built around this freedom.
A simple one, free of debt, so that all I have to earn is the food I am going to eat.
I wish for a life’s work that is in my hands.
A job that we don’t depend on, because we don’t need to make money.
The ability to choose a different path, in an instant, without hesitation.
Eventually, I hope to work mostly for myself.
In fact, I hope to l i v e only for myself.
There. That’s better.


R E :   O W N I N G   A  (D E N T A L)   B U S I N E S S 

People in this space ask why I don’t own a dental practice, so that I may be free from my student debt sooner. But just as I refuse to work full-time as a dentist, I find that owning a practice gives up freedom now for freedom later, and the cost is too great.
I want to do work that is not dictated by money … nor insurances, nor patient wishes.
Currently, I counter-balance the need to fit into a box dictated by what is just, and good, and scientifically-proven, and paid for by insurance, and perceived by the patient, et cetera, with baking for myself, and myself alone. This is kind of where my life is headed. I wanted to be a dentist to be of use to people. I likely will not give up dentistry entirely any time soon, because I find that there is truth in my initial intention. But in dentistry, I cannot say with certainty that the end-product is truly my work. It’s manipulated by other people, factors, institutions, and the politics doesn’t allow for something more pure. It is because of this I do not own a dental business. And there is some pride in that.


R E : C A P

Regardless, looking forward to having a month sort-of-off. Looking forward to a lot of memory hashing and story-telling. Looking forward to, well, looking forward. My twenties were chalk full with life-affirming moments. I wish for my thirties to be filled with much the same. And much less ranting. As, I am sure, do you.