Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More or Less Fail-proof Banana Bread

It's been a crazy past month here in The City of Culver City, as my husband is really getting into the thick of things with business school. Not only does he have class, he's also section president, planning the health care career fair, and recruiting. It's hard for me not only because he's not home much, but also because I feel like I can't help with any of it. When I was swamped with Physical Science grading, he took over and corrected all my worksheets (what a stud!), but I know next to nothing about accounting and marketing and running section elections. So when he requested that I make banana bread for him, I was thrilled to be able to do something "helpful." If fattening him up so that he doesn't fit into his snazzy suits can be considered helpful.

Especially tasty with a bit of sour cream.
Now, this is not a baking blog, nor is it going to turn into one. But I really think this recipe is the bee's knees. What. Why did I just write that. I hate that phrase. How about...this recipe is the cat's spats. It's pretty much impossible to mess up; I've been making it for a decade and half and I've made it in all sorts of conditions: wide-awake and alert, distracted by talking to friends, and half-awake in the middle of the night in a quadrupled batch, and it still turns out fine every time. I tell inquirers that it's passed down from my mom, but here's the confession: since she's from Hong Kong where no one bakes anything, it's probably more accurate to say that I got it from a magazine clipping my mom happened to find.

Oddly enough, I hate bananas. My mom used to make me eat one every day after school so that I wouldn't get cramps during track practice...and you can guess how that went once I arrived at practice with a rock of a banana sitting in my stomach. Hence my hatred of bananas. But! But! I am in love with this banana bread. It's the only banana-related thing I'll eat. And you know what? A whole high school track team also loved this banana bread. Granted, high school athletes will probably eat anything and declare it good, but still.

See, when I first started teaching, I was only three or four years older than my students, and definitely looked it. I really wanted my students to like me. I also had no life outside of school, since I was new to the area and hadn't made any friends yet. So one night a week, I would make myself feel better by baking up a storm. This eventually turned into making cookies for my students every time they had a test...which then morphed, like a monster out of my control, into baking enough banana bread for the entire track team every time they had a meet. Hence the quadruple batch at 2 am.

Enough history of the recipe in my life; here it is.

  1. 1 stick softened butter (if you melt it in the microwave, that's fine too; just mix it in veeeery slowly while whisking so that the eggs don't cook)
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 tsp salt
  6. 1/2 cup sour cream (don't use non-fat...it'll be weird)
  7. 2 ripe bananas, mashed (easiest way to mash without mashing is to freeze and then thaw them: instant mush!)
  8. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or 176.7 degrees Celsius. Or 449.9 Kelvins. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients #1-7 until they are nicely blended. It should be yellow and very thick, but not too goopy. Then add ingredients #8-9 and stir gently (just the minimum necessary to get the batter smooth). At this point, you can add a couple handfuls of walnut pieces or chocolate chips (I prefer walnuts; the track team preferred the chips). Pour into a well-greased or parchment-papered loaf pan or 9" x 9" square baking dish. Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven. It's done when an inserted toothpick/bamboo skewer comes out clean.

I know a lot of baking recipes call for fiddly bits like doing dry and wet ingredients separately, or merely softening the butter instead of melting it, but honestly, I've made it both the "proper" way and the easy way, and it turns out just fine with the one-bowl, fast-melt cheater method. This recipe is pretty robust in that way. At the end is a perfectly cake-y, moist (sorry, no other word describes it as well), dense-ish, banana bread with a pronounced crumb that holds its shape and is good for a week. It can be stored in an air-tight container at room temp or in the fridge and holds up well to reheating.

Gratuitous picture of a sleeping Walnut. Yes, he really sleeps with one paw over his face. He's like a sulky teenager who doesn't want Mommy to take his picture, even in his sleep. 

1 comment:

  1. i LOVE banana bread and am always in search for the tastiest, easiest recipe. i will have to try this the next time my bananas last long enough to be made into bread (i have little kids, after all.)

    loved this: "What. Why did I just write that. I hate that phrase. " Once I read that I knew it was you. so terrific. and i totally know how horrific it is to suddenly see yourself using a phrase you detest because you got carried away by the moment. that just shows how much you must really think of this recipe. that and the almost-F-level-indulgent backstory. heh heh.


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