Making banana bread is a lesson in patience, unless of course you are able to find overly ripe bananas at the grocery store. No such luck when I went looking for bananas last week. The only ones I could find were my favorite eating bananas, the ones with peels still a little green. It was all I could not to eat those bananas this past week and needed to keep reminding myself I was waiting for them to ripen. And the wait was almost 8 eight days. In my world, that is kind of long wait, for making banana bread that is. But as the old adage goes 'some things are worth the wait' (and of course wait time is all relative depending on what it is you desire) and this banana bread was definitely wait worthy.
I had been wanting to make Joanne Chang's famous banana bread recipe ever since I bought her first cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Cafe. There was just something about the ingredients in her banana bread recipe that seemed like it would be one that was both dense and delicious. While I don't have a real gift for clairvoyance, my prediction on this banana bread was pretty accurate. Flavored with just hint of cinnamon and containing toasted walnuts, this turned out to be a moist, delicious, dense banana bread. The kind that would hold up to butter or cream cheese lathered over it. Yet, regardless if you are a banana bread purist or not, this banana bread will definitely appeal to all taste preferences.
Give me a fresh banana or a piece of great banana bread and I would be happy. For some reason those are the only two ways I will or can consume 'bananas' as I have never liked anything else containing or flavored with bananas. I would rather starve to death than eat a piece of banana cream pie, bananas foster, or banana candy. On the other hand, who knows what I would do for a fresh banana or piece of banana bread.
In almost every banana bread recipe I looked at, they called for the use of 3 to 4 ripe bananas. However, not all bananas are