Thursday, September 12, 2013

Banana bread

I did something this weekend that I haven't done for months: kept the oven on for almost an hour and a half!

I also stayed up past 11 o'clock, even going out for ice cream at 10 o'clock, but those aren't nearly as momentous.  I mean, for me they are; for normal adults, not so much.

Like many folks, I try to limit my use of the oven in the summer months.  I still bake and roast everything but the kitchen sink, but those dishes don't require more than 30 minutes, 40 if you include preheating time.  I stick to stove-top and Griddler-friendly meals.

However, once the cooler air of fall moves in and the unwelcome humidity packs up its bags for good, I dust off the stack of recipes I've been collecting with this very season in mind.  Some are newbies, and some are favorites that I crave so badly I can taste 'em.  Like homemade breads.  Especially banana bread.

Not banana muffins.  Banana bread, y'all.

But Katy, haven't you already posted the recipe for your mom's famous banana muffins and claimed they are the best thing ever?  Are you saying you're banana cheating on your own mother?

Yes, I have shared that recipe and maintain that it is still my favorite banana muffin recipe ever.  If you haven't tried them for yourself, I suggest you make them before you start wagging your finger at me :)

As far as the latter question of baking infidelity, well, let me address that with a detour into fashion.

I own not one but two pairs of black flats.  One has a verrrrry tiny heel (under an inch) and has a semi-shiny faux snakeskin pattern on it; they are more suitable for fancy occasions and outfits.  The other is a classic pair of matte black ballet flats, ideal for everyday wear. Yes, they're both black flats, but they serve separate purposes, and I need both.

Similarly, you better believe I need (and want!) both a recipe for banana muffins and a recipe for banana bread.  Muffins and bread are two entirely different carbohydrate entities.  Ya feel me?

My mom's banana muffins are light and airy, tried-and-true muffin perfection.  But, for some unknown reason, the recipe doesn't seem to translate as well to a loaf.  For years, I tried to make it work with no success.  Sometimes you want muffins, and other times you just want bread.

I love banana bread that's moist and dense, chock full of tasty things like chopped nuts and shredded coconut and oodles of cinnamon and spices.  Hearty enough to stand up to slicing, toasting, buttering, and handheld eating.  More like a pound cake in texture, really. 

If it's a thick slice of banana bread you're craving, this is the recipe!

I truly thought the heavens opened up and a choir of angels began singing when I first tasted this years ago.  All the things I'd been searching for, in one delicious package.

This banana bread's got it all.  Enough staying power to get you through a busy morning all the way through to evening, when it could also double as dessert.  Topping a slice with a schmear of peanut butter or scoop of vanilla ice cream would only make it better.

Two purposes for one item?  A girl may need two (or three?) pairs of black shoes, but she only needs one recipe for banana bread.

One year ago: Citrus quinoa salad with grilled chicken
Two years ago: Honey apple peanut butter tart
Three years ago: Pumpkin spice whoopie pies (gobs) with cream cheese frosting

Banana Bread
(adapted slightly from Martha Stewart's recipe)
-makes 2 9x5-inch loaves

A few notes: If it's only one loaf you're after, I've halved this recipe with great success.  Rather than awkwardly halving certain ingredients, use 1 large egg and 1 large egg white and 2 ripe bananas; the rest of the components' quantities can be easily divided.  Also, I've used 8x4-inch loaf pans without any problem; because the loaves are a bit thicker, cooking time will increase about 8 to 10 minutes.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups canola oil
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 3 medium)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped (pecans would be fine, too)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture. Add the vanilla, banana, coconut, nuts, and buttermilk, and beat just to combine.  Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely.

Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

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