Team B+L: Carolyn, our resident "Lupine Lady"

Today, we've got a lovely guest post from one of our team members, Carolyn Walsh. Carolyn was the first person to be brought on board to help me out in kitchen. Michael had been my trusty assistant from the very beginning stages of the company, but for the sake of our relationship I fired him. (Smile) I think it turned out to be a good decision, though, as we were married last month. Thank Goodness for Carolyn - baker, candy maker, and relationship equalizer.

When I first asked her to write a post for the blog, she balked at the idea - "What on EARTH am I going to write about!?" - but I encouraged her that this was a low-pressure gig; just a fun way for people to get to know the folks that are a part of our Team. I told her to write about whatever she wanted; about what inspired her, her favorite cookie, her family, what she's learned since joining B+L, her love of books - whatever! It was the mention of her love of books that got to her, because her countenance lightened and I could practically see the wheels spinning in her head! I'd managed to pique her interest.

A few weeks later, she emailed me with her post, and I must say - I was immediately drawn in to her story. I was also impressed. Not only can she perfectly bake a zillion trays of cookies, but she can write, too! So, without further adieu, I encourage you to carve out a few minutes in your afternoon, brew a fresh cup of coffee, and get to know Carolyn and the Lupine Lady...


My mother read to me quite a lot when I was a little girl.  We started (as I imagine is normal) with picture books , but quickly moved on to bigger and better things (I used to believe this was due to my astonishing intellect; upon later reflection I've decided it was more probably a result of Mom's low tolerance for picture books).  Many of the nicest things about myself--including my close relationship with my mother and my excellent vocabulary--I credit to the time we spent reading grown-up books that went completely over my head, but there was one picture book that never dropped completely off our map.

Miss Rumphius (story and pictures by Barbara Cooney) just might be the greatest book ever written.  It is the story of the elderly Lupine Lady, once a little girl named Alice who dreams of traveling to faraway places and growing old beside the sea.  Her grandfather, an artist, encourages these dreams, but tells her that there is a third thing she must do--something to make the world a more beautiful place.  Alice agrees, though she does not know what that might be.  

I'm tempted to quote the entire book to you line by line, but I wouldn't want to give away and lovely surprises.  Suffice to say that the illustrations are gorgeous, the text is poetic without being precious and in the end, Alice grows up and meets the challenge set by her grandfather.

Although I--like little Alice--am a little overwhelmed by the challenge of "doing something to make the world a more beautiful place," I try not to forget that little beauties can be just as important as big ones.  My neighbor may be gardening for his own personal pleasure, but his two-foot-square oasis of a garden brightens our entire block (and unlike the gigantic amazing Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, is free to all passersby!).

So while keeping in mind that I would someday like to have a Lupine-Lady-level impact on the world, I am working on little things for now.  I like to think that when I pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk I'm at least doing my part to hold ugliness at bay; as I approach the globally-insignificant task of painting my apartment, I think about how life in a more comforting environment will allow me better access to my creativity--maybe once I've freed my mind from how dingy the walls are, I'll be able to focus on something else.  Something like baking the perfect pumpkin oatmeal cookies or, you know, solving world hunger.  One thing at a time.


In the kitchen: Banana Bread

I've found myself with a little bit of downtime in the kitchen. The crazy rush of holidays orders are over, and things have quieted down a little bit - just enough to allow me to experiment with new cookies, new flavors, new ideas... as well as revisit old recipes - ones that I've been making for years - ones that remind me why I love baking so much.

I was headed to the kitchen early one morning, and before I grabbed my cup of coffee to rush out the door, I noticed some bananas sitting on the counter that had gone un-eaten due to the busyness of my life outside of baking. I took one look at that sad, fragrant, little heap of bruised fruit and thought, "Well... of course! It must be done. They're calling to me, and I must heed the call."

... so I did. I dusted off an old recipe - one lovingly ripped off from my Best Friend - and got to work exercising my baker-muscles. Not the entrepreneurial baker-muscles I use on a daily basis, but the original ones - the ones motivated by the specific recipe, the specific story behind the recipe, and the specific recipient of the end result. The orginal baker-muscles that eventually led me to create Butter + Love.

I have to tell you, few things are more comforting to me than the smell of freshly baked banana bread. It reminds me of Thanksgiving morning: My Best Friend Stephen and I spend Thanksgiving together every year - have been for eight or so years now - and my absolute favorite part of the day is waking up, brewing a fresh pot of coffee, and then sitting on the couch with him - drinking coffee, eating warm banana bread, and watching the Macy's Day Parade, laughing at the sometimes ridiculous banter of the news anchors. It's a morning I look forward to every year.

So, sure... it's not Thanksgiving and I didn't make these solely for Stephen and myself, but I do hope the recipients of these mini baked beauties get the same comfort and satisfaction out of them that Stephen and I do. It's bread that warms the heart - which is the best kind of bread.

Thanksgiving Day Banana Bread
(lovingly ripped off and slightly altered from my Best Friend, Stephen's recipe)

For the bread:

3/4 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, separated
5 large very ripe bananas, mashed
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cups finely chopped pecans

For the topping:

Equal parts dark brown sugar and chopped pecans, and a dash of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (or use mini disposable pans, as shown above).
Cream butter and sugar together thoroughly. 
Add eggs yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Add bananas, mixing well. 
Measure 1/2 cup milk and add sour cream to fill the cup.
Sift together the flour, soda and salt. 
Add the flour and milk alternately to the banana mixture, ending with the flour.  Add the nuts and mix well.
Beat egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks; fold carefully into banana batter.
Divide batter evenly between the pans. 
Sprinkle tops with brown sugar/pecan mixture.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Note: These freeze well if you wrap them in Saran Wrap and then Foil.