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 When I originally made this recipe for the first time, it was on a low counter-top, and we used what left-over ingredients were at hand, following the recipe in a blasé kind of way.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. Using a KitchenAid, 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


Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes

This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery,  a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.

With the advent of daylight-savings-time-changes mid-winter comes a post-apocalyptic episode of me scrounging a few more moments of sleep, desperately and daily. The time change lands on my most dreaded day of the year, and what follows is a week full of lethargy, a pathology that is largely self-diagnosed by yours truly. Coupled with dreary weather, rainy forecasts and winter blues, there isn’t much to be excited about after the clock sets back. EXCEPT perhaps… naturally leavened buckwheat blueberry pancakes! 

All of this to say that the sun dost continue to shine, even if we can’t see it. You find brightness in other ways. In my case, flour to match in color with the winter blues, a dash of farm treasures in the form of berries, and perfect East Fork“>pottery to bring out those moody hues.

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Before you begin to think this post is mostly a ranting of my hatred for time changes and a boasting of my favorite vessels, let me straighten the record and say that this truly is a sharing of a recipe. In particular, one that gets me out of bed on those mornings when I feel as if sinking into oblivion would be a better option. I guarantee you, it is not. With the record straight, let me digress and romanticize about all the reasons why this pancake (and this plate) makes this time of year more amicable.

There’s something about the color of buckwheat. It does, to me, give the pancake a bluish hue. The texture of the flour is soft and fluffy, and with the help of a natural starter, gives rise (pun intended) to a very delicate stack. Yet the taste of buckwheat contradicts this delicacy with its bold, earthy tone. The savory taste so distinct in soba noodles is ever so faintly noticeable in this overall sweet recipe.

Then there are the blueberries, which we purchase from a local farm up the road from my parent’s house. Organic and freshly picked, I like to mix these additions into the batter prior to pouring onto the pan. What results when cooked in the cake is a juicy bubble bursting to seep its way into the pancake’s core. The tartness of the berries offsets the savory pancake, their juiciness offsetting the sandy texture of buckwheat.

Off course, drizzling the entire stack with maple syrup and pairing with maple sausage links can’t hurt. And if this hasn’t convinced you of the therapeutic effects of cooking a comforting breakfast on a wintry morning, perhaps the presentation on hand-thrown, human-made clay pots is more appealing to you.

This morel hue does just the trick. Reminiscent of earthy things, like mushrooms that sprout, grounding and calming all at the same time. It’s no wonder East Fork considers it the most versatile color in the collection. Rich and soft like brown butter, morel adds elegance to the presentation without being pretentious. The coffee mug, also in morel, fits warmly in the hand and elevates my mood.

Then again, the coffee also helps.

Whatever wintry flourishes you’ve got in your back pocket to abide the time until Spring arrives, may this help get you through.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the eggs in a Kitchen Aid mixer or by hand, depending on your energy level.
  2. Add the milk and starter and whisk again, on low, until well incorporated.
  3. Add the dry ingredients including the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, stopping halfway to scrape a rubber spatula down the sides of the bowl, catching all the escaped floury bits.
  4. Whisk in the melted butter, and let sit for 20 minutes to allow starter to do it’s magic.
  5. Add the blueberries right before frying on the pan. Fold the berries in with a spatula.
  6. Scoop 2 tablespoons onto a pan and heat on the first side. Flip after bubbles begin to pop at the surface and cook again for about the same amount of time.
  7. Serve with Grade A amber maple syrup, more berries, and bacon or sausage links, if preferred.
  8. Get by for the rest of winter.


