Tale of Two Hurricanes
It was the wind howling against the windows that really unnerved me. The un-ignorable fact that the smallest pebble hitting the pane at the wrong spot would shatter it completely and bring the full force of the hurricane inside the house kept me sleepless. When the storm had finally passed, I left the interior room we’d huddled down in and dared to look out the window. Most of the surrounding houses were still standing, but I couldn’t make them out – it was all white sky and black water. Knowing we were safe, I allowed myself to sleep, unless I was wrong and had been dreaming the whole time.
That was Hurricane Andrew, and Sandy was no Andrew – at least not mine. Just out of reach of the evacuation zone, in the days leading up to Sandy, I nevertheless did as I was told. When you know hurricanes, you respect hurricanes. For most of the day and into the evening, I waited it out with steady power and regular NY1 updates. Unlike before, the windows surrounding my corner apartment didn’t give no matter how violently the surge winds whipped up the tree, like so many flat screens at an appliance store. If there was howling, it was on mute. When we did lose cable and internet service, I was mostly done for the night anyway. It wasn’t until my mother, who was nervously following the storm from Florida, called to wish me goodnight – and what sounded uncomfortably like goodbye – that I wondered if I was really getting the whole picture.
When I woke up the next day, there were some fallen trees, but the power was still humming. Looking for a way to keep busy and feeling truly safe and relieved for the first time in days, I decided to bake it out. Remembering Andrew, I’d only bought food and supplies that would see me through a Walking Dead-like scenario. Keeping up with friends on Facebook, I was amazed that so many spent the storm making elaborate meals or stocking up on groceries that would melt away in the event a of a power outage. I’m always looking for the next new cookbook, but this time I wanted to enjoy the familiar. Picking up one of my favorites, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, I zeroed in on their banana espresso chocolate chip muffins. In retrospect, it seems like an odd thing to do, but please remember that I was going nowhere soon. I had time, I had energy, I had exactly four bananas.
Muffins baking and cable restored, it was seeing the havoc Sandy caused in areas throughout New York and New Jersey that helped me wrap my mind around what happened – and just how lucky I had been and still am. Going back to my earlier storm, I remembered my grandparents arriving at our house to check that we were okay. Describing the devastation they’d seen, my normally stoic grandmother choked up for a moment. At the time, this show of emotion from her was more surprising than the fact that they had swanned their way through a disaster area to reach us (they were like that). We were safe, but the city she loved was hurting and now mine is too. Though every passing day points to a steady recovery, it can’t come soon enough.
Baked, the Red Hook bakery behind the book, re-opened this morning with a portion of first-day sales going to neighborhood relief efforts. Please support them and other local businesses as they work their way back. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, email address, and borough. The Red Cross is looking for shelter volunteers. New York Cares will be posting recovery projects in the coming months. The Humane Society is accepting donations. For volunteer updates, follow @humanesociety on Twitter. To help the international victims of Sandy, please consider making a donation to Friends of Caritas Cubana at this link or email them at email@example.com. For a complete list of ways to help after the storm, please click here.
Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe reprinted with permission from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I hadn’t planned on posting the recipe, but couldn’t help but take pictures when they came out. From there, things escalated.
1-1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, sugars, butter, milk, and egg.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, instant espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and stir just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Fill each cup about three-quarters full. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the muffins from the pan and let them finish cooling on the cooling rack.
Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Yield: 12 muffins*
Note: I used a fairly small muffin pan so had a enough left over for two small loaves.