Postcard idea and art by Joey Waldon
Well actually we usually have way too many. It is always a dilemma chez moi : bananas are the one fruit I buy all year round, the one fruit that everyone loves, but you never know when they will swallow one after the other in rapid succession in a matter of hours, or when you will find yourself scraping rotting, oozing bananas from the fruit bowl, swatting away the flies. So what to do with the brown, mushy bananas that everyone refuses to eat? LET THEM EAT CAKE!
I have been making this Banana Bread from the same recipe since my college days. It is scribbled in my trusty old, battered and stained notebook into which I have been jotting down any recipe handed down from friends and family. And I have carried this around with me from the US to Italy to France like a treasure.
This is such a versatile bread – chocolate chips, coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, fold in fresh blueberries in the summer or, for an exotic twist, fold in cubes of pineapples and maybe half a cup of shredded or grated coconut. Cover the top with a beautiful brown sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon streusel or sprinkle with sliced almonds, drizzle with a chocolate ganache or a tangy lemon glaze. Lovely!
As I have said, I make a Banana Bread almost weekly, but over the holidays I finally decided to take photos, write up my recipe and post it on Life’s A Feast. Surfing around all of my favorite food blogs over the course of the past week as I regularly do, I noticed that so many other food bloggers had also posted a banana recipe; banana breads, rolls, muffins, cakes, even a cheesecake. Maybe it was the cold, icy weather, maybe it was the excitement leading up to the Inauguration, but so many of us seem to have turned to our favorite comfort foods, those warm, homey, family snacks, the special treats of our childhood.
This is so simple, even the most novice among us, young or old, can easily put this together. Each ingredient, except, of course, for the bananas, is a pantry staple. My recipe calls for vegetable oil, so no waiting around for butter to soften. The bread is great to wrap up, whole or in slices, to take on a picnic or put in a lunch box. Every year, I bake batches in small aluminum tins to give as holiday gifts along with one or two other flavored breads. And as I said, this cake is so easy to personalize, adding “mix ins” from fruit to nuts to chocolate chips.
2 medium bananas, the riper the better
2 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 ¾ cups (220 g) flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1/8 cup (25 ml) milk or buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
Mix ins : ½ - 1 cup chocolate chips, I prefer mini chips, ½ - 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, 1 cup fresh blueberries, 1 cup drained pineapple chunks, ½ cup grated coconut, etc. (optional)
Toppings – slivered almonds, streusel, or spread on a chocolate frosting, or drizzle on a chocolate or lemon glaze (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease and flour a loaf pan : 9 x 5 x 3 inches (8 cups) or 23 x 13 x 8 cm (1.9 liters).
Mash or purée the bananas in a large bowl (I suggest hand-mashing the bananas, as I find that using an electric puréer gives the bananas a pasty consistency that makes the finished bread a bit dryer, strangely enough!). Don't worry if this is not perfectly smooth!
Add the eggs and beat well with the mashed bananas with a whisk or wooden spoon.
Add the sugar and continue beating for a minute or two until well-blended and slightly thickened.
In a small bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and soda and salt. In a measuring cup, blend the oil, milk and vanilla.
Now, stir in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the liquid ingredients in 2, starting and ending with the dry. Scrape down the sides and make sure the batter is well blended.
Fold in the mix-ins of your choice, stirring until evenly distributed.
Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and just give the pan a quick but gentle shake back and forth once to make sure the batter is even in the pan.
Put in the oven and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until risen, the center should be beautifully cracked and by gently pressing down on the center, you can tell that the cake is set. You can cook this for 5 minutes more if you prefer to be sure that it is done, it won’t overcook the cake. I just prefer this bread just done.
Remove from the oven onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife or spatula around the edges and give it a few sharp up-and-down shaking jerks to loosen, then turn out and right onto the rack and let cool completely.
This cake is perfect for breakfast or snacktime.
At holiday time, I divide the batter into either 2 – 4 cup (1 liter) or 3 – 2 cup (.50 liter) aluminum loaf tins to wrap up and give as gifts.