I’m officially calling this summer the banner year of busyness. I just returned home from a weekend of potlucking, we’re moving this week to our new (and first — cue the hyperventilating) home and between it all are jobs to attend to, families to visit, friends to see and a whole lot of long to-do lists.
Please don’t misunderstand me — I am in no way complaining about these things, nor do I intend to glorify the idea of busyness. In fact, in my life I strive to do the opposite. For a long time I thought that feeling I got when my heart and lungs felt like they were being slowly strangled by a rope (I think they call it stress) meant I was doing something right — if I feel like I’ve got a lot going on, that’s a good thing, right? That means I’m busy, and our culture tells us if we’re busy that means we must be productive, influential and active members of society. Unlike those hippie-granola types out hiking in the woods right now. Pssh.
As I’ve gotten older and wiser (yes, I am oh-so-wise in my 26 old years), I’ve learned — mostly — to recognize that being busy is not always a good thing. I mean yes, if busy means you are spending a lot of time with the people you love, or with other foodie friends at a weekend retreat in Pennsylvania, or packing up your stand mixer and prop plates to move to a house you call your own, by all means it’s a good thing. And yet, it would be nice to have some time in all of that to just sit and be. To read because I want to and I can; to go for a long walk on the trail around the lake with my husband without checking my phone every few minutes to see what time it is; to let my cat sleep on my lap for longer than five minutes, because now I have to get up and do something else. It would be nice to be that hippie-granola type out hiking in the woods right now. It would be nice to just bake something for the sake of baking it, and to eat it without watching the TV screen and doing work on the laptop simultaneously, as I am both prone and known to do.
Alas, life does not always work out that way so easily. So I am striving to find those moments in the busyness, and in the meantime to embrace the busyness as well. Because it is good, this life. And just when we think we’ve run out of time to do what we want to do because we were busy making other plans (or “busy,” in the sense of scrolling through a Twitter feed or a Pinterest board for an hour of which someone is often guilty, ahem), we find ourselves forgetting about the times we did get to have a conversation with someone we loved, or a moment of baking batter bread in the kitchen. I hope in my continuing years of gaining wisdom — and of yes, busyness — I never let go of those things.
Plum-Blackberry Cream Cheese Bread
Bread recipe adapted from Bake or Break
Yields: 1 loaf
For the bread —
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
3 ounces chopped plums, plus a few more pieces for topping
3 ounces blackberries, plus a few more for topping
4 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the oat streusel —
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Powdered sugar, for topping (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-by-4-inch or 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray with flour (like Baker’s Joy or Pam Baking Spray, or spray with regular cooking spray and lightly dust pan with flour).
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and brown sugar until light and slightly fluffy. Add eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla; stir to combine.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir to combine. Gently fold in chopped plums and blackberries.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and sugar. Fold into batter just a few times so there are streaks of cream cheese throughout.
Make the oat streusel: Add all ingredients except the powdered sugar to a small bowl and mix with fingers until a clumpy, cohesive, streusel-y mix forms.
Pour batter into prepared pan; top with a few pieces of chopped plums and blackberries, if desired. Top evenly with oat streusel.
Bake 1 hour (this could be less if you use a 9-by-5-inch pan) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly, cover with a tent of foil.
Cool bread 15 minutes in pan, then carefully remove and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.