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10.26.2012

I stand by my assessment

I know. The universe does not need another recipe for a banana baked something. And yet.


It’s a rainy Friday afternoon, and I have a couple of hours(!) home alone(!) to do whatever(!) I want(!), which is mostly to eat Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream and stare at the wall. Brandon and June are out on the town, having a lunch date at a friend’s new restaurant. I hope June is polite and doesn’t spit up at the table or get totally milk-drunk and harass the server - or that, if she does, she at least tips well. Baby jokes! It’s come to this! God, I am so, so sorry.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about this recipe for several weeks now. I first made it on September 7, a Friday.  I remember the date because I was in very early labor that day, though I wasn’t entirely sure of it yet. My mother was in town, and we were trying to keep ourselves occupied. There were three overripe bananas on the countertop, and I felt like baking. But I had already made two banana breads and stashed them the freezer, so for the first time in recorded history, banana bread seemed like a bad idea. Instead, I got out Kim Boyce’s excellent book and thumbed through it until I came to a recipe for Banana Cereal Muffins.

I don’t have a picture of said muffins for you. But I’ll go ahead and let you in on a secret: they’re not especially beautiful. They look like muffins, muffins that might even be good for you. They’re brown and lumpy on top. But they are very, very delicious: tender and with a hearty crumb, faintly buttery, intensely perfumed with banana. They were the first thing I ate after June was born, and though I’m sure the astonishment of that moment has biased my opinion somewhat, I stand by my assessment of the muffin. I can’t remember why, but Brandon had to feed it to me - maybe I was holding the baby? - and rather than putting the whole thing up to my face, he broke off bites and put them in my mouth. It was a very sweet gesture, except that the bites he gave me were tiny, as though he were feeding an injured bird, and he kept getting distracted by something - it must have been the baby, who, yes, I must have been holding - and soon I was barking, "MORE MUFFIN. THE MUFFIN. GIVE ME THE MUFFIN." Which, of course, is nothing new.


Banana Cereal Muffins
Adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

I think of this as a garbage disposal-style recipe, and I hope you won’t take that the wrong way. What I mean is, you can throw your nearly dead bananas at it, and your leftover hot cereal from this morning, and that bag of dark rye flour you’ve had lying around in the refrigerator since last March. Or, if you’re short a banana but happen to have some applesauce, put a little of that in instead. I might even try using leftover oatmeal next time, instead of the cracked grain cereal.

Another note: Boyce calls for creaming butter when it’s cold, rather than room temperature. I can’t say for sure, but I think she does it as a convenience: that way, you don’t have to plan ahead. I was nervous, but when beaten on high speed, it really does cream just fine.

½ cup cracked-multigrain hot cereal, such as Bob’s Red Mill or Bluebird Grain Farms Old World Cereal Blend
Pinch of salt
1 cup (140 grams) dark rye flour
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp. (85 grams) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup (50 grams) dark brown sugar
3 very ripe bananas, about 1 ¼ pounds or 565 grams
2 Tbsp. unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
1 large egg

Bring 1 ½ cups water to a boil. Add the cereal and salt, and whisk to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cereal is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool; then set aside ½ cup of the cooked cereal, saving the rest for another use. (You can freeze it in ½-cup portions to use for more muffins later, if you want.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 8 cups of a standard-size muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dark rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and the brown sugar. Beat on high speed until the mixture is light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the bananas, molasses, egg, and the ½ cup cooled cereal, and beat on medium speed until thoroughly combined, a minute or so. It may look curdled. Don’t worry about that. Add the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed to just combine. Using the spatula, mix a bit more to ensure that the flour is entirely absorbed.

Scoop the batter into the 8 prepared muffin cups. (I use an ice cream scoop to do this, but you could also use a spoon.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan midway through, until the bottoms of the muffins are dark golden in color. (Twist one out of the pan to check.) Remove the tins from the oven, transfer the hot muffins to a wire rack, and cool slightly. The muffins are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. Or, on later occasions, consider warming them in the oven or toasting them lightly before serving. They also freeze beautifully.

Yield: 8 muffins

10.02.2012

All right

Well, well, well! I’m typing this with a baby strapped to my chest! Still trying to figure out how that happened.


I hope you’re well. Things are all right here, I’m relieved to report, especially given the fact that I had exactly zero experience with babies prior to birthing one three short weeks ago. I have never felt so simultaneously capable and incompetent. It depends on the day. Sometimes the hour. But we’re figuring it out, with help and handholding and deliveries of soup and Szechuan pork and plum cake from our parents and friends and our adoptive family at Delancey and Essex. It helps that June has the world’s best cowlick, and that she makes pirate faces when she’s hungry. It helps that I really, really, really like her.

Last week, someone asked me how it feels to be a mother. I have to say, I don’t feel like a mother yet. I don’t even know what it means to feel like a mother. Right now, more than anything, I feel best if I don’t think too hard.


I’ve never been a journal- or diary-keeper. This site, though I don’t like to think of it as anything remotely like a journal, is my closest thing to it. But if I were keeping a journal of this period of time, I would want to make note of Music Hour. Every morning, after June has had breakfast, I sneak out to make coffee or pay bills or shower, and she and Brandon lie in bed and hiccup, listening to music and looking out the window.


June is a great fan of Elvis, Johnny Cash, old country-western as a general category, and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (with gratitude to Unofficial Auntie Elissa for the suggestion). She also likes Arthur Russell. She does not like the silence between songs. She is deeply insulted by the silence between songs. Like me, she is made alternately ecstatic and weepy by Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” She appreciates my singing voice, which is something that no one on Earth has ever appreciated, ever. She can stay.

Be back soon.