Weekend Recipe – Banana Bread

James Beard’s Light and Flavorful Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, my Maybelle was still my Maybelle.  She was my baby.  Now, she is 20 months and 15 days old, and goes by her sassy self-dubbed moniker, M’Elle.  Back in March 17 of 2013, she was a mere eight weeks old, barely holding her head up, then only unintentionally spitting on her daddo.

Daddo & M'Elle

On the weekend of her eighth week, we invited our NCT class over to our flat in Oxford.  For all my American friends, NCT  is a UK charity that holds birth classes for small groups of parents who are expecting a baby in the same birth month.  What’s wonderful about this class is that it almost always turns into a group of friends who frequently get together to commiserate.  The weekend everyone came over was the first time all the babies were together ex utero, and there was a whole lot of cuteness in one room.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That afternoon was more than just about lining up a bunch of cute little newborns on the floor, all of whom were uncontrollably flailing their disproportionately short limbs.  We were sharing stories about poop, lack of sleep, and helpful/unhelpful relatives; diapers were changed; boobs were out.  We were no longer just acquaintances.

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Whenever we go through a major life event, be it moving to a new city, going through a major breakup, losing a job, or buying a house, we discover we are in the company of many others who have done the same.  Our experiences are unique, of course, but that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, get in the way of recognizing each other’s experience with empathy.

Often times, sharing in those experiences means gelling it all together with a table full of biscuits, cake, and tea.  It’s my preferred way, anyway.  And on that afternoon, my contribution was a banana bread as instructed by  James Beard.

beard-on-bread1What are we going to do this weekend?  Probably try to keep the tantrums and tears to a minimum, and that applies to every person in our household.  Definitely look at our older child and be amazed by how much she has changed, and wonder what our youngest child will be like 18 months from now.  Hopefully we will have some good friends over, so we can remind each other why we are doing all of this in the first place.
Processed with MoldivHappy weekending, everyone.

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Banana Bread, adapted from Beard on Bread

Yield: 1 loaf
Time: Prep:  15 minutes; Baking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter (vegetable oil is okay too)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
⅓ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ tablespoon turbinado sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine ⅓ cup whole milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, which will curdle a bit as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Sift 2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt.
  3. Cream ½ cup butter and gradually add in ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ cup light brown sugar.  Mix well.
  4. Add 2 eggs and 1 cup mashed ripe bananas and blend thoroughly.
  5. Slowly and alternately fold in the flour mixture and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir well after each addition.
  6. Stir in ½ cup chopped walnuts, reserving a small spoonful, then pour the batter into a parchment-lined (or buttered) 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan.
  7. Sprinkle the top of the batter with the spoonful of chopped walnuts and ½ tablespoon turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 1 hour, or until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center.
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Never Gonna Give You Up

My baby is NAPPING

Photo on 10-2-14 at 3.17 PM #2

My little foal has been in his baby swing for the last three hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love my child, and I love holding him and playing with him, as much as a 9 week old can play. I am, however, like many other moms, and I love it when my child is asleep. From where I sit, I see him occasionally open his eyes, and if he could interpret facial expressions, he’d see that I look like a deer, and he is the headlight. He then shuts his eyes again, and my shoulders relax. Typing resumes. I get to sip my tea. My tea is actually hot.

Below are two photos of Thomas, both sleeping.  On the left, he is sleeping in his crib.  I took a photo, because it would last much longer than the 35 minutes that he slept.  On the right, in his baby swing in our dining room. Yes, the dining room, which has laundry hanging up to dry.  Yes, our laundry does take more than 24 hours to dry.  The drier, the better, which is why it’s been up for a about 36 hours now.  More importantly, it doubles as a sunshade for the swing!  And finally, yes, the photo is blurry not because I don’t know that my iPhone takes bad photos of objects in motion, but because why in the world would I risk waking this baby while my tea is still hot?

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My contribution to the public today is that I have some news to my mother, who told me a swing would scramble my baby’s brain — my baby is perfectly fine, as verified by his pediatrician.  To all other parents out there — if your little baby will sleep in the swing, do it.  Don’t feel guilty about it.  The baby is loving it, the parent is loving it, so sit back, and drink that tea while it’s hot.

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Finally, I’d like to say that although I haven’t been afforded the time to read The Happiest Baby on the Block, I have just watched the DVD.  Harvey Karp, M.D. says babies are fine to sleep in a swinging swing, as it reminds them of their previous life as an in utero baby.  It can’t spoil them; it’s just easing them out of the old regime, and into the new.  As a second time parent, I know it’s just a matter of time.  Until then, I’m going to enjoy this cup of tea.

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Basic Sourdough Bread

Don’t push us ’cause we’re close to the edge

There will come a point in my career as a housewife/stay-at-home mom when someone will ask “So, what do you do all day?”.  Lucky for that person, that time has not yet come.  Anyone who has met me and Miss Maybe Baby seems to understands that our days are not spent in docile domesticity.  She is a flibbertigibbet.  A will-o’-the wisp.  A clown.  By the way, don’t take that bag of sliced turkey meat from her.  Don’t mess.

