Play Pretend: Bread Baking

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

To say that I live in a bakery is kind of an understatement. Even though the operations of Aero have gone from our home, we still churn out sourdough loaves, baguettes, cookies, scones and teacakes weekly – if only for ourselves, friends, and family. I have easily baked a thousand loaves in the last three hundred and sixty five days. On top of bread and pastries, discarded starter has gone into pancakes and breakfast items. Even now, as I sit and type this post, I am getting up every thirty minutes to do bread turns. Mike stands behind me making flour tortillas from scratch and I can hear the squeaking of our tortilla press. He’s even wearing a linen baker’s apron! He has gone down a different path, experimenting with ramens, noodles, and tortillas. All things that I can get behind.

I may have let go of the bakery but the bakery never let go of me.

Far from getting tired of our kitchen floors being covered in flour dust, what we have as a unit (roommate included) is an equal appreciation of jam, butter, and avocado toast, which we connect over cups of coffee in the mornings. We share the justification of munching on teacakes by going on group runs. Japanese ramen and Mexican dishes run rampant on our weekly menus.

There was a time when we were the only ones dishing out gluten products from scratch. But during these troubling months, I’ve seen more and more people turn to bread baking and I can’t help but rejoice on the inside. Visiting the grocery shelves these last few months has shown me that people are hanging onto bread flour and active yeast lately. Hopeful me is standing by the sidelines with jubilee cheering on a healthier reformation around carbohydrates. For those who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, here’s a bit of pretend. Or for those thinking of starting, a worthy wish list to consider.

+ A mill to get the freshest quality flour.

+ A Cast Iron Combo Cooker that’s affordable but also quality stuff.

+ A reliable rolling pin to ease the process (if you know, you know).

+ A linen apron, so that you can do turns right before work.

+ A Kitchen Aid Mixer, a.k.a. a baker’s best friend.

+ A tough bread knife that can cut day old sourdough (arguably the best kind).

+ A decent cutting board.

+ A bread box, for those who don’t freeze their bread (we do).

+ A marble pastry slab to keep dough cool while rolling.

And of course, jam, decent butter, and market avocados.

Any questions regarding bread baking, I’d love to help. Say hi on my Instagram.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

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.

DSC00282

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.

DSC00296

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.

DSC00246

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.

DSC00266

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