Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Banana Bread or Miles To Go Before I Sleep

The woods of Maui are "lovely, dark and deep," though different as can be from the snowy, quiet woods of Robert Frost. There is a velvety, exotic darkness there, the sun glinting off the edges of the trees that whisper in the wind, the chirping of a thousand birds, the myriad of colors overwhelming the senses (who knew there were so many version of green?) and the perfume of red and yellow hibiscus flowers wafting in heady waves over the whole island. It's a magic place that borders alternatively on sandy pockets of beach and scraggly rocks hiding emerald tide pools. The kind of place that's full of bends in the road, just waiting to be explored. Which, if you know me at all, is something I can never resist.

I bought a guide book (yes, I organize things, even on small islands), and amidst the usual restaurant recommendations, there was buried in the middle a map for a route going north, the part of the island that isn't usually featured in advertisement brochures, which intrigued us greatly. There was one sentence there, too, which said something like, "before you begin on this route, there is on the left of the road a tiny stand with an old lady selling the best banana bread you've ever eaten." Ha, ha, we thought, watch it be tough as a brick. But because we are suckers for banana bread, we totally bought half a loaf (that was the smallest measure we could get, and the old lady looked at us reproachfully behind the weather beaten stand). Well, ok, it wasn't the BEST banana bread, but it was pretty close -- surprisingly moist, dark, laced with soft specks of banana, fresh with flavors, oh yeah, it was exactly what we needed to fortify us for the journey (which was, in one word, amazing, as is everything on Maui -- can you tell I love the place?).

Since then, I've made a lot of food, but somehow, I just haven't gotten around to exploring banana bread recipes. It's like never going out to eat at the cafe in the corner because you know it's always been there. It just didn't seem challenging enough. Boy, was I wrong. I had no idea how many banana bread recipes there were or how hard it would be to choose one, never having made banana bread before and not really knowing what any of them would taste like. I picked a recipe from a summer Bon Appetit that had an interesting cinnamon crumble topping (let me save you the suspense -- I was wrong). It wasn't... bad exactly. Just not really good. Not *that* good. Not small-stand-on-Maui-banana-bread good. It was moist, but there wasn't enough flavor. You really couldn't taste much of the bananas, and certainly not the wonderful tea honey that I used (grr... note to self: eat fancy honeys, not use them in recipes; another note to self: maim you after the meeting*). In one way, I was disappointed because I had so hoped to hit on a winner, but in another way, this leaves me to try many other banana bread recipes! Who am I to complain about something like that?! Here's the recipe below, just in case. Watch out for more B-Bread experiments in the future (and that, as Martha would say, is a good thing).

By the by, I would love to see your favorite B-Bread recipes, so shoot me an email or leave a comment. Girl seeking yummy banana bread, will bake for food!

*Shout out to my friend Will in honor of us being dorky and watching Disney's "Hercules" while pretending to study economics. Tsk, tsk.

Banana Bread With Cinnamon Crumble Topping (Pareve)
(Bon Appetit, sometime this summer)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan. Whisk flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Whisk next 5 ingredients in large bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients; stir to blend. Transfer batter to pan. Mix 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and brown sugar; sprinkle over batter.

Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool bread in pan 30 minutes. Turn pan on its side; slide out bread, being careful no tto dislodge topping. Turn bread right side up and cool completely.


Anonymous said...

Great post and gorgeous photos. I usually add a topping of brown sugar, dark chocolate chips and macadamia nuts to my banana bread.

Helene said...

Love that tea honey picture! There can't ever be too many banana breads :)

Peg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peg said...

I second that -- banana bread with chocolate chips or nuts is delicious!

I look forward to reading about your quest to find the perfect banana bread.

(Yes, please send me the info about your pastry cream-Thanks)


Emily said...

I LOVE your strawberry scone recipe (and have made it three times in the last two weeks). With a few soon-to-be rotten bananas, I thought I would check your blog for banana bread. Since you didn't think to highly of your own experiment, I googled around for another recipe. I think this one turned out pretty yummy (and it only uses one bowl!). I used 3/4 c. of brown sugar for the white, but otherwise followed it. http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/001465banana_bread.php

Irene said...

Hey Emily, thanks for the recommendation! Elise is fantastic as are all her recipes. I am definitely going to try this one! I do have a few others bookmarked, you know, just for experimental purposes... :) By the way, I'm so happy you like the scones!