Hello everyone! How are you? I am sure that you don’t want to read more about the rapid spread of COVID-19, so here I am bringing you what I hope is a welcome distraction from the newsreel. Now more than ever, we need creativity, laughter, connections, quality time, and strength.
It is hard to escape the news about the pandemic. We get non-stop coverage about it on TV, the radio, newspapers, online, and even social media, which is why we need to make some time away to nurture other parts of our lives. Baking has always been my creative time. I bake to create, and I find it an easy way to relax, forget about the world for an hour or so, and do something I love and that produces something to share for others. If you stumbled upon this blog or this post looking to cook something now that you are stuck at home for long periods of time, you are a kindred spirit and cooking and baking can provide much-needed solace just as much as other hobbies do. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to carve out time to recharge in the midst of all this and continue to do the things I love.
When the first announcements were made by the federal government, I was faithfully listening to the news several times a day to stay informed, but once the Governor of Minnesota announced the “stay at home” order this past Wednesday, I felt hugely overwhelmed. On Friday, we took our outdoor shoes off and neatly lined them under the bench in the porch, symbolically marking the start of this chapter at home. It suddenly became very apparent to me that I would need to adapt my routine and have large chunks of time where I would be focusing on my work and other activities without thinking of the massive crisis if I am to go through this calmly. I am sure that many of you are facing similar challenges as well: how to adapt your job to working from home if you have that option; some are not able to be working at this time at all, because those jobs cannot be done from home; many of us are trying to get used to the fact that we can’t go and meet friends in person at the coffee shop or grab a beer with a chum at the pub; and others suddenly face a full house with the relief that kids are safe at home but with the challenge to keep them focused on their online schoolwork and free from mischief once their homework is done. But what can you do, right? We’re all in this together. Every person on the planet and every facet of life has been impacted by this, so it can be a bit of a challenge to get away from it all.
My blog post of today hopes to make you momentarily focus on something other than the very scary global health situation we are facing. I am encouraged that as we are ordered to stay at home to stay safe that we can refocus to spend more time doing the most essential work, spend time with our families, have more quality time at home, dust off some forgotten hobbies, and connect virtually with friends and loved ones around the globe. It’s a moment of solidarity in which, by staying apart, we are somehow growing more connected and closer together. It’s a funny contradiction! I am encouraged that we can all rediscover what being human means, regardless of where you live in the world.
Cooking, prepping meals, and eating are essential, too, and now, more than ever, more people are cooking at home instead of going out. I’ve had to change the recipes I’m making now. Instead of making cakes and desserts to share with friends or take to gatherings, I am having to develop recipes and cook simple dishes that are nutritious and rely on readily-available and mostly non-perishable ingredients. I am also trying to make smaller batches overall.
Today, I used up the last of a bunch of ripe bananas to make this chocolate hazelnut banana bread. It is the first dessert I’ve made in a few weeks as I try to be mindful of the tough months ahead. This bread is a no-fuss, easy-to-put-together recipe, and it is rich, moist, and nutty. It can be a great project for kids to help Mom or Dad. (Dads can bake too!) The chocolate and hazelnuts add a ton of nutrition, particularly magnesium and iron; and the bananas give it a nice, dense texture and lots of potassium. You can serve it for breakfast or dessert or as a snack. You can store it for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, and you could even make it into toast. You can always freeze the loaf, too. This loaf makes 8-10 servings. I hope you enjoy the recipe and that you stay healthy and safe. As always, feel free to comment and tell me how you are weathering the storm.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ cups mashed bananas
- 1 egg
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
- 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup hazelnuts, chopped
- 1 tbsp nut butter
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Sift the ingredients together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mash the ripe bananas, preferably with a fork, until no large chunks remain. Make sure to use ripe bananas. This is where the flavor of the bread will come from, and they also provide moisture. You don’t need to wait for the bananas to be completely brown, just make sure that they are sweet, soft, and easy to mash.
- Melt the butter and, after letting it cool, add it to the bananas.
- Add the nut butter, vanilla, and egg, whisking until fully combined.
- Stir in the brown sugar and stir until smooth.
- Add the dry ingredient mixture to the banana moist mixture, gently folding in with a spatula. Do not over-mix.
- Stir in the ¾ cup of chocolate chunks and the chopped hazelnuts.
- Carefully transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
- Sprinkle the 1/3 cup chocolate chips on top of the batter.
- Bake at 350ºF for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center of the bread comes up clean. There should be no raw batter on it. You can start checking for doneness around the 50 minute mark. Be aware that the sides of the bread could burn slightly during the last 15 minutes, so monitor for doneness a few times between 50 and 60 minutes, until the toothpick really comes out clean.
- Remove the loaf pan from the oven and let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. The parchment paper should make removing the bread from the pan really easy, but if necessary you could run a non-serrated knife around the edges of the bread before lifting it up.
- Cut into slices and serve. You can also store the bread for up to 4 days, or you could also store it in the freezer. Enjoy!