tanned and freckled.

It's a sad day when a girl spends months looking forward to the sand and surf only to find herself staring at the cubicle walls after an all-too-short vacation and realizing it's over. That girl is me, in case you didn't catch onto the implication. I've been diligently marking off my calendar, trying to make it to the pink highlighter-coated days that have Myrtle Beach Week in block lettering scribbled across July 12-19. I'm sorry to say that the next several weeks are not looking quite so colorful but I'm tanned and freckled and happy so that has to mean even short holidays are successful.

It was an amazingly relaxing week, perhaps too much since come Monday morning I forgot what exactly I do for a living, but no worries, I've regained my grip on the daily grind. When I finally stepped out of the truck, straightened my spine out and inhaled the salty air, I'd completely forgotten about my suburban Maryland life. But it wasn't the prospect of bikinis or beach tans or kite flying that made the beach arrival a welcomed sight, it was the bread. The sour cream banana bread with milk chocolate chunks*, to be exact. I baked two loaves the day before we left for the beach with the intent to eat a slice or seven for breakfast before we left, I'd nearly lost sleep at the excitement of it all, so you can imagine my disappointment to find my mother had wrapped it and packed it into the hoards of food we'd packed for a week of survival in beach camping. There was no getting it out, it was an impossible feat. So I suffered and whined and spent eleven hours crammed into the truck cab like canned tuna, my sister's fifteen foot long legs taking up what little space I had, craving the squishy soft loaves I knew were smuggled into the back of the camper.

Naturally, my flat-ironed hair immediately seized up into five thousand ringlet curls the moment I stepped out of the car and into the sodium filled humidity, but no matter, I'm a woman on a mission. I was in the camper long before it was in park, a dare-devil I am, frantically calling to mother as to the whereabouts of those precious loaves. I don't know, honey, somewhere back there...Unacceptable. I needed them and I needed them now. Finally, after flinging pillows and micro-kitchen tools fit for the teensy-weensy kitchen that would be mine for the next 8 days, I discovered my buried treasure: soft and golden yellow, dense with bananas and flecked through with milk chocolate. Whoa Nelly, I'd nearly lost my cool for a moment there.

Now I'm not one to gloat, but those loaves were incredible. We all crowded around the table/bed/t.v. stand and cut it into thick slices, swallowing big gulps of milk in between bites. Even Karly, who is probably the pickiest eater I know, announced she had mixed feelings on the chocolate, but if actions speak louder than words, she's a bit fat liar. The sour cream lends a slight tang to the sweetness of the bananas and keeps it super-moist, even the bottom crust which is generally world famous for being too dark to eat as willingly as the center slices. The bread was gone by the second day, so I was forced to revert to toast with butter and jam for breakfast, but I was able to pump some Jason Aldean into my new Valencia orange colored earbuds and forget about it until we returned home on Sunday, where I had two more loaves on the counter by dinnertime.

This bread is good the day you make it, but it's even better if you let it cool, wrap it in some cellophane and let it rest overnight. The flavors tend to meld a bit, and who wouldn't want to hang out with bananas and chocolate for a couple of hours? I know I do.

Sour Cream Banana Bread (with Milk Chocolate Chunks)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe bananas, smashed
4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 16 oz. container sour cream**
1 12 oz. bag milk chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray two loaf pans (9x5 inches is standard, I think) and line with parchment paper. I usually cut a piece that is a bit too short long-ways but has a bit of overhang horizontally and the bread comes out in a snap.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then whip the eggs in one at a time, beating a full minute after each addition. Then add the smooshed up bananas, scraping down the bowl to incorporate.

Whisk together the dry ingredients then mix them in with the banana mixture, alternating with the sour cream. With a large rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate chunks and divide batter evenly into the two pans. Put the two pans on an insulated cookie sheet to keep the bottoms from baking too quickly, plus it will catch any drip drops that escape from the pan.

Bake for one hour and fifteen minutes exactly, I usually prop a tin foil tent over the top the last 20 minutes so they don't get too brown. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely to room temperature.

*It's only appropriate that I combine milk chocolate and freckles for this beachy blog posting. A few years ago when I was working at a summer camp, one of the first graders pointed to a cluster of freckles on my right arm and announced I got them from eating too much chocolate. He's probably right.

**You don't want to skimp on this, go for the full fat sour cream. Low fat or fat free won't give you the double dose of moisture you need to keep this bread as soft as you'd like.

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