Banana Bread

Because what else does one do with mushy bananas?

Sour cream may be the most versatile ingredient known to man. Aside from cinnamon. And onion. And egg. Butter. Butter is versatile. So is vinegar. I love vinegar.

Let’s try this again. Sour cream. Sour cream is certainly not a necessity for this recipe. Bananas and butter are pretty fricken good together. The sugar doesn’t hurt either. But if you’re gonna make food, make it taste better than store bought. I guarantee they didn’t use sour cream. Heck, they didn’t even use butter. A major coffee chain doesn’t even pretend to use wholesome ingredients. My recipe isn’t gonna help your belt line but it will taste really, really good. And you have sour cream to thank for it.

Oh, another thing you’re gonna need to know- don’t use fresh firm bananas. If you can’t smell their aroma on the way through the kitchen, they’re not gonna make your banana bread pop. Stick em in the freezer overnight then thaw the next day. They’ll be mushy and fragrant and brown. Brown is what you need. The sugars will have broken down into new little flavor enhancers and you will not regret it. Unless you drop a frozen one on your foot. But you can still use it. 3 second rule. Plus it comes with it’s own wrapper so that rule doesn’t even apply. Why people take a fresh banana out of the peel to eat it whole is beyond me.

Here’s everything you need. Except vanilla. You need that too. Use the real stuff. Seriously.

Use low fat or fat free sour cream. It’s still creamy but will give you a tangy kick. Trust me. I skipped the butter/sugar pic. Here’s Tina’s organic orange egg. So tasty.

Sift your dry goods. Quick breads don’t like to be over mixed so get the lumps out first. I use coarse ground kosher salt and it does NOT go through the sifter. Just add it on top. Zoom in, you’ll see it.

Y’all know how to grease and flour baking pans right? Good. Here they are 10 minutes outta the oven. Pretend there was a pic of the batter all ooey gooey.

Now- this is important- do NOT cut into this lusciousness until completely cool. These cooled to room temperature and then went into the fridge for 2 hours. Do it! Wrap them well first. Know what? Just wait until tomorrow to eat them. Do it!

Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter (we’ll talk more about butter in the future)
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 ripe bananas (brown!)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • chopped nuts if you like that kinda thing

Preheat the hotbox to 350, grease and flour a loaf pan. Cream the butter, add the sugar wee bits at a time until fluffy and incorporated nicely. Scrape down the bowl a few times! Toss in the vanilla, sour cream, and bananas. Mix well. It’s gonna smell amazing.

Sift the dry ingredients and plop in. You can add some chopped nuts here too. I don’t. Go ahead and do what you want. Mix just until blended. Don’t overdo it!

Bake for at least an hour. I usually go about 70 minutes cuz I like it a wee bit underdone. You could go as many as 90 minutes but it’ll start to dry and that’s a shame. Let cool on a rack 10 minutes then pop it out. Cool at least 2 hours, then refrigerate another 2.


Montana Huckleberries

There are no less than 13 seasons in Montana, including Third Winter, False Autumn, and roughly 5 weeks of Mud. Real Summer is anywhere from April or July (snow in June brings along Fourth Winter and an additional week of Mud) to Fair Weekend or sometimes November. But once Summer hits, it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Autumn and First Winter are quite spectacular, as are False Spring and Thunderstorm Week. But Real Summer is like nothing you’ll ever experience. Cool waterways are plentiful for swimming, fishing and boating. The population is sparse so peaceful hiking, camping and foraging are available around every corner. For all but Thunderstorm Week, the heat is dry and the skies are blue. Come August, Firewood Season begins with cool mornings for sawing and hauling, then a jump in the lake in the hot afternoon sun. August also brings the most important time of year, Huckleberry Season.

Huckleberry patch locations are shrouded in absolute secrecy, just like crabbing spots here on the Sound. Under no circumstance does a Montanan share where or even when he picked his purple gold. I’ve heard tale of adult children learning of their father’s patch coordinates only upon his death. We don’t mess around when it comes to huckleberries.

On my last visit to the Clark Fork Valley I was able to make arrangements via a secret phone call at the grocery store with an elderly woman and her sons to purchase a couple gallons of fresh picked berries. First name basis, cash only, and a secret head nod known only to Montana natives- it would all feel a little scandalous to outsiders but if you’ve ever tasted these berries, you’d understand why we guard them, literally, with our lives. (bears are real and they love huckleberries)

Huckleberries have a strong, rich flavor so if using in place of blueberries, you can likely reduce the amount by half. For these scones I used only a cup of berries, mixed straight from the freezer to reduce color bleed. Remember to always use cold butter when baking flaky treats.

I rarely have buttermilk in the house except for large catering jobs. Fresh milk with a tablespoon of vinegar suits me just fine. Yes, you must use buttermilk or milk/vinegar if the recipe calls for it. You need that acid to work with the baking soda. Sure you can omit both and use plain milk but there’s still some science involved so just stick with the recipe.

Whatever you do, do NOT over mix or knead a quick bread. The butter & leavening agent combination is meant to give you soft, flaky results. In the case of biscuits you can fold it over on itself a few times and then gently roll out. You won’t need to do that here.

