Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread

Nutella-swirled banana bread whips up in ten minutes and isn't fussy - it's practically no-fail!

I’ve always loved banana bread, but I’ve been baking it a lot more lately. Part of that is because I have a friend who’s going through a hard time who likes it; part of that is because I’ve been testing a recipe for you, dear reader. And here it is, finally: Nutella-swirled banana bread, for those days when you need a little extra oomph with your dessert disguised as breakfast.

Banana bread is so simple to make but so good. I don’t quite understand how it exists in both of these spheres at once, but there it is. You can mix up the batter in a single bowl (unless you’re adding Nutella, so… you’ll need an extra bowl for this one; sorry). Once you’ve decided to make a loaf, it can be in the oven in ten minutes. There aren’t fifty-eleven things to clean up, and it’s not fussy about mixing method or, well, anything, really. It’s like your best friend in quick bread form. Comfy, like flannel pajamas. Sound good? Read on!

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Simple Cream Scones: Family Tea Time

Tender cream scones are easier than you think! Make some to enjoy this afternoon.

I’ve been talking a lot this year about my plan to implement family tea time (or coffee hour; I really can’t decide what to call it). I wanted to get back in the habit of baking, and I also wanted a way for us to reset in mid- to late afternoon. Afternoon is kind of the worst. So I’ve been baking a lot, and it’s been making me happy. One of my favorite easy recipes is this one, for simple cream scones; it’s adapted from King Arthur Flour’s website.

Scones, if you’re not familiar, are kind of similar to lightly sweet (American) biscuits. They should be soft and tender, and are best eaten freshly warm out of the oven. I like mine with just the barest hint of sweetness, so that it’s not overkill when I top them with jam. (We stock up on Bonne Maman Quatre Fruits at Costco, when they have it.) I think scones with additions like blueberries or dried fruit or even, deliciously, chocolate chips, are a bit of a different matter; they should still be flaky but I don’t tend to split and top those, so sometimes I use a bit more sugar in the first place.

Cream scones (and all scones, really) are also dead simple to make. Truly. You only need one bowl, and you can turn the dough out directly onto the baking sheet – lined with parchment or a silicone mat (this is an affiliate link), of course – so there’s barely any washing up to do. I feel like I’m talking Britishly in this post. It’s not intentional. My three-year-old was telling me we needed to buy a picnic rug so I think we may all have had too much Peppa Pig as of late.

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Adventures in Yeasted Doughs: Learning to Work With Yeast

Delicious yeasted cake topped with caramelized honeyed almonds - a bee sting cake, or bienenstich

I’ve mentioned here and there that one of my goals in 2017 is learning to work with yeast, and regularly making our own homemade bread. Yes, you can buy a cheap loaf of what passes for bread at the store; most stores also have bakeries that do a slightly better job. But those loaves tend to be pricey.

I think there’s also something satisfying about doing it yourself. I still have some vague aspirations towards homesteading (I’m going to try to grow some of our food this summer, for example). Bread baking taps into those mild feelings of self-sufficiency, and when you struggle with chronic depression, as I do, feeling like you’re Doing Something can really be a balm.

I like to think it also reduces waste somewhat; I’m less likely to toss the end of a homemade loaf, for example, and it eliminates the paper or plastic packaging from the store. I haven’t quite worked out yet what the efficiency difference is in my using my own oven versus the effectively communal oven at the store. I sort of assume that my keeping the ingredients at home versus those kept in a bakery is a wash, even if I use Prime Pantry (affiliate link), for example. Don’t quote me on that, though.

Yeast doughs can be intimidating. Here's one baker's journey to happy bread-baking.

Noodling on whether it’s actually worth it financially and environmentally, though, there’s the challenge. I’ve never been a natural at yeast doughs. My hands run hot, and somehow, even knowing that, I inevitably overflour during kneading and end up with dense, sort of yucky loaves. I’ve always used that as an excuse to not try very hard; I’ve had a few forays with bread machines, but I feel like they kind of smell funny and make weird loaves. I keep losing my KitchenAid’s dough hook, somehow. Et cetera.

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