Basic Crouton Recipe

I was reminiscing the other day about the lost art of passing down a sense of resourcefulness from generation to generation. Placing an increased value on learning facts from an institution and discovering things that are new, we’ve lost a lot of the wisdom that could be learned from the older generations in our own households. It used to be that the recipes you knew were those taught to you by your mother, who learned it from her grandmother, and so on and so on. And with the loss of this practice dies the art of being resourceful, when it comes to gathering ingredients for said recipes. If you asked my grandmother how she would prepare a meal for her eight children, she will probably tell you that the first thing she would do is to scrounge up the little bits of left-over ingredients she already held in the kitchen and make her meals based off of those ingredients. If she needed some other ingredients, she would try to make it from scratch. If she couldn’t make it from scratch, she would search for the produce that are in season, which would also be more plentiful, and thus cheaper. A meal is planned, and does not involve whimsically grabbing whatever looks good on the shelves.

 

Compare that to today. What most people do when they plan their meals is they go online and look up an exciting new recipe. Usually, it involves grabbing all the necessary ingredients, whether or not they are in season, with hardly a thought about the price. Rather than making teriyaki sauce from ingredients that are already present at home, most would think to go to the groceries and grab a bottle of Teriyaki Sauce, for a hefty $3 or more. Insert other pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods. Frozen foods being the worst.

 

I have nothing against discovering new recipes, since I am one who is also always trying to do such a thing. But I also place a lot of value in being resourceful. Cooking food at home is something I started to do right when I moved out of my parent’s house. I recognized that I can one-up my colleagues who were going out and buying fast food (or food much fancier than that), every day for lunch and every night for dinner. If I’m being honest, I started to cook, mostly to save money. I still consider it to be one of my top frugal life hacks, to date. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I cook meals for a whole week for Mike and I, with a budget of $50. This includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for 6-7 days a week. With the advent of trying to eat healthier, we have actually increased this budget recently to about $80 per week, which is still what some of our friends and family spend on one meal, per person. It kills me just thinking about it.

 

Perhaps it is from this resourcefulness which stems my longing to learn how to make bread at home. I decided that in 2018, I will learn to make all types of bread, from scratch. I even started to make my own starter, fermenting flour and water in a plastic bowl, feeding it every day like a child. But what of stale, old bread? Just as people purchase ingredients without a care about the price, they discard food at an alarmingly early stage. Bread is one of the household staples, so I figure it is here that I should start with my recipe series.

 

Mike and I buy bread from Whole Foods or other local bakeries, fresh, and in a linen bag or a paper bag. Initially, this was to avoid all the plastic, but in the end, we can’t go back to that pre-packaged bread that lasts ages. The experience is just not the same. Unfortunately, that comes with the price of quickly occurring stale bread, if we fail to eat it in a timely manner. Specifically, the crust which was once the perfect blend of flake and crunch, turns menacingly hard, so that I fear cutting into it with a serrated knife will rid me of all the serrations. It’s inedible, unless you want to risk fracturing off a cusp from your tooth. Most would just throw it out. But why not make croutons?

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Croutons are another favorite in our household, mostly for my husband. He is obsessed with croutons (as a topping, as a snack, as dessert)! We stopped buying them last year, because, you guessed it, the packaging was always plastic. However, with this recipe, we can make fresh croutons from not-so-fresh bread, while skipping the plastic wrapping. And honestly, it turns out much better than the store-bought stuff anyway. I’ve been discovering that making things at home will always turn out better than the pre-packaged stuff. It’s simple, fairly quick, and uses ingredients that you would already have at home.

So here it is:

Basic Crouton Recipe

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Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of stale bread, cut into preferred crouton-sized pieces.
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (depending on how large the slices are)
  • 1 tbs of Herbs de Provence (or to your liking. We prefer to have a lot of this stuff)
  • A pinch of salt.
  • Optional – Parmesan Cheese. We like it equally, with or without.

The Process:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Simply place bread pieces in a large bowl. Coat with the olive oil and the pinch of salt. Add Herbs de Provence and mix until evenly coated. LRG_DSC01370
  • Place bread on a baking tray. LRG_DSC01375LRG_DSC01378
  • Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, turning the bread pieces for more even cooking halfway through.

Store in a container with a tight lid. I’m particularly partial towards mason jars.

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It should keep for a good few weeks stored this way, although there are no guarantees it would last this long. Not in our house, anyway.