I received an e-mail recently as I often do, with a request for some baking help for my daughter’s school. This time it was a specific request for a few hundred butter cookies in the shape of a letter B, decorated in school spirit colors, blue and yellow. I noticed that my friend Christina was also on the e-mail so before responding I sent her a note suggesting we bake and then decorate together. It’s just so much easier and enjoyable to volunteer with a friend. Christina agreed and we accepted the job.
Although I will occasionally bake something simple like a batch of chocolate chip cookies or banana bread alone for a school event, giving many hours of time to create hundreds of decorated cookies is a whole different story, one I’d much rather do with a friend. The cooking with friends’ way of life offers a simple way to give back to the community in a fun and rewarding way. In this case, Christina and I had both been busy and hadn’t really gotten together to cook or bake in a while anyway. This opportunity offered up some necessary catch up time.
And, for those of you interested in the logistics of our baking date, here they are:
Last Tuesday was the second day of spring and I awoke to a front yard covered with snow and no heat. Needless to say, I was a bit down (not the best way to start the day) and had to wait around for the heating guy while Christina got things started. She had the dough nicely chilled and some letters already cut and ready-to-bake when I arrived. We cut, baked and made icing together and then before we started with the decorating, I suggested we make banana bread as well — a bonus for our time together. She readily agreed and pulled 8 overripe bananas from her freezer. I ran home to get more bananas and some other ingredients. I hurriedly mixed a few batches of banana bread while she got things ready for the decorating phase of our cookie making.
Later, while we sat on stools facing one another methodically outlining cookies with icing and dipping them in sugar, our banana breads baked while we chatted away about life and our kids. Christina even whipped up a quick falafel pita sandwich lunch for us to eat. With a whopping 220 sparkling blue and yellow cookies, several loaves of banana bread, our three hours together, was a huge success.
It was a modern and efficient way to spend time and lunch with a friend. And although my day started out gloomy, it ended with a smile and a sense of accomplishment: girl time + volunteer time = an excellent day.
Big Batch Bonus Banana Bread
Makes 2 large loaves, 8 mini loaves or 48 mini muffins
1 stick of butter, softened
7 very ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup apple sauce
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup wheat germ
2 ½ cups white flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup milk
2 cups mini chocolate chips (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the butter, sugars, apple sauce and bananas. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat well. Gradually add the flour, baking soda, powder and wheat germ and blend well. Mix in the milk, fold in the chips and transfer to loaf or muffin pans sprayed with baking spray. If baking mini loaves, you’ll need approximately 40 minutes. If making mini muffins, bake for less time and of course large loaves will take longer — approximately and hour.