This Banana Cinnamon Sandwich Bread. Sweet, savory, spicy. Perfectly imperfect. Like a teenager.
Before I begin my rant I’d like to say this: I like to keep this space free of opinions revolving current events. This space is about food and for the most part I like to keep things humorous and light. But as a mother and a human being with empathy, I cannot stand by without putting in my two cents.
I’m sure by now you’ve watched the video of the incident involving a police officer tackling and dragging a student in a South Carolina High School. I read the news stories. I watched the video. I watched the interviews. And I read the comments – Comments which run the gamut from “She got what she deserved!” to righteous indignation to people making it about themselves somehow. The worst comments, the ones my mind cannot wrap itself around, are those stating this girl got what she deserved for not following directions. What?!
To break this down: Teen is texting on her phone in class. Teen is asked by her teacher to stop. Teen does not stop. Teacher asks teen to leave. Teen does not leave. At this point teacher feels this situation is somehow too hard to handle and a police officer steps in. The officer asks teen to go. Teen does not go. There is verbal exchange. Officer slams and drags the ever loving fuck out of the teen. A kid takes a video of this whole thing. Did I get this right? A kid was slammed and dragged over Typical Teenage Defiance.
Now, let’s focus on what it truly means to be a teenager, because apparently adults have clearly blocked it from memory. Navigating through your teens is like waking up and walking through a field littered with mines. It is easily one, if not the most confusing and complex time in person’s life. Your hormones are at war inside you. Constantly. Every fucking day. Every.Fucking.Day. You’re dealing with the awkwardness of a changing body and a changing brain, and at this very moment you have not acquired the proper skills to articulate feelings swirling inside you. And that is only one factor. One.
Then environment comes into play. And some children/teens are living in conditions so deplorable, so unimaginably atrocious, the fight or flight instinct in the brain is triggered. And doesn’t turn off. Because at home and school they don’t teach this kid how to turn off the fight. So they internalize their feelings and it bubbles inside them until at the most inappropriate moment, they lash out. This teenager who was slammed and dragged out of her desk by a man twice her size was crying for help.
And I’m not justifying what she did. She should have been disciplined for her defiance. What I am saying is her defiance was a cry for help. She couldn’t say, “Help me.” Because she has to put up a front. Because she has yet to acquire the skills which enable her to ask for help. And now she may NEVER acquire that skill.
How different would this have been if the teacher had kindly asked, “Can we step out of the room and talk?” What if the officer instead of slamming and dragging this girl across the room had crouched down to eye level, looked at her and kindly asked, “What’s going on? Is anything happening at home?” If these scenarios had played, they would have uncovered this girl is currently in foster care. And I don’t know what it’s like to be in foster care, but I know what it’s like to be homeless. It is debilitating.
No one is listening when a teen cries for help in the only way he/she knows how. No one despite education or training has the skill to deal with a teen who yells and screams because she needs someone, anyone to give a shit. Instead they’re treated like violent criminals. A statistic. A number. Probably from an impoverished and gang riddled community. Nobody cares because from the cushy comfort of their homes people take one look at this girl and think she has one foot in a cell, anyway. This is what she’s destined for. Who cares, right? Let’s just slam the shit out of her, sensationalize it on the news, and allow readers to spew vitriol until something happens to the Kardashians.
Until these underlying issues – The ones constantly ignored, the ones lawyers profit from citing “Civil Rights Violations” that deplete city resources possibly earmarked to benefit programs and schools, the issues not addressed and shut away, the ones we talk about only in the abstract sense, the issues labeled as just stats on a piece of paper are addressed – This will continue happening. Because we’re forgetting what the hell it means to be human and compassionate. Awareness is not enough. We need to do something beyond watching it from the comfort of our living rooms or toilet seats.
Rant over. It was aggressive. I’m sorry. Flow with me – Let’s talk about bread. This Banana Cinnamon Sandwich Bread is a yeasted situation. And if you didn’t know, yeast is a living breathing organism. An organism which grows and expands when fed. I used ripe bananas in this dough, bananas anyone would otherwise throw away. I don’t throw ripe bananas away. I use them.
I take old, bruised, damaged bananas and turn them into something beautiful. And this sandwich bread is beautiful. Much like challah, the dough is soft from eggs, butter, and ripe bananas. It never really firms up, it’s just less sticky. With the help of yeast it is allowed to rise and change. And once it rises it isn’t punched down, but pressed down gently to allow air to escape. It is then molded into shape and allowed to rise again. Then it is baked into its final, firm shape. And the shape, handled with care is imperfectly perfect. No two loaves are ever the same. It flavors notes of bananas with a teeny tiny hint of cinnamon, but mostly bread. It is both savory and sweet. It is soft and perfect smeared in butter or Nutella or whatever else your heart desires. It is life.
Banana Cinnamon Sandwich Bread
- 2 teaspoons Active dry yeast
- 1 cup Warm water 105° Fahrenheit
- 1 tablespoon Granulated sugar
- 4 ¾ - 5 cups All-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons Ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons Light brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Salt
- 5 tablespoons Unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 Large eggs
- 2 small Ripe bananas mashed
- 1 Beaten egg for glaze
- By hand:
- In a small bowl combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Mix briefly to combine and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes or so.
- To a large bowl add 4 ½ cups of flour, ground cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands or wooden spoon until mostly combined. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the eggs, the yeast mixture, and mashed bananas. Stir the dough with a wooden spoon until a very sticky dough comes together.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough, adding the remaining ¼ cup of flour gradually until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. If the dough becomes too sticky to handle, pour remaining ¼ cup of flour on the counter next to the ball of dough and periodically dust your hands with the flour and continue kneading. Don’t be tempted to add too more than a total of 5 cups of flour to the dough. This dough will remain pretty soft so don’t expect for a ball of firm dough. It’s not going to happen. The most you will get is a less sticky dough.
- Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly buttered or oiled bowl. Flip once or twice to coat and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Allow the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk, about 2 hours.
- Butter two 9x5-inch loaf pans.
- Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface. Divide it in half. Press down one piece of dough at a time and form into a rectangle. Begin to form a loaf by rolling the dough from the short end, much like forming a jelly roll. Pinch the seams and place the loaves seam side down in the pans. Cover the loaf pans with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven 350° Fahrenheit.
- Uncover the risen loaves and brush them gently with beaten egg. Cover the loaves loosely with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes until the loaves are a nice golden brown, the bottom sounds hollow, and the internal temperature of the loaves register at least 190° Fahrenheit.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans, place in a wire rack and allow the loaves to cool completely before slicing.