I love reading about food almost as much as I love eating it. Give me a good Colwin, Trillin or Hesser essay, a cup of tea with a scone, and I am content to be left alone for hours. Before my daughter was born I was the woman who always had a book or food magazine tucked in her purse "just in case" the bus ride was slow or I had an extra time in the doctor's waiting room. When I finished one publication I would pick up another, ticking titles off my list and making weekly visits to the food section at the bookstore for a fresh stash. Those days are over now as, like most parents I know, my reading habits have changed drastically since the birth of my daughter. These days my purse mostly contains spare diapers and snacks, and in my spare time I read, aloud, stories about giant cartoon hippos going berserk at a party. But, I can't complain, I still make time in the evenings to catch up on Bon Appetit or enjoy a good novel. This week was particularly exciting for me because I was able to enjoy a new volume of food writing called A Homemade Life, written by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of Orangette.
I started the book on Saturday evening and had finished it, completely, by Monday morning. I have read a lot of food writing in my time, and, trust me, this book is measures up with the best of them. In many ways it reminds me of two of my earlier favorites, Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. I found Molly's voice to be fresh, tender and engaging. It was a pleasure to read her stories with their perfect balance of humor and compassion. Many of her essays reminded me of significant times in my life and how, like her, I can name the foods that mark them. There were parts that made me laugh out loud (getting lectured about sleepovers by her french housemother!), pages that made me cry, and moments when I wanted to hop a plane to Paris to spend an afternoon in a cafe. In many ways, as I read, I felt like I was right there with Molly on her journey through life, with food.
In addition to her essays, by the time each chapter drew to a close I found myself impatiently waiting for the recipe that followed. During the course of my reading I was more than a little overzealous with the sticky notes, I tabbed so many recipes that now my book looks like it's wearing a tutu! When I finished the last chapter I quickly decided the first recipe I wanted to make was the Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Ginger. It was an easy choice since banana bread has always been one of my favorite foods, it is child-friendly, and I have a constant stockpile of brown bananas in my freezer. So, during naptime, I set to work, and after a very brief ten minutes of assembling the batter I popped the pan in the oven. For almost an hour the delicious aroma of baking banana bread filled the apartment and, when it was finished baking, it was an effort to let it cool off before digging in. When I finally did, I was elated because this, my friends, is comfort food at its finest. It is moist, chewy and packed with flavors ranging from the fragrant bananas, to sweet chocolate to spicy ginger, all of which are deliciously balanced. Even my daughter loved it, devouring two slices as a mid-afternoon snack.
As a final shout-out to Molly I took a picture of the bread in Orangette-esque style. That is, one slice of bread against a plain background. It looks simple, delicious and just a little dreamy. In a way it is the perfect descriptive picture, there is nothing to distract you from the way the chocolate chips stud the bread while the ginger winks at you with its golden shiny sugar crystals. After I took this picture I picked up the plate and dug right in, sipping my Constant Comment and watching the snow from our most recent storm settle on the windowsill. It all felt very homemade, and just right.
Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Ginger, adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg
6 T. unsalted butter
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. mashed banana (about 3 large ripe bananas)
1/4 stirred up full-fat whole milk yogurt (or full-fat sour cream if you discover your yogurt has gone rancid, like I did!)
1 t. vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2. In a small bowl, microwave butter until just melted. Let cool slightly.
3. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add chocolate and ginger and combine.
4. In a medium bowl lightly beat eggs with a fork. Add mashed bananas, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and stir to mix well.
5. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, until just combined.
6. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake 50-60minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Note that the loaf turns a deep brown and you can cover the top if it seems to be browning too quickly.
7. Cool loaf on a wire rack for 5 or more minutes after baking. Then, turn loaf out onto rack to cool completely.
*Naptime Recipe Props: This bread is excellent and if you wrap it carefully it will last for a few days at least - if it takes that long for you to finish it! To give it a test I also froze half the loaf and two days later, when I thawed it, it still tasted as fresh as the day I made it.
*Naptime Stopwatch: The batter takes about 15 minutes to prepare. I prepared the batter the second the baby fell asleep and then caught up on emails while it was baking. You don't even need to use the mixer.
*Naptime Reviews: This was a huge hit amongst friends and family alike. I made a second loaf and gave it to my friend Kristina and her family ate it in 24 hours, which is almost as long as it took us.