Going Bananas...

I realize that basically the last thing anyone in their right mind would do when their air conditioning is broken is turn on the oven, but last week, when I was still occupying an artificially frosty apartment, I got it in my head that I needed to try a cookie recipe I'd spotted that employed bananas, so I dutifully went out to the store, bought the fruit, and left it on my counter to ripen. When I eat bananas out of hand, I like them to be just barely ripe, one or two days home from the store, max. I've never been much of a fan of fruit in general, particularly if it gets too sweet, like a very ripe banana, or a ripe melon. So there was really nothing I could do with my purchases once they were more than a few days old, besides turn them into the cookies for which they were intended.

Which is how, dear readers, I found myself baking tonight. Thankfully, the weather has been cooperating with my lack of air conditioning fairly well, and it's been unseasonably cool out, so far. Hence, it wasn't too much of an imposition to crank up the oven in the middle of June, even without a functioning HVAC system.

I was attracted to the recipe in the first place because it vaguely reminded me of one of my favorite childhood treats, the oatmeal banana cookies baked by the mother of a neighborhood boy I used to play with. They were dense and chewy, perfumed with ripe fruit, and adorned with festive multi-colored sprinkles on top -- the key to any child's heart. I'll never be able to get that recipe, but I've been on the lookout for a cookie that combines oatmeal and bananas for ages now in hopes of recreating at least part of that childhood memory.

The cookies I baked tonight were slightly more elaborate, but in a good way; they also featured walnuts and chocolate chunks. Honestly, what recipe isn't improved by the addition of chocolate? I chose to take the opportunity to use up the odds and ends of several different packages and varieties of chocolate that I had sitting around the kitchen: the end of a bag of Ghirardelli bittersweet chips, part of a bag of Tollhouse semisweet morsels, part of a bar of Ghirardelli baking chocolate that'd been hanging out in my cabinet a while, and a few milk chocolate chips, just to get the total up to seven ounces. It definitely felt nice to clear some of the clutter out of my baking supply hoard.

Ultimately, I was glad that all those bits of chocolate gave their lives to make these cookies, and that I risked heating up my apartment to make them, because they were really quite delicious. Imagine, if you will, the love child spawned by the seemingly unholy union of banana nut bread and chocolate chip cookies (two of my most frequent baked good cravings), and you're in the ballpark of what these cookies taste like. It wasn't quite the flavor profile I was going for, and they didn't remind me of those oatmeal banana cookies from my childhood, but I think I'll be adopting them as the favorite banana cookie of my adulthood...

My enormous cookie jar, from Target. We've been through a lot together...

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 c. mashed ripe banana
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. semisweet chocolate (chips or 1/4 inch chunks)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375.
1. Whisk together both flours, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
2. Put butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate, and walnuts.
3. Drop tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden brown and just set, 12-13 minutes. Let cool on sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and allow to cool completely.

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