One thing to note- preheat your hotbox well ahead of time for breads and cookies. The initial shock of heat is very important to get the loft and tenderness you desire.

I drizzled a bit of lemon glaze on top, it compliments the sweet tangy berry very well. Tastes like childhood.

Huckleberry Scones

  • 2 1/3 c flour
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 c frozen huckleberries

Set the hotbox to 450. Line a sheet pan with parchment.

Sift the dry ingredients, then cut in butter til cornmeal consistency. Gently toss in the berries, chill. Beat the remaining ingredients til frothy and gently fold into the dry mixture. My junior high home-ec teacher said 10 folds is all you need for quick breads. She was right. Turn onto board with a bit of flour and sugar to prevent sticking. Gently press into a large circle about 1 inch thick. Gently cut, don’t saw, into 8 triangles. Use pancake turner to place on parchment, leaving plenty of space in between. Brush with a little buttermilk and sprinkle on some sugar.

Place in chill box til ready to bake. Reduce to 425 and bake 16-18 minutes. Leave on the pan til slightly cooled then drizzle with powdered sugar/lemon juice glaze.

Bread. Just… tasty bread.

Everyone is making bread nowadays. Social media is just dough folding, followed by carving wheat stalks, followed by more dough folding.

What these millions of posts don’t talk about is, well, the bread. The smell of bread. The taste of bread. The closing-your-eyes-and-imaging-gramma’s-house-with-each-bite bread. This is what I’m all about.

Gramma didn’t measure a darn thing. It’s surprising I even learned how to cook watching her. I think she owned measuring cups? Not sure. Just some flour and sugar scoops and a random soup spoon was all she needed. Oh, and a coffee cup.

She didn’t use the nifty no-knead recipe from the great Mark Bittman that everyone seems so keen on. She kneaded a solid yet soft dough til it looked just right, then set it to rise in the giant green tupperware bowl that was most likely used to bathe the newest grandbaby earlier that day. BTW, Bittman’s ‘How to Cook Everything’ is a wonderful primer for home chefs. He has a great line of cookbooks, including ‘Bittman Bread’, where you’ll find the OG recipe for no-knead bread.

Dinner rolls were the best bread Gramma made. A cold stick of butter was rubbed along the tops when they came out of the hotbox and we could hardly contains ourselves while they cooled enough to eat. Mmmm, so soft and slightly sweet with a nice crust. We’re not making those today, sorry.

Hearth Bread Recipe

2 c warmish water
1/4 t yeast
2.5 t kosher salt
4 c bread flour

I start this bread in the morning of Day 1. We don’t eat it until at LEAST the evening of Day 2. Be patient, it’s well worth it.

Mix all the ingredients until shaggy. It’ll be ugly but don’t worry. All the lil flour bits will hydrate and be just fine. You can scale the recipe pretty easily, no need to really change the yeast amount unless you’re doubling it.

Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel, then rest for at least 8 hours. Once the jiggly stage is reached you can start turning the dough. Now, you don’t have to turn the dough… but it’ll make a better bread. If you forget to turn it… you’ll be fine.

Simply wet your hands, lift the dough from underneath in the middle, and fold one end under. Repeat with the opposite end, then rotate and fold those two ends. You can do this a few times with each session.

Cover, let rest a couple hours, then repeat. It’ll be fine overnight without the turning.

Around 1 pm on Day 2, fold one last time and either lightly flour an oversized parchment and place seem side down, or lightly flour the top of the bread and place upside down in a banneton. Cover with a tea towel to rest.

After 30 minutes, throw a lidded cast iron or clay (if heat tested to 450) dutch oven or similar cookware in the hotbox and set to 450. Yes, 450. Let heat for 45 minutes or more.

Flip the banneton onto an oversized parchment and score the bread with a lame or sharp knife to about 1/2 inch deep. One long one will do, but I find a cross is best for a round loaf. Feel free to be artsy- wheat stalks are pretty, just don’t overdo it. I tried for a palm leaf here.. turned out ok.

Place your bread into the dutch over and replace the lid. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 25 or so. The edges will be a lil dark, that’s fine! I use a convection oven so grand total is about 45 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely before digging in.

Here’s lil homemade butter and crunchy salad we had for dinner. I didn’t save you any.

Share the Love

How does one begin to fall in love with food? Holiday meals at Gramma’s? Warm grains on a cold morning before school? Green beans fresh from the garden? Yes, yes, yes.

Many of my childhood memories involve food- I can’t place exactly when it became a language of love. Decades later my kids expect to be fed a steady diet of love and can’t understand why others don’t receive, and appreciate, the same.

Snowmageddon 2019 caught many people without a stocked pantry. My local hotspot for quality foods was full of customers and empty of staples, so I put back my single purchase, a loaf of roasted garlic artisan bread, and Stock Your Larder was born. We would eat only what was in the house for the next 8 days. My rural Montana upbringing would come in handy as we feasted on jarred jams, stew meat, chutneys and pickles, alongside commercial sized stocks of grains, beans and honey. An over-wintered garden of herbs and a large stockpile of meat and hand-harvested berries in the freezer rounded it all out.

Stock Your Larder has since evolved into a labor of love, sharing all my homemade goods with you for an all-natural, beautifully presented larder. #jointhemovement

Eat well, my friends.