Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Yes, We Have Snow, Bananas

In all my years of grown-up-hood, I've found that there are only two simple words that can apparently reduce any adult to a gleeful, child-like state of excitement: snow day!

The winter storm that swept through the Midwest and onto the Northeast yesterday and today left us with nearly a foot of snow, high winds, cold temps, and very messy roads -- in short, the sort of weather no sane person should be out and about in. Obviously, I'm not so sane, because once I discovered that my place of work was closed for the day, I bundled up and went outside to see what was open downtown. (Not much.)

I trekked back home and warmed up, delighted by the possibilities of a bonus day at home. And what else could I think about doing besides... baking?

Last weekend I picked up a big bunch of very ripe organic bananas at the grocery store, thinking that I needed to eat more bananas with all the strenuous walking I've been doing (and the resulting muscle cramps). Besides, my Dear Papa keeps telling me about making banana-nut bread, and honestly, after a while, I've just gotta have some, too.

So I sorted through my recipes and decided to make both dessert and breakfast.

I started with a recipe for banana-walnut biscotti, something I found in an issue of Veggie Life a number of years ago. The dough is vegan, using vegetable oil and non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening in place of butter, and with plenty of banana puree, there's no need for eggs. I tweaked the recipe a little (of course) and added nutmeg and cinnamon to round out that sweet banana flavor, and the biscotti turned out to have all the flavor of banana-nut bread concentrated into crisp cookies.

After that, I decided that I wanted to try something completely different for my break time treats: banana scones. But how to make them? And how to season them?

I pulled out my trusty ginger-date scone recipe and modified it to use banana puree in place of eggs again, and instead of using the same walnuts and spices as in banana bread, I decided on something a little more tropical: chopped pistachios, candied ginger, and a dash of cardamom.

While the biscotti went through their second baking, I mixed up the scone dough and cut out the squares so that I could keep the oven on for a little longer. It wasn't long before that marvelous fragrance let me know that the scones were almost done.

With that sweet fruity banana flavor, the sweet-hot bite of ginger, and the crunch of the pistachios, these light-textured scones made a warming sort of teatime snack on a wintry day.

The sun has come out, and the snow has started to turn to slush on the now-busy streets, so I expect I'll have to go back to work tomorrow.

But there's no day like a snow day... for baking!


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