Are you in need of an easy homemade dish to bring to a party or potluck? Do you want to try a uniquely delicious take on a classic quick bread? If so, then Molly Wizenberg has a perfect recipe for you. Her take on banana bread in A Homemade Life is well-written and easy to follow and, as I found as I tested it, very delicious.
A Homemade Life is not your typical cookbook. You won’t find recipes with numbered steps or tons of full color photographs. Instead you’ll find short stories from Wizenberg’s life followed by a recipe relating to that story. These recipes are the heart of the book and are used to connect the readers to the stories. Prose-filled cookbooks are my jam so I’ve been enjoying it immensely. To get the full book experience, I felt I had to try out at least one recipe for myself.
The first recipe that caught my attention was early in the book. Wizenberg’s banana bread with the addition of crystallized ginger and chocolate chips is a unique take on the classic recipe. When choosing the recipe, I picked one which was both easy to transport and had flavors that would be enjoyed by many people. I was going to bring the bread to work for my coworkers to test. The story, one about a friend who made her a similar loaf, did not sway my decision although I liked it.
The instructions were clear and, like most banana breads, was very easy to put together. You only need basic baking utensils, not even a mixer to whip up this treat. The chocolate and ginger included in the loaf is what separates it from regular banana bread. I followed the recipe pretty closely, only using Greek yogurt instead of regular, because that is what I had on hand. I didn’t think this would affect the outcome and from what I can tell, it didn’t.
Just like most activities, baking is more fun with booze. For the full Wizenberg experience, my intention was to try something from her cocktail column at Food 52. Then I saw a recommendation in a post on Orangette for a Black Manhattan. I love whiskey, especially rye, so I made a special trip to BevMo for Averna because it was the only ingredient I didn’t have on hand. The results were a fantastic and rich Manhattan. It’s so good and might replace my regular Manhattan recipe. The cherries that I soaked in brandy and canned last summer complimented the Averna. It made for a deliciously boozy cocktail to sip while mashing up the bananas and waiting for the bread to bake.
The bread took a long time to bake in my oven. It was in there for about 75 minutes, about 15 minutes longer than the recipes suggested, but came out with a golden brown finish just as Wizenberg said it would. I ate a slice with butter and was very pleased with the results. The chewy bits of ginger throughout the bread were yummy and the chocolate and the ginger together added a rich and spicy decadence. Would it pass the coworker test though? How would the loaf do in a crowd?
The next morning I brought the finished bread to work and it was a big hit. This banana bread was the shit. Everyone said they were surprised with the combo of chocolate and ginger and banana. Someone said if I wanted to make it more perfect, I could add booze. Comments ranged from “very good” and “delicious” to “Well there goes my gluten-free diet.” Let me tell you, it is very satisfying when something you’ve baked convinces someone eating paleo to go back for gluten-filled seconds and thirds. Cavemen didn’t bake banana bread and definitely didn’t have access to Nestle chocolate chips. Another coworker, with iron-clad willpower who I have never seen eat bread before, had about ¼ of a slice. Again, I consider this the utmost compliment on the recipe.
My first test of a Wizenberg recipe was a huge success. I’m interested in your thoughts on her work. Have you tested any other recipes from a Homemade Life or Orangette? What do you recommend and what should I try next? Right now, I’m leaning toward the caramelized cauliflower with salsa verde while I drink a New York Sour.