Shelf Sample: A Homemade Life

Do we need another memoir with recipes? Don't bother saying "no." It won't stop the cascade of confession and cilantro. But even if you are tired of the genre, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416551058/1416551050, March 3, 2009) will change your attitude. What first caught my attention was a recipe for banana bread, which I made that day. While swooning over the bread, I read the book. What a treat! Molly Wizenberg writes like a dream. She's funny. She has moving stories about family, friends and life that flow and are never forced. She has a wonderful blog, Orangette, which you'll want to bookmark. The recipes are terrific. The cover is pretty. Shoot, I'd almost say the price is perfect, I love this book so much. I'm working my way through the recipes, one by one, even the stewed prunes (with citrus and cinnamon, "sweet, winey and complex"); dishes like Slow-Roasted Tomato Pesto, Caramelized Cauliflower with Salsa Verde, Custard-Filled Cornbread. Here is that fabulous recipe for banana bread that will even please banana-bread haters.  

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or a chopped chocolate bar
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (from about 3 large ripe bananas)
1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (not lowfat or nonfat)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Set a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard-sized (about 9 by 5 inches) loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

In a small bowl, microwave the butter until just melted. (Take care to do this on medium power and in short bursts; if the heat is too high, butter will sometimes splatter or explode. Or, alternatively, put the butter in a heatproof bowl and melt in the preheated oven.) Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and stir to mix well. (The same fork works fine for this.) Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy, but there should be no unincorporated flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.

Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.

Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then tip it out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing--unless you absolutely can't help yourself, in which case, dig in.--Marilyn Dahl


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