When Life Gives You Bananas…
I don’t bake very often.
Which is to say, I bake never.
Two weeks ago, for my sons’ bake sale at school, I bought three boxes of nut-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, flavour-free snickerdoodle cookies and placed them very deliberately into a container lined with paper towel. I pressed the tops of a few of them and crumbled one or two for effect. I neither confirmed nor denied that I had baked them myself, and they were a hit.
Don’t tell me I don’t make an effort.
Recently, I came across some very ripe bananas on my counter. “Self,” I said to myself, “why not make banana bread? Surely you can find a healthy, sugar-free recipe online!”
There are literally thousands of “healthy, sugar-free” recipes for banana bread on the Internet. As it turns out, I picked the one dud.
I don’t blame Pinterest exclusively for what happened next.
I’m a bit of an improviser (read: I cut corners), but with cooking you can usually get away with it. Don’t have peanuts for your satay sauce? Use crunchy peanut butter! No pine nuts for your pesto? Use walnuts or hemp seeds! Baking, on the other hand, is science. It’s alchemy. Miss one ingredient, and it’s crap. Use too much of something, and you can’t overcorrect – you’ll have to toss it.
I learned this the hard way.
Everything was fine until I started getting creative. I thought that if four bananas make it moist, then a cup of applesauce would make it even better. And hey! Why not cut down on cholesterol by substituting the third egg for egg whites? No measuring cup? No problem! Since I didn’t know the difference between baking soda and baking powder, I decided that neither were really necessary. Flour is a powder, right? I just used more flour to compensate for the extra wet ingredients. I ignored the nagging feeling as I mixed everything together, noting how it wasn’t actually turning into batter so much as paste.
Oh man, I thought. Recipes are for suckers. I’m a baking maverick, beholden to no recipe. Ain’t no set of carefully executed rules gonna chain me down!
I baked it for the allotted 50 minutes. It bubbled and churned, but never turned golden brown. I began to worry when, after an additional 30 minutes, it had glazed over but continued to bubble. How can a solid do that? Finally, after nearly two hours in the oven, my creation had started to turn a faint brown at the outermost corners.
I pulled it out and set it on the rack to cool.
It fell onto the rack with a heavy plop. It was oozing. It was a mess. Dave looked horrified. “I’m not eating that,” he said. “No way.”
Just to prove to him that it was fine, I scooped a hunk of under-cooked, oozing (steaming, piping, freaking hot) banana goo and chewed. And chewed. “See?” I managed through careful mastication whilst burning off a layer of tongue skin. “It’s delish.”
It’s a miracle that my jaw wasn’t glued shut. We watched each other carefully, looking for signs that the other was bluffing. My mouth started to tingle. I couldn’t feel my tongue. Finally, I retched and spit it out. “Yeah, enjoy that.” The next morning, I threw it out.
I learned two valuable lessons that day.
One: Husbands have a line in the sand, usually where there’s a possibility of being poisoned.
Two: Leave the baking to Betty Crocker.