Friday, June 25, 2010

Feasting Friday- Truly Amazing Banana Bread

I love bananas. They are a perfect food for me, quick, easy, delicious, healthy. If I’m running around, I can grab one on the go and have good energy. They are a satisfying snack, hitting my sweet tooth, but without sending me into sugar crazies. I will often make a light lunch of cottage cheese, a banana, and some whole wheat crackers. I like them at almost every stage, still slightly green when they are firmer and a little tart, up to speckled brown when they are sweet and fragrant.

But for the life of me, I have never been able to figure out how to buy the right number of bananas.

Invariably, I buy too many. I think I need four, but I only eat two. I am sure that I need six, but only three end up munched upon. I buy them slightly green, but they either ripen too fast, or go overripe seemingly overnight. Once they start to go, I let them. Because as much as I love a good healthy diet-friendly banana, I love banana cake and banana bread and banana muffins more.

If Little Sister and I have one thing in common, it is that our desert island dish, the last supper requirement, the most delectable morsel we have ever eaten is Susan G’s banana cake with chocolate frosting. She is our extra Mom, way beyond godmother or “aunt”, and I believe that her magic banana cake is probably one of the first solid foods either of us ever ate. She is an amazing cook in general, and ridiculously fabulous baker, but the banana cake is her masterpiece. It is the one dessert we will not share, not even one bite…go get your own…we will stab you with a fork if you try and sneak a Northeast corner.  And if we know there is going to be banana cake, we will eat lightly during dinner and be first in line at the dessert buffet. We have been known to (gently) elbow a small child out of the way. There was once a family “incident” involving a piece of the cake being absconded with, and nearly 30 years later the affront has been forgiven, but not forgotten.

I have tried over the years to replicate it, and for the record, while I make a very very good banana cake with chocolate frosting, it isn’t ever Susan’s. It will be the best one you have ever tasted. Until you taste hers. But I keep trying!

One of the tricks I learned from Susan (in addition to purposely underbaking brownies, never putting raisins where chocolate chips belong, and that you can safely double the amount of chocolate in just about any recipe) is that when your bananas go all brown and overripe, pop them in the freezer. You don’t need to peel them or put them in a bag or anything, just throw them in there. When you thaw them for use in baking they are practically pre-mushed, the texture is extra moist, and the flavor is intensified. With my small banana over-buying problem, I never lack for frozen baking bananas.

But it had gotten a little ridiculous…

So when Dakota Prairie Organic Flours sent me some of their products to play with, I knew that banana bread was in the offing! Because while my banana cake cannot compete with Susan’s, my banana bread is just about the best one ever. There is a reason that the one thing I baked and brought with me to meet Charming Suitor’s family for the first time was this banana bread!

The recipe doubles well, and the loaves freeze beautifully. It is a great simple weekend task, minimal effort, maximum taste, and the perfect thing to bring to someone’s house. You can use the batter to make lovely muffins of all sizes if you prefer.

And something about not having frosting makes banana bread much easier to share.


Stacey’s Famous Banana Bread

1 c sugar

½ c butter, softened

3 very ripe bananas, mashed (if yours are frozen, thaw on the countertop, snip one end off with a kitchen scissors, and let the banana and liquid slide out into a bowl…if you try to peel them, you will have a mess!)

2 eggs

1 ¼ c flour (I used the Dakota Prairie High Gluten Flour for this batch and it worked great!)

½ t salt

1 t baking soda


½ c toasted nuts, chopped if large (optional)

½ c chocolate chips or chunks, coconut, or dried fruit, chopped if large (optional)

NOTE: Add-ins should total between ½ and 1 c total. If you like it nutty, you can use a full cup of nuts, if you like it chocolate-y, do a full cup of chips or chunks!

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

Cream softened butter and sugar with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs until smooth. Add mashed bananas to eggs, blending quickly, then add the mixture into butter and sugar, and stir together.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda and fold into wet mixture. Fold in any add-ins. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a rack.

My favorite combinations:

Toasted pine nuts and white chocolate chips.

Walnuts and dark chocolate.

Yogurt-covered dried cherries.

Pecans and milk chocolate chunks.

Sweetened flaked coconut.

Toffee chips.

If you do want the recipe for Susan’s famous banana cake with chocolate frosting, it is included in the mini-cookbook at the end of GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT…you’ll have to buy the book to get it! Frankly, while I am very proud of the book and think you will enjoy it, the cover price is worth is for this one recipe alone, I promise!

Yours in Good Taste,

The Polymath

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