Monday, May 3, 2010

Cake of the Week: Banana Bread and Muffins

I don't like bananas. 
It all started when I was a little Mini-Mollie. I used to eat fruit while watching TV, sitting in my little rocking chair about 2 feet from the set. But my mama didn't appreciate when I peeled those weird strings off the banana and left them on the I immediately concluded that bananas were nothing but trouble and promptly stopped eating them. I really don't think I've eaten one since...(I've always been more of an apple person anyways, though apple seeds and cores are a whole other story).
It's rather unfortunate, I mean runners, bananas, peanut butter...I feel like these things stereotypically go together. Oh well. 

It's not that I haven't tried bananas since my unfortunate childhood encounters. Sometimes food is unavoidable. But it's a texture thing - they're mushy, and just ugh (shudder), weird. I like banana flavored candy though, and I tolerate them blended into a smoothie (as long as the banana to everything else ratio doesn't exceed 1:3). 

BUT there has always been one exception to my rule. Soak those 'nanners in coffee, mix them with nuts, and bake them into a muffin? Done done and done. Yes please!
My mama's been making this banana bread/banana muffin recipe since I can remember. As you know, she usually bakes in large quantities. I have memories of her huge bowl filled to the brim with banana-y batter, and a kitchen counter covered in cooling loves studded with walnuts, ready to be sealed up and stored in the freezer. 
I started making banana bread myself in college. I used to go to my friends' apartment between classes, just for somewhere to hang out when it wasn't quite worth it to make a trip all the way back to my own place. During these breaks I "did homework," or more likely, baked something. After I made this banana bread once, they started saving bananas for me. I would see on their fruit-hanger thingie some black bananas, protected by a post-it "DO NOT THROW AWAY - BANANA BREAD." Haha, hint taken. 
The recipe is from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook, and it is the best banana bread ever

350 F oven, 40 - 50 minutes to bake, 2 loaves

  • 1 ½ cups melted butter
  • 1 ¾ cups brown sugar (or 1 ½ cups honey)
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract plus ½ tsp almond extract
  • grated rind of 1 orange (semi-optional...aka I never have it so I never add it)

Beat in a large bowl, beginning with sugar or honey and butter, add eggs one at a time. Add remaining ingredients, and beat until light in color.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups well-mashed ripe bananas soaked in 1 cup strong black coffee
  • Optional: ¾ cup nuts
  • Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips

Add flour mixture and banana mush alternatively to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour (flour - banana - flour - banana - flour). After each addition mix gently to combine, but do not beat or otherwise overmix - this toughens and dries a cake. Add nuts last. Generously butter 2 loaf pans and sprinkle with sesame seeds (they'll stick to the butter) (I skip the seeds and just grease and flour the pans). Divide batter and bake.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to finish cooling.