Happy New Year, dear readers and friends! [she says–borderline aggressively–while giving 2016 a final boot into its nameless grave] I spent New Year’s Eve with an at-home hotpot session: six of us bumping elbows around the coffee table in our living room (the dining table had been taken over by what appeared to be the entire produce section of our nearest Chinese supermarket) while tong ho, napa cabbage, tofu, crescents of kabocha squash, vermicelli, and various meats bubbled away over our old camp stove.
As my brother and I have gotten older and become–at least in years–Proper Adults, my parents have mostly done away with the sense of ceremony around the holidays. Maybe we’re all a bit tired; maybe it isn’t as necessary now to curate the sort of experiences that they thought children in this country ought to have. I am grateful, grateful, grateful for our years of ornament hanging (who remembers making salt dough ornaments in elementary school? Lumpy “J-O-Y”s with a little portrait in the middle and plastic holly on the ends?) and rosemary-spiked turkeys; I’m not going to lie though–seeing the endless parade of festivity and seasonal baked goods on my social media feeds the past few weeks had me feeling a wistful sort of way, but these chill, unexceptional nights? They’re alright! I stayed up long enough to watch 2016 die and then flopped into bed.
I’m embracing the clean slate philosophy this year. I know it’s so easy to be cynical–I’ve been that person–and to say that it’s just another year and that much of our world is currently akin to a flaming hellscape (true), yada yada yada, but I find myself reaching tentatively towards foolish, wondrous, all-too-necessary radical hope.
Oh! And I’ve actually made resolutions this year, enjoyable ones that I think won’t be too difficult to keep (then again, I’m full of plot twists!):
- Take more photos. The past two years have been a black hole where memories have been sucked into and crushed into darkness, which is a mildly foreboding way to say that I have a bad memory and it gives me that sinking feeling to know that one day I’m going to look back and realize the years that feel missing because the only thing I’ll have on them are constantly shifting, inaccurate remembrances.
- Start journaling again. I haven’t kept a diary since middle school and I’m reaaaaaaally into having nice stationery now because it makes me feel like I have my life together. I mean, I have letter paper, pens that don’t bleed, washi tape… the works! It’s time to put them to good use! And when you consider the aforementioned BAD MEMORY, it all makes sense.
- Do the Big Scary Thing. I want to tell you, I want to shout it, but I’m also hyperaware that there might be some trickster-y/bad vibe gremlins floating out in the ether who are really keen on squashing potentially good things in my life so I’m not going to explicitly broadcast it to everyone just yet. I know, I know, boooooooooo you’re no fun!! I’m the worst! But I promise you that it’s a big move in my books that’s been a long time coming. Whatever comes of it, the fact that I’m even doing it is something I’m realizing I should be incredibly proud of.
- Cook more and figure out a repertoire of meals that I can be confident about. It’s not that I haven’t cooked, but my current rotation is pretty spartan; I’m itching to play around a bit, have some spectacular failures, and continue learning.
Okay, so about the Bananas! When you title your post a certain way there are obvious expectations. 2016 was bananas (overripe and mostly spoiled, squishing in a liquified slop out of the peel) and hopefully 2017 will be more Bananas foster-y (fire–not destructive fire, but 🔥 🔥 🔥 ; alcohol optional). Today I have actual-actual bananas. I’ve waxed poetic in the past about Claire Ptak’s banana buttermilk bread, which is my definitive banana bread recipe to date, but maybe you’re feeling a little decadent? Who knows? Maybe you want something that slouches and slinks less and is the tiniest bit sturdier instead. A kind of something with the deepest, richest crumb that makes certain you never get away with pinching extra slices of it because you’ll be holding a plate in one hand and licking chocolate off of the other.
Chocolate muscovado banana cake
from Nigel Slater, as seen in Food52’s Genius Recipes
I didn’t have muscovado sugar when I made this… or brown sugar (I had light brown sugar, but it was ancient and I was wary) for that matter, so I vigorously whisked* just-shy-of-3 tablespoons of molasses into the equivalent amount [per the recipe’s muscovado sugar] of granulated sugar.
* 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons molasses = 1 cup dark muscovado (if Nigella says so, then it’s good enough for me!)
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (125 g) butter, softened
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (235 g) muscovado sugar
14 ounces (400 g) ripe bananas (peeled weight), about 3 medium bananas
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. You will need a nonstick loaf pan approximately 9 1/2 by 5 by 3 inches (24 by 12 by 8 cm) deep, lined with parchment paper. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together till light, fluffy, and pale coffee colored.
- Put the bananas in a bowl and mash them with a fork. The mixture should be lumpy rather than crushed to a puree. Stir in the vanilla. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, then beat them into the butter and sugar mixture. Introduce a spoonful of the measured flour at any sign of curdling. Chop the chocolate into small pieces–about the size of fine gravel–and fold them into the butter and sugar mixture. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder.
- Scrape the mixture into the lined loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a metal skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out moist but clean. If there is any sign of wet cake batter, return the cake to the oven for a few more minutes, covering the surface with foil. Leave the cake in its pan to settle for 15 minutes or so, then loosen the sides with a thin spatula and carefully lift out of the pan with the parchment paper liner. Leave to cool a little longer, then carefully peel off the paper. Serve cool, in thick slices.
Yield: 1 loaf cake