Oh, man. What a day. The realities of the pandemic fazed me more today than they had previously. Seeing its effects on good, well-meaning people is devastating. Rather than ruminate, I decided to put my anxious energy, and rotting bananas, to good use. I love to bake because I know that if I follow the recipe, I’ll get the desired outcome. In a world of uncertainty, especially right now, it helps to know a ripe tropical fruit can be made into a mouthwatering bread in just a few steps.
I baked banana bread a few weeks ago and was surprised by how much I learned. Following a banana bread recipe is straightforward; the success of a loaf hinges on the time in the oven. Learning your oven takes time, and I’m still in the experimental phase. My first loaf had a moist, spongey center, but due to over baking its edges were crusty and tough. The toothpick I first inserted came out with a couple crumbs, so I baked it for additional time, not realizing I was making a mistake. After a second toothpick test and a quick Google search, I learned that when recipes instruct the baker to pull the baked good out of the oven when the toothpick is clean, a couple crumbs are acceptable (depending on what you’re baking). What you don’t want is a gooey toothpick. Like any science or art, becoming well-versed in baking’s nomenclature is crucial, and now I know what exactly a clean toothpick means. That’s another reason I love to bake; there’s so much to learn.
After 50 aromatic minutes of anticipation, I remove my pan from the oven for another toothpick test. Wiser now, I know the loaf’s baked and pop it onto a wire rack to cool. An episode of Schitt’s Creek (the series finale 😭) and a glass of wine later, I finally cut into my banana bread. The crust is a little well-done, but the middle is soft. After tasting, it’s a little dry, but I like the contrasting textures of the hard, thin crust and the tender middle. The cinnamon and nutmeg are bold flavors that could be a bit more balanced by banana. Next time I’ll shave a few minutes off the bake time and add more banana.
Tonight’s loaf is an improvement from a few weeks ago, which I’ll consider a win. Now more than ever it’s important to find the bright spots. Today’s bright spots were a loaf of banana bread and self-improvement. It can always be worse.