bee suits and banana bread

Posted on May 22, 2014

Last Saturday, we had the great fortune to participate in our first ever honey harvest! It was a food nerd’s dream day. We began with some pastries from the sublime French bakery B. Pattiserie and then spent the afternoon harvesting (and sampling) honey, ending the day with the best ramen we’ve ever had at Ramen Dojo in San Mateo. It was magical, and all thanks to our friend Russ. Russ works with beekeeper Kendal (and turns her excess honey into homemade mead!) and knew we’d be really into harvesting honey and learning about bees. And so he arranged for us to come down and help with Kendal with her honey harvest.

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Kendal has three thriving beehives down in Palo Alto. Not only is she super knowledgeable about bees and beekeeping, she was a patient hostess, especially considering all of our questions and general clumsiness. I’m not going to pretend to have learned enough about beekeeping in just one day to give you any specifics, so I’ll just say it was a super fun day and definitely made me want to have a hive of my own someday. If you’re curious to learn more about beekeeping, I’d recommend you check out Kendal’s Bee Blog—I’ll sure be recruiting her whenever I decide it’s time to start my own hive.

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After getting all of the equipment set up in the garage, we suited up and took the frames full of honeycomb from the top boxes of the hives. Kendal had put in a bee separator between the frames we were going to harvest and the rest of the hive so those frames wouldn’t have too many bees on them.

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After checking the frames to determine which had the honey at the right stage to harvest, we shaved off the top layer of beeswax with a hot knife. The bees cap each little comb with wax so that the honey stays where they want it and so you’ve got to carefully open up the comb so you can extract the honey. This is pretty much what my face looked like the whole day. It was SO fun.

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Then we put the honeycomb into the extractor. Basically it’s a honey centrifuge. Then the honey drains into a bucket through several layers of strainers to remove any impurities and it’s ready to bottle. It’s pretty much impossible to harvest honey without eating a lot of honey. So tasty!

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Instead of pretending to know more things about bees, I’ll stick with what I’m a bit better at, food. Inspired by the honey all around me on Saturday, but lacking the motivation to make what I consider to be the one true monument to honey, baklava, I made this banana quick bread with honey and cinnamon sugar. And it was really good. Like most quick breads, this one is perfect with a scoop of ice cream for dessert and even better with a cup of coffee in the morning.

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Banana Bread with Honey and Cinnamon Sugar Topping
11/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used bread flour because that’s all I had on hand and I’m a heathen. Turned out just fine) 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 mashed ripe bananas 
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water

For topping:
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar

Butter and flour a loaf pan, or butter and line with parchment. Preheat your oven to 350° F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Stir in the eggs, vegetable oil, honey and water. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. It’s advisable to run a spatula down the sides and scrape the bottom of the bowl. Mix the cinnamon sugar topping in a small bowl.  Pour the batter into a lined baking pan and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar topping.

Bake for one hour, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for an hour and unmold. Slice and serve with a scoop of ice cream, dollop of whipped cream or as is.

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-Emily