This weekend was much needed—some R & R in Sokyriany, where I spent lots of time getting caught up on sleep and lesson planning! (In that order) I also spent some quality time on Skype catching up with people from home, which was wonderful.
April is shaping up to be a very busy month: next weekend I’ll be in Chernivtsi for a teaching seminar, the weekend after that my Mom is coming to Ukraine (I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am), the following weekend she and I are going to Kolychivka so she can meet my Ukrainian host mom, and the last weekend of April I have to be in Odessa for a meeting. So I was really thankful for this weekend to myself where I could recover from Spring Break and try to gear up for April. I can’t believe its April already—hopefully this means spring weather will be coming soon : ) (like hopefully by the time my Mom gets here—I don’t want her to visit when Ukraine looks like a swamp!)
By Sunday I felt like doing something productive, so I tried out a recipe that I’ve been thinking about baking for a month now—Banana Bread! Baking is a stretch for me in America, but in Ukraine it’s even more of a challenge. I was rather dubious as to whether this Banana Bread would turn out edible, but read on dear reader, this story has a good ending! The first thing I did was compile a list of the ingredients, which I then translated into Ukrainian so I could go shopping for the things I didn’t have. In case you feel like trying this out for yourself, I’m including the recipe for you : )
- 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
After making the shopping list, I headed into town to buy baking soda and vanilla (I had everything else I needed). That turned out to be easy, and soon I was back at home scratching my head over how to light the oven. I couldn’t figure it out, so I got my host brother and dragged him away from the computer to light it for me. He couldn’t make it work either, so he whips out his cell phone and calls his mom, who gave him directions. Finally we get it lit, and I promise him a piece of Banana Bread in exchange for his efforts. He says no to my offer though, which turned out to be his loss in the end!
So the next challenge was converting the recipe. I had a measuring cup for the flour and sugar and such, but I had no teaspoon to measure the vanilla or the baking soda with. The vanilla had come in a packet that said “2 grams” on it, so I looked up a converter online to convert grams to teaspoons (Thank God for wireless Internet!). Then I used Skype to call my Mom (who was at the mall with my sister—isn’t technology incredible? That I can call my mom from the backwoods of Ukraine and hear her like she’s an hour away?) to ask her what exactly a “beaten” egg was—it turned out to just be an egg whipped with a fork, where I was so concerned that I needed a beater! Thank God for Skype : )
Once I finished mixing all the ingredients, another problem came up. There was no 4×8 loaf pan in the kitchen. In fact, there was only one pan for baking things in the oven, and it looked kind of like a Bundt cake pan. But by this point the oven was hot and all the ingredients were mixed, so I just poured the batter in the cake pan and hoped for the best. I open the oven to put the pan in, and a huge gust of hot air came out. It was then that I realized there was no gauge for controlling how hot the oven was.
But I was in luck—when I was packing for Ukraine my Mom read somewhere that an oven thermometer would come in handy, so she bought one and put it in my luggage. I haven’t used it yet, but I remembered seeing it when I was unpacking. I ran up to my room and dug through the closet, and sure enough, I came up with the oven thermometer. I came back down to the kitchen and put it in the oven, which turned out to be 450 degrees. I tried turning down the heat a little, but only succeeded in turning the heat off. (My host brother was not pleased to have to come back and re-light it, haha). So finally I just put the pan in, and set the timer for half the allotted time. After a half hour I checked on it, and while it smelled heavenly, it wasn’t cooked all the way through. 45 minutes did the trick though, and it came out of the oven looking perfect.
I was tempted to try it then, but it came out of the pan so perfectly that I didn’t want to cut it and mess up the shape. I had been thinking that if it turned out well I would share it during the teachers’ lunch hour Monday, and after seeing it, I knew that’s what I had to do with it. Most of the teachers take turns cooking or baking something for Teachers’ Hour, but I’m exempt from this duty. I’ve always wanted to contribute, but have held back out of self-consciousness about my cooking/baking skills. I was also unsure as to whether I should try to bake something Ukrainian, or something entirely knew that the teachers may not like. In the end, I opted for something entirely new to Ukrainians, because then (if it was terrible) they would have no idea what it was supposed to taste like, so they wouldn’t know I was a failure as a baker ; )
Monday morning, after my first lesson, I took the Banana Bread to the teachers’ lounge and set it on the table with the rest of the lunch break goodies. One of the older teachers asked me what it was, and I explained that it was Banana Bread I baked at home. She got really excited and made an announcement to all the teachers that I baked American food and brought it for lunch. Everyone came and tried it, and they told me it was wonderful. I tried some myself and was quite pleased with the outcome. It tasted more like Banana Cake than Banana Bread, but it was still a success in my book : ) Lots of teachers asked for the recipe, so my homework for this week is translating the recipe into Ukrainian. I’m thinking about cheating and having one of the other English teachers help me, because I have no clue how to say “mash” or “beat” in Ukrainian.
All in all, baking Banana Bread was a really fun experience and I’m looking forward to making something else to bring to the teachers lounge soon. They were so pleased and excited to try something from America (although I have no clue whether Banana Bread would be considered ‘American”) that I feel encouraged to bake for them again. So if you’re keeping track at home, in the battle between me and the kitchen, its currently 2-0 (2 wins for me, 0 for the kitchen! Although to be honest, the Amish Wedding Cake recipe was foolproof).
So here’s a question for you—what is your favorite baked “American” good? If you send me the recipe, I’ll attempt to bake it for the teachers at my school and let you know what Ukrainians think of it : ) Thanks for reading!