How was your week? What are you doing to cultivate joy, contentment, peace of mind?
I confess that in addition to actual cooking, reading cookbooks feels like an indulgence to me, an activity that reliably brightens and lightens my mood.
Certain cookbooks evoke strong memories for me, as if to mark the passage of time: Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook immediately takes me back to my sunny, sparkly clean Evanston, Ill. studio apartment during my senior year of college, when I tried to bake my way out of completing my honors thesis. Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast & Brunch stirs bittersweet memories of hosting regular Sunday brunches for family and friends when my ex-husband and I were first married. (Today I am making the tome’s lemon-ricotta pancakes, a recipe I previously posted to this blog. So delicious!)
I could go on … Like photo albums, cookbooks encapsulate so much beyond recipes. They contain reminders, sometimes via physical stains, of people, places, entire phases of life.
What is possibly even more enjoyable and rewarding to read than a cookbook is a cooking-related magazine or catalogue—for half, or even a third of the price, or possibly even for free, you get similar content.
This week I found myself perusing the February 2022 catalogue for the King Arthur Baking Company as I drifted to sleep, setting me up for sweet dreams of sanding sugar and vanilla extract and all manner of extraneous bakeware, like “cookie dough freezer trays” and “Irish lace shortbread pan.”
The recipe that follows is adapted from its pages. (My other culinary projects this week were more of the same … consuming last week’s peanut sauce with week four’s roasted broccoli, and lots of brown rice.) The instructions are quite simple to follow, and the result is rich with caramel flavor, a welcome variation on banana bread.
Here’s to good eating, and good reading, in the coming week.
Caramel Banana Walnut Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Baking Company
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup light brown sugar
1 cup mashed banana, about 2 medium or 1 ½ large bananas
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup milk or half-and-half
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ to 1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
- Whip the butter and brown sugar together until smooth, using an electric mixer. Meanwhile, mash the bananas. Add the mashed banana, mix. Then the egg, mix; vanilla, mix; and milk or half-and-half; mix.
- Add the dry ingredients: baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour. Mix until just combined.
- Chop the walnuts until you have 1 cup. To toast: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the chopped walnuts; heat several minutes, until fragrant, giving the skillet a good shake every 30 seconds so they don’t burn.
- Fold the walnuts and butterscotch chips into the batter with a large spatula. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the middle muffins comes out clean.
- Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from the pan, using a butter knife around the edges if needed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.