|Lori in the middle row, green sweater, me behind her in a blue tank top|
Lori and I grew up together in a tiny, middle class community in northern New Jersey. It was an idyllic place to be a kid. The community was built around a small, shallow lake complete with a clubhouse, several small private beaches and lots of hilly streets perfect for bike riding and woods to get lost in. Lori and I were part of huge group of friends and until my family relocated to Texas in 1978, that community and those friends were my entire world. We went to kindergarten together, attended summer camp together, went to the same doctors and dentists, sold girl scout cookies together, attended each other's bar and bat mitzvahs and we stayed close all through grade school, middle school and into high school. I was 16 years old when we moved to southeast Texas and by the time I graduated from high school, I had fallen out of touch with the friends I'd shared so much of my childhood with.
Twenty-five years later, we reunited and since then, we've kept up with each other through social media. I have watched Lori's boys grow up and she has watched me move around the country. Through social media, we have discovered we share a passion for baking. Though we have not seen each other for about a decade, Lori and I have reconnected through baking. This is a sterling example of how food brings people together to share our common bonds.
Back to the bananas. After I cleaned the kitchen, I was ready to bake and Lori had shared her cupcake recipe with me on Facebook.
LORI'S BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP CUPCAKES
3 medium ripe bananas
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 generous tsp vanilla
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick room temperature butter
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional - not in Lori's recipe, but I thought it sounded good)
According to Lori's recipe, I set the oven to to 325 degrees. The bananas, milk, cinnamon and vanilla get mashed together and set aside. My bananas were far beyond ripe, the skin was black and the fruit was barely holding together. The aroma from the mashed banana mixture was intoxicating. Next, I mixed the dry ingredients together and set them aside. I creamed the butter and sugar together in the mixer, adding the eggs one at a time, then alternated adding the dry ingredients with the mashed bananas. The batter was quite loose and absolutely reeked of bananas. Finally, I added the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.
Now, had I followed Lori's recipe, I would have ended up with cupcakes, but I decided to bake this batter in a loaf pan like a traditional banana bread. It took about 90 minutes to bake and when I took it out of the oven, the toothpick I'd used to test the loaf was still slightly moist. The outside was deep brown and I was concerned it would burn if I left it in the oven any longer. The banana bread was absolutely delicious. It was impossibly moist with a tight crumb and the cinnamon, banana and chocolate created an unusually complex flavor. But this batter would have made a fluffy and delicate cupcake. I would have been wise to follow's Lori's recipe.
Lori and I will keep baking together in different states, sharing recipes and experiences on social media. Who knows, maybe one day we'll actually bake together in the same kitchen. Our friendship certainly goes far beyond our recipes, but I cherish the relationship we have built through food and I love that we are able to inspire each other to try new things. Thanks for the inspiration, Lori, keep it coming!