Jan 25, 2011

A Homemade Life and a banana bread

I realize I have been absent from my favorite book club for a long time. It does not, however, mean that I haven’t been reading the books that are voted in as the club’s book of the month. I read Caliph’s house and even managed to write a few lines about it on my iPhone while sipping coffee at a McDonald’s and keeping an eye on Jr running around in the play area. This is what I wrote, if anyone doubts it:

If you pick up this book, expecting it to be along the lines of Under the Tuscan Sun, you will be sorely disappointed. While the Tuscan Sun was a loving albeit a laborious exercise in restoring a Tuscan villa, Caliph’s house is anything but. Fraught with jinns, superstitious guardians, unpredictable secretaries and a mobster for a neighbor, the project to restore a Caliph’s house, at the edge of a Casablanca slum, is destined for disaster…

I could have written more but I quickly lost interest in writing the review. Since the book never got better, how much can one write in the negative?

In contrast to TCH, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Author of the blog Orangette, Molly writes with an old fashioned, homemade charm about food, family and friends. The book reads like a collection of her blog posts with one to two recipes at the end of each post. There are recipes for soups, stews, salads, cakes and pies, some perfected by her cousins, her dad, her husband and herself.

If you have ever wondered how to word a recipe, from ingredients to method, I highly recommend A Homemade Life. Molly has mastered the art of writing down the most complex of recipes into a simplified, you-can-do-it-style. Reading her recipes, related to the “food stories” that accompany it make you want to step in your kitchen and start making a big pot of soup or bake one of her decadent cakes.

For me, the most poignant of the posts were the ones about her father, his love of all things French that he passed on to her, and her deep connection with him. But there are moments of joy and serendipity and fortuitous connections made over food that will remind you that the common thread that binds us all is also the one that sustains us. That is the reason why so many bloggers blog about food and why there is an entire TV channel dedicated to food.

You may wonder why I have not chosen to cook anything from her book, after praising it so much. For one, after reading through the whole book all I wanted to make more than anything else was Molly’s chocolate cake that she made for her own wedding. This cake uses equal amounts of butter and chocolate, some sugar and just a tablespoon of flour. The recipe is one of those that lures you to make it right away and then consume the finished goods till there is none left.

However, when one day, towards the end of the year, you measure your waist and weight and almost swoon, it is no time to indulge in cakes made almost exclusively of butter, chocolate and sugar. Instead, you start driving towards a very hot Bikram yoga studio and sweat and stretch for 90 minutes until your body feels it has been through the wash, tumble and rinse cycle of the washing machine. After that you indulge yourself in the semi-sweet embrace of a 64% Cocoa Scharffenberger and call it a day.

I did end up making something from her book, though not her exact recipe. It is a relatively healthier version of the banana bread that Molly has in the book. The recipe for this bread has already been posted on this blog but if you are too busy to click on the link, here’s the recipe once more with the original photo.

This recipe comes in handy every time I have some leftover, black, mushy bananas, hiding in the back of the fridge.

Makes one 9inch loaf of banana bread
Original Recipe Source: Hooked on heat


1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional but recommended:

½ cup dry shredded coconut (I used sweetened coconut)
1/2 cup pecans or almonds (optional)
¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a loaf pan on all sides.
Melt the butter in the microwave and add flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix.
Add the mashed bananas and mix to make a smooth batter. It will take a few minutes for the batter to come together.
Stir in the vanilla extract, pecans, coconut and chocolate chips.
Pour in the pan and bake for 30 minutes or depending on your oven, till a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Serve with tea or as an after dinner dessert. The bread is not too sweet, loaded with the flavor of bananas and tastes yummy.

Note:  If you do add chocolate chips, the toothpick inserted may come out coated with melted chocolate. In that case, insert it in another part of the bread.

Having baked this bread numerous times, I have come to realize that the riper the bananas the more intense the banana flavor. If you prefer a less intense banana flavor, use just slightly mushy bananas instead of waiting for them to get all black and squishy.


  1. wow feel like reading this book now,..

  2. Have read and loved UtTS ... so maybe I'll give TCH a miss. But am tempted to read AHL now. Thanks Jaya. :-)
    The banana bread looks great! Just my kind of an eggless cake ... quick and tasty. :-)

  3. @notyet100, do read it and join our book club to do the review.

    @Sharmila, thanks girl. Read your stuffed bittergourd post in the morning but couldn't comment from my phone. Am off to do so now.

  4. The banana bread looks good. Tell me about all those inches I need to lose. :(
    I finished the book some time back but just baked from it 3 days ago!

    I read TCH and while there are a lot of loose ends in the book and its not wonderfully written, I did enjoy reading it.

  5. I heard of the book by Orangette and after your wonderful review I need to get my hands on it. I have really slowed down on reading any kind of books in last year or so. Just havent got the time. Work, cooking, studying Dah! I need to read books!

  6. I loved reading the book and also loved the bits about her dad - it's clear they had a very unique father-daughter relationship - I envy her!

  7. I agree with you on Caliph's House (awful) and A Homemade Life (fabulous), but you're a better woman than I am - I couldn't resist that chocolate cake. Great banana bread, thanks very much.

  8. I like all the recipes in her book, but I've never baked with bananas or ginger. I'm totally confused, but will come up with something eventually.

    Your banana bread is just the thing for January (as you say, after the chocolate induced haze of December!)

  9. Sounds like a good book,hopefully I can get it around here.I will definitely be trying that banana bread.looks very tempting...

  10. Have not got my hands on the book yet, hope to read it soon. Love the healthy version of the banana cake.

  11. Ah, another post! Keep it up. I haven't read either, but I did read Under the Tuscan Sun.

  12. Hi girl...
    So are you back to blogging?
    It would be nice for your readers...

    Hope you are oki:)

  13. Can't agree more on having a small piece of dark chocolate when in doubt :)

    Banana breads remind me of my Mithi and i have not made it for ages it seems .. Made some butter and sugar free cookies with banana and they have been a grand success with friends ( real and virtual) and family...


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