Despite the swirling schedule that surrounds me every single day, the madness of wedding planning and house hunting and graduate school and a full-time j.o.b., I still find that I cannot escape the insanity of football season. I hate that.
It's not that I haven't tried to embrace it, I was a cheerleader for the better part of my young life, but I think that was more for the skirt and the cartwheels and high-flyin' and glittery hair ribbons. We had to face the field in between cheers, you know, to "watch the game," but I couldn't ever tell what the heck was going on out there. I was cold, and wanted hot chocolate, and if it weren't for the third quarter break where I'd get to go soaring up in the air, I probably would've bailed.
I just hate it. I hate the brutality of it, the bum-smacking, the let's-ram-our-heads-against-one-another-until-we-both-have-concussions mentality. Of course, Justin loves it, he played all through high school and installed a football application to his Blackberry so he can keep up with the Steelers while he's at work. It drives me mad, it's on every channel all day, every day. Boys will watch the entire game even if they hate the team, it makes no sense to me. Isn't that like eating a full meal of a food that makes you gag? Like grits? Or canned meats? No?
Well, at least Kona shares my pain. I mean, he's the type that chews on his own foot, so I don't think his attention span quite encompasses athletic games, but honestly - chewing on my foot sounds more interesting than watching football and screaming at the television over nachos. I think a lot of this stems from a seedy relationship I had in college with a guy who knew nothing but football. It was funny because he'd never actually played on a team, ever, but he managed to set himself up as an assistant coach on the university's team (a tough thing to do given his X-Box schedule). When he wasn't at games, we had to watch football, then we had to check the stats online, then we had to play the video game...you get the drift. It came to the point where he said to me, "Football is such a huge part of my life, and if you can't understand that, then this isn't going to work."
I'm engaged to marry someone else.
So I think this banana bread is a good place to start. It's banana bread, which is one of my favorite things (second only to watching Kona chew his leg), but this time it's a smoky, chocolate version, freckled with a handful of bittersweet chocolate chips and a subtle banana flavor that kicks in after you mumble about how badly you'd like a glass of milk to swish down your last bite. It's fudgy and rich, close enough to call dessert, but thankfully the banana part makes it perfectly acceptable for breakfast, the only time of day when football is not on.
Adapted from Baking: My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark, Dutch-process cocoa powder*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from over baking.)
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about a minute, until softened. Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. At this point, the batter may look a little curdled -- it's okay. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Still on low speed, add the buttermilk, mixing until it is incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting too dark, and continue to bake for another 40 to 45 minutes (total baking time is between 70 to 75 minutes) or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the bread and unmolding. Invert and cool to room temp right side up.
* If you have it, swap out 1/4 cup of the cocoa for black cocoa to a richer chocolate flavor. The loaf will be nearly black with color, but very fudgy and rich. Just make sure you check your teeth afterward or else you'll look like a pirate.