Ten months ago, I moved out to Chicago bearing three oversized suitcases, a turtle shell of a backpack, and a freshly baked loaf of banana bread.
Amidst my clothes, books, and cooking utensils, it was this sugary delight that carried the greatest importance (and, not to mention, the greatest aroma to accompany me through a three-hour flight). You see, no less than four hours after disembarking the plane in Chicago, I had scheduled appointments with various local Craigslist sellers to acquire a giant plush couch, a coffee table, end tables, a full-size bed, a chair, an ottoman, two bookshelves, and an elaborate multi-piece desk. Call me crazy, but I wanted to feel settled in to my new city as soon as I could.
And that’s where the banana bread came in.
A simple post on our budding med school Facebook group’s wall requesting a helping hand in exchange for some banana bready goodness, and I was met with smiling faces, strong arms, and growling stomachs. Some may call it bribery, but it’s how I made my empty apartment a home, and more importantly, it’s how I made the first of my wonderful, generous friends here.
I’ve been making this banana bread for years, and it’s come to serve as a vehicle for my journeys in sharing the joys of baking with others. Through this bread, my mom taught me how to level flour and know the difference between wet and dry measurements when I was but a budding baker working by her side. Through this bread, I fundraised for Relay For Life by turning my dorm kitchen into an underground commercial baking operation. Through this bread, I’ve been able to ship my love cross-country in tightly-wrapped brown boxes. And most recently through this bread, I’ve brought finals-weary med students together to celebrate almost being done with our first year of this journey.
Over the years, through experimentation and taking tips from others, I’ve created something that’s uniquely my own, but always shared with others—as an offering of gratitude, friendship, and love.
Joanna Banana Bread
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 cup chocolate chips (optional, but highly recommended)
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together oil and sugar. Add eggs. Add mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients (flour through salt). Add vanilla and milk and whisk until just combined. Finally, lightly coat the chocolate chips in some flour and fold them into the batter (this will prevent them from sinking while baking). Pour batter into greased 9x5x3” loaf pan* and bake for 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely (if you have the ability to resist the temptation of just digging in!)
*Dust the pan with sugar or cinnamon sugar after you have greased it for a delicious crunchy crust!