Friday, August 5, 2011

Bananas, Breakfast, and other wise words

The most vivid childhood memory I have of my mother is the vision of her in the kitchen. Despite the fact she was a fabulous cook and baker (I will surely share some of her recipes, namely German Chocolate cake and Rhubarb Dream Bars) my favorite image of her is not one in which she is stationed in front of the stove, oven, or counter.  Instead, I picture her most clearly eating a bowl of Cheerios and sliced bananas as the early morning sun pierced through the large bay windows of our kitchen.  I swear she must have eaten that same breakfast every morning of her life. The simplicity and beauty of her morning routine translated perfectly into the kind of woman she was.  Everything she did, including my annual German Chocolate Birthday Cake, in the kitchen was simple, homemade, and full of love.

I feel the need to preface this post with the fact that I have never really been a huge banana fan. I eat them if they are still green, but the moment I see a brown speck any volition I had when I bought them goes out the window.  Also, I am not sure if anyone else feels this way, but I often find that no matter the size there is always just a little too much banana?  Plus, who likes the end part anyway?

As you may imagine I have frozen my fair share of brown speckled bananas, all with the intention of creating something new from their soft and mushy inwards. I have tried it all. Banana ice cream. Frozen bananas and chocolate. Bananas instead of eggs in cookies.  Banana ice cream take two (it is obviously crucial to freeze the bananas before blending and not after).  However, as ashamed as I am to say it,  the freezer was the last place many of these on-their-way bananas ever saw. That is, the last place before hitting the compost.  Oddly enough, I am not sure how or why the idea of banana bread has escaped me for so long, but rest assured it's back and back with an attitude.  While the warm, dark, gooey, moist bread was somewhat of a staple in our house as a child (my grandmother was always brining it over in chunks with other half-opened containers of unwanted food she was assured we would eat) the bread I've experimented with the past few days is definitely not your grandmother's banana bread.

It took me two attempts  and some investigative work compiling the best things about several recipes to get it where I wanted it.   The original inspiration came from a recipe from (guess who) Molly Weinberg for bread that incorporated chocolate chips and candied ginger.  Banana bread with a punch, if you will. A punch that turned into a powerful roundhouse after some adaptations. While the first loaf was good, it was a little too dry and lacked that rich gooey baked banana-ness.   Round 2 included an extra egg, 2 more mashed bananas, and some yogurt. Here's what I landed upon:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 chopped dark chocolate bar ( I like Theo)
  •  chopped ginger (to taste)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from about 3 large ripe bananas)
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred yogurt (I wouldn't use nonfat but I only had low-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The verdict?

The additional wet ingredients and the extra bananas made for a much denser and gooier bread that tasted particularly delicious fresh out of the oven.

I added the eggs, yogurt, and smashed bananas together in one bowl. Mixed the flour, sugar, etc. and then combined the wet with the dry. The dough and final product were much lighter than the banana breads of my youth, however. I wonder how one gets a darker, more carmelized loaf? Is it the bananas? The flour?

The best part of baking items with longer bake times?

1. The time forces me to clean as I wait and 2. it gives me time to make juice.  Mostly the second reason though.  My latest juice related obsession is different incarnations of carrot juice.  A type of juice I believe on its own is often insufferable, but I've been told will make you live forever.  Words of wisdom.  This weeks creation: Carrot, ginger, lemon (lots of it), and peach.

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