A troupe of old gnarly bananas have commandeered my freezer. The bundles of blackened fruit take up a rather large amount of valuable real estate and the peas and chicken breasts are not impressed at all. Even though a minor war has errupted, I still buy more. These new shiny yellow recruits, currently calmly perched on the kitchen counter, will ultimately be neglected by me in favor of yogurt or Grape Nuts and then they too will turn dark and ugly and join their brothers-in-rot wrapped in frozen storage bags. Poor bananas. It’s not a pretty way to go.
But like the duckling who turns into a swan, grungy bananas too have a second chance at the beautiful life in the form of baked goods. Banana bread is, of course, the most common use for this orphaned fruit. I’ve used many banana bread recipes over the years and each one always seems to be almost exactly right but still something continues to be missing. The search for this elusive outcome caused me to attempt different variations on the banana bread theme including using brown sugar, or adding more cinnamon, and then a few dashes of nutmeg, but the results still left me feeling rather lackluster about the loaf that emerged from the oven.
Then, last Sunday I woke up at 6:30 AM (in my defense I thought the alarm clock read 8:30 AM), and padded down the stairs in my bare feet with Dexter and Watson hot on my heels, determined to reduce my banana stockpile. With my iPad safely propped up for guidance I began to search for a new recipe to create.
When I eventually stumbled upon Flour’s Famous Banana Bread I decided that 199 reviews and a 5-star rating on the Food Network site was more than enough incentive for me to give it a go. Of course the Boston connection didn’t hurt. In the end I made two loaves which reduced my mountain of bananas to the size of a large sledding hill. The most rewarding result of this early morning baking session was that I finally found a recipe that truly yielded a slice that satisfied exactly the way I expect banana bread to look, taste, and smell.
All I ever wanted in this type of bread was a soft texture with a robust banana flavor lightly scented with cinnamon and a good ratio of crunchy walnuts. That wasn’t too mush to ask, right?! If that’s what you aspire to eat as well then I think you should start neglecting your bananas as soon as possible. You might even be able to whip up your own loaf by this Sunday if the forces of nature cooperate with you.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Set oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.