Towards the end of June we went on a retreat to a place in northeastern Connecticut. We were a gaggle of ancient philosophers in an enormous lodge with an enormous porch and a bucolic view of rolling green hills (and fireflies at night!) And it was wonderful: philosophy by day, all fun in the evening (of the bonfire and mixed drink variety). Since it was our university’s turn to organize the retreat, we were responsible for all the groceries. One of the excellent results of this state of affairs was that there was a lot of left-over food: trail mix, granola, yogurt, nuts, and so, so many bananas.
Now. I do not like bananas. But I do like banana bread, and I believe that I have found the holy grail of banana bread recipes (from–you guessed it!–SK!) The secret to Smitten Kitchen’s “Jacked-Up Banana Bread” is supposed to be a little bourbon. But I used a honeyed Jack Daniels, since it was all I had on hand. I also threw in a handful of dessicated, plain coconut, because it was calling to me from the pantry shelf, and swapped half the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat. The bread was dark, dense, moist, and just the right amount of sweet. We ate it for breakfast and again for an afternoon snack. And when it ran out two days later, I promptly made another loaf with the rest of the languishing bananas.
July has seen two other SK recipes, both desserts. The first was her deep dish apple pie (from the book; but it’s probably on her site somewhere as well), which I made with left-over retreat apples for the Fourth of July. What a dream. Layers of apples, sliced small, drowning in their own juices and just a touch of sugar; a crunchy struedel topping; and that delectable all-butter pastry crust. Plus, you get the fun of filling an entire skillet with pie dough and putting it, handle and all, into the oven. I would not change a thing about it.
Last, but certainly not least, the Sticky Toffee Pudding. When I let drop that it had dates in it, people were skeptical. I know: dates sound like a health food. But are they really? Probably not when you chop them fine, bake them into a cake, and then slather the results with homemade whipped cream and toffee sauce, and just a sprinkle or two of crushed sea salt (I hand-crushed mine with a mortar and pestle).
My normally sweet-shy philosopher took an intense liking to this one. After we wowed our dinner guests with it, he took to eating the remainder in tiny slices (with all the fixings!) with his morning coffee. I tried this once, but the sugar (and there is a lot of sugar in it) went straight to my head. I’d recommend it as an afternoon pick-me-up instead of breakfast accompaniment.
(A quick kitchen note: one thing I was a bit surprised by was how difficult it was to evenly mix the cake batter with the pureed date sauce. I felt like my cake turned out a little more clumpy than I would have expected or liked. I think I would add the date sauce more slowly next time and stir more thoroughly between additions.)
That’s it for now! I have a busy few days ahead: more writing to do, a meeting in New York next week, and after that the move to our first apartment. It’s only a few blocks away, but it feels like the start of something new. I can’t wait.
Love from CT,