I definitely understand why I’d be questioned about my daytime activities as a stay-at-home mom.  There is a framing issue.  The phrase “stay-at-home mom” is implicitly different from the job titles of “daycare worker” and “nanny”, yet our job descriptions are nearly identical.  That bag of baby poop that I’ve wiped off her butt is mine to keep though.

My Mess

We’re tryin’ not to lose our heads

Perhaps a more interesting question is how my new life compares to my former pre-baby life.  One point of comparison is my average level of stress experienced throughout the day.  Below is a chart describing the levels of difficulty experienced throughout my typical day as a mother compared to my former life as a data analyst.

Daily difficulty chart

At first glance, my average day as a mother seems less difficult as it lacks the sharp spike in afternoon stress that I used to experience as a data analyst.  Upon closer examination, there is a heightened level of activity/consciousness experienced throughout my day as a mother that results in a higher average level of difficulty.  Even the late hours at the consulting firm would eventually diminish into that much sought-after, yet now elusive, chunk of time known as a full night’s rest.

Can’t nobody hold me down, oh no, I got to keep on movin’

In my new career, my sanity pivots on my ability to practice and build my knowledge of things outside the realms of diapering, meal-planning, and infant sleep analysis.  When balance occurs, harmony means I’m working a job that is infinitely more gratifying than that of a 9-to-whenever whatever.

Instead of work/life balance, it’s now about work/self balance.  As opposed to getting in  nights out between days of work, I now attempt to get in some quality “me time” between my daily tasks.  Most of the time it’s baking bread, other times it’s cake, and now and again, a pie!  Sometimes I even venture outside the realm of household management, and create a pretty Excel chart.

The most important questions I have to answer are the ones I ask myself.  I love what I have the privilege of doing, and it is the best job I have ever had.


Basic Sourdough Bread

Basic Sourdough

Baking sourdough bread is a process that is usually spread out over a course of two days.  It sounds like it requires as much attention as my child, but the slow fermentation process actually means there’s more flexibility for someone who predictably expects the unexpected all day long.  I now use a KitchenAid mixer as opposed to kneading the dough with my hands.  Less fun, but much more convenient when I have to quickly prevent my child from emptying all the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen.  She’s a tactile learner.

recipe adapted from Northwest Sourdough

Yield: 1 large two pound loaf of bread

Active time: 30 minutes; Rising times: 5 hours for bulk fermentation, 2.5 hours for final rise; Baking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup (9 oz) liquid sourdough starter1
1 cup (8.3 oz) warm water (100°-110° F)
4 cups (18 oz) of bread flour2
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. The night before you plan on baking, refresh your starter so that you have 1 cup of vigorous starter.
  2. The next morning, in a large mixing bowl, whisk 1 cup of warm water into the starter.
  3. Stir in 4 cups of bread flour and 2 tsp of olive oil.  Mix until ingredients are combined.  In a KitchenAid Mixer, this takes about a minute on Speed 2.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.
  4. Add 1 tsp of salt, and knead for 10 minutes until smooth.  In a mixer, mix on Speed two for about 3 minutes.  Cover and let rise until doubled, which should be around 5 hours at room temperature.
  5. After the dough has risen, prepare a floured banneton, or floured linen towel inside of a colander.
  6. On a floured or lightly oiled surface, shape the risen dough into a boule by gently pulling the outer edges of the dough under and pinching the seams together.  Repeat until the dough has a nice surface tension, and place the dough into the banneton, seam side up.  Sprinkle with flour and cover with a kitchen towel, allowing it to rise until almost doubled in size, which takes about 2-2.5 hours at room temperature.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 450°F with a baking stone large enough to accommodate the size of the boule.
  8. Carefully invert the banneton onto a floured board, slash the top with an x and slide the dough onto the baking stone, covering the dough with an aluminum foil dome.  Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Uncover the loaf, and turn the heat down to 425°.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
  10. The loaf should be done when the internal temperature is at least 190° F.3  Cool on a wire rack for at least three hours (or until completely cool) before slicing.


1. I use a 100% hydration liquid starter, meaning a 1:1 water to flour ratio. A vigorous starter should be able to double in size by the next morning. I usually feed my starter around 10pm, and start the next step around 7am. I live in a relatively cool house, and if you are lucky enough to live in a warm environment, you might need to feed the starter earlier, then refrigerate the starter after a few hours of fermentation at room temperature.


2. I’ve almost always added a bit of whole wheat flour to this recipe, for nutrition’s sake. Of the 18oz of bread flour, I’ve been happiest with adding no more than about 9oz of whole wheat.


3. To be honest, I just tap the bottom of the loaf.  If it sounds pretty hollow, I consider it done.

Posted in bread, charts, motherhood, sourdough, yeast | 2 Comments