I had a rough couple of weeks at school. If there were a soundtrack to my day, it would be the song, "You Had a Bad Day." Without going into detail, I felt a bit ... roughed up by my life.
Now, when I feel that way, I turn to baking. Banana bread is my comfort zone.
My favorite banana bread recipe comes from the Tassajara Bread Book, a cookbook written by Edward Espe Brown, a Zen practitioner. If you don't already own it, get it! It's a timeless classic. This is the bread cookbook my mother had in our house while I was growing up.
Many people have written about the soothing, relaxing, and meditative qualities of baking. For me, that feeling has several components. First, there is the relaxation of the familiar routine. The motions of making bread are so familiar to my body that I go through them like a gentle dance. It's like a rhythm that I perfect more and more each time I do it. I can literally mix up this bread in 5 minutes, but I'm not hurrying; I've just done it so many times.
Into the bowl: 2 c. mashed banana (the riper the better), 2 eggs, 1/2 c. oil, 1/2 c. honey, 1 grated lemon rind, 1/4 t. salt.
For me, this bread is also relaxing because it's the banana bread of my childhood. My mother didn't bake a lot (though she made an amazing variety of masterful soups and roasted meats). But I remember her baking this banana bread. To me it tastes like "the right" banana bread.
The recipe also has the distinction of being the only recipe I've used that contains 100% whole wheat flour and doesn't come out dry and tough. It also has no refined sugar and no dairy!
So, you add to the bowl: 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1 t. baking soda. Stir until just combined, and pour in an oiled loaf pan.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
I think for me, the real reason baking bread is relaxing is that I get to make it perfect for myself. Each time I bake, it's my time, my space, my rhythm, and my exploring the recipe. I can make it taste how I like it. For me, the process of baking is a process of coming back to myself when I'm feeling off center. And that, my friends, is truly Zen.
Try this banana bread! It's amazing. And enjoy in good health.
I'm a school librarian, cookbook author, and longtime fan of food and literature. Welcome to my blog!