The Shared Banana Bread by Amy Cantu

The rain gods have blessed us with water falling from the sky, but with it comes the damp coldness and gray. The kids were bouncing around the house aimlessly, so I knew we needed to get our wits about us and come up with a rainy day project. Behold the four darkly spotted bananas sitting on the counter: It's time to fix this dark, dreary day with some homemade banana bread. My five-year-old did a happy dance around the kitchen, and my two-year-old immediately dunked his hands into the flour and flung it into the air yelling, "It rain! It rain!" Let the baking (and mess) begin! After mashing the bananas, (a.k.a. squishing banana pulp between tiny fingers,) the next best thing about making banana bread in our house is that everyone gets to pick a mix-in. The eldest begged for chocolate chips, but alas, we were out, so he grudgingly settled on shredded coconut. The younger one was adamant about "nuts! more and more and more nuts!" And me? A splash of bourbon please, because that's how I roll. The end result was a glorious, golden loaf of banana bread, generously studded with chopped walnuts and toasted coconut, with a whiff of bourbon, and warm, cozy house to fight off the cold day. We were all quite pleased with ourselves.

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Coconut Bourbon Banana Bread

The Shared Bakealong by Cynthia Raub

I have always been intimidated by baking. I find that I have the hardest time with measuring and weighing exact amounts, as I'm more of a heaping-scant-dash kind of cook. I also have severe time and personal management skills, which means I start things at the most inopportune time and/or completely forget that I was in the middle of something. And ya know what, I also am a "little more time shouldn't hurt" kind of person, too. I have left cakes in the oven for a few extra minutes to make sure they are baked through. They are definitely baked through. And very dry. Take it from me, these are all poor qualities to possess if you want to bake yummy things.

Making pizza dough for the first time was a revelation. The transformation of water and flour, (with a dash of patience,) was remarkable, and I felt like a magician. Ever since then, I have successfully baked rich profiteroles and golden, airy gougères. Somehow, baking a multitude of batches of pâte à choux dough has awoken the baker inside of me. I bought a two-pound package of yeast from Costco and a Pullman Loaf pan, and I am baking more than my family of four can consume. King Arthur's flours, customer service, and recipes are all infallible. (This is not a sponsored post). When they began their Bakealong social media campaign in August, I was immediately hooked. August's recipe was for Pane Bianco, (Italian for "white bread",) featuring the enduring and eternally perfect combination of cheese, garlic, tomato and basil. While this bread may look fancy or complicated, it was truly easy and FUN to make.

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Pane Bianco