Monday, February 15, 2010

Recipe #18: Banana Walnut Bread

A looong time ago, in a kitchen far far away, my great grandmother Gibby (though I'm still not sure why we called her that) made her mark on our family. She passed away in 1997 at age 85, but I will never forget her. She was the kind of person whose home you never minded going over even as a little kid, even though she didn't have any toys for us to play with. My sister and I had "tea parties" with her using her old decorative tiny saucers and cups. She was a great lady, and I miss her.

Gibby with me and my sister (I'm the one on the left) in front of my grandparents' house. This was Easter Sunday sometime in the late '80s.

I can remember her personality, her sense of humor, her piano -- she could rock it out, and did. But most of all, when I think of Gibby, I think of her banana bread. We LOVED it. There wasn't a person alive who could eat a slice without going back for a second (or third or fourth) piece. My dad in particular was a big fan.

Since I hadn't had the bread since Gibby passed away, I started looking around for recipes to try and make for my dad. I came across a few very good ones, but they were missing some tastes, some smells, some tweeks to make it just like Gibby's. The below recipe is my best attempt at recreating the banana bread I so fondly remember from childhood. I hope you enjoy it as much as everyone I've made it for in the past few weeks. Though it's great right out of the oven, trust me when I say that if you wrap it in saran wrap or foil and let it relax in the fridge overnight... it is even better the next day.

Banana Walnut Bread

Cook time: 60 minutes
Chill time: Up to 24 hours

3 mashed/pureed bananas*
1 cup plus one tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cocoa powder*
2 eggs, beaten*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened salted butter
2 tablespoons salted butter (to top bread)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
pinch of salt
cooking spray for greasing the pan

2 mixing bowls
Stand mixer or hand mixer
5x9 loaf pan
large (gallon-size) Ziploc freezer bag (optional)*

Grease loaf pan well with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with vanilla. Set both aside.

Cream together sugar and butter in a stand mixer or with hand mixer.

Add egg and vanilla mixture to bowl (while on low speed). When combined, add banana. A little at a time, add the sifted ingredients until no raw powder is visible. Remove bowl from mixer, fold in walnuts.

Pour into pan and use a rubber spatula to distribute evenly. Cut remaining butter into four pieces, and place in pan on top of batter.

Bake for one hour. Allow to cool for 20 minutes to half an hour.

After cooled, remove from pan, wrap in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator. Slice just before serving.

-Eggs: I used Eggland's Best eggs -- which I was able to try for free through Foodbuzz's Tastemaker program -- for this recipe.

I like using Eggland's Best because, aside from the fact that they're almost the same price (within about 20 cents) of the store brand and saving money is important to me, I also never have to worry about getting a "bad egg."

-Mashed bananas: I have a seven-month old son, and I like to have him help me in the kitchen as much as he can (future chef?). To mash or puree the bananas for this recipe, you CAN use a food processor, or just a fork in a bowl. But to get my little guy involved, I employ the use of a very simple kitchen tool... a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag. I put my three bananas into the bag, seal it up, and start the mashing process myself (to get things started), and then I hand over the bag to the littlest chef in our house. Of course, at seven months old he wants to put it in his mouth, but he gets some good squishing in, too.

Using the bag also makes it easier to add the bananas to the batter -- rather than trying to scoop as much as you can out of the bag, you can cut one corner off and squeeze it out. Much easier!

-Ripeness of bananas: This recipe is a great use of bananas that are past the point of snack-eating and into browning and overripening. Instread of throwing them away, use them in a banana bread recipe and the ripening brings out the sweetness of the bananas. On the other hand, the bananas don't HAVE to be browning for you to use them, especially because that requires planning ahead of time -- buying, letting them sit -- and that's really not something I have time to do as a working mom. Use what you have. If you happen to have a few bananas that you want to save instead of throw away, use them. You will notice that with the riper bananas, your batter may be slightly darker, even a little grayish in color. That's a-OK -- it's going to get good and brown in the oven anyway. If you're just in the mood for some bread and pick up whatever's at the supermarket, fresh yellow bananas will work just fine too.

-Bread rising: Anyone who has made bread from scratch knows that this "bread" isn't a bread in the conventional sense -- there is no dough. This is a quickbread made from a batter (trust me, that makes it no less delicious). With that said, this bread doesn't rise a whole lot. That's OK. The baking powder does help it a bit (thanks for the tip, Chrissy!), but it's just not something that is going to rise and crest like other loaves. That's OK. What it lacks in appearance it greatly makes up for in taste.



VanderbiltWife said...

What a great idea for a little helper! Definitely something my daughter could assist with.

Love your retro 80s Easter dresses. :)


Deidra said...

What a great idea for kids to help in the kitchen, he looks like he's having a blast helping!! I've been searching for good banana bread recipes so I'm saving this and trying it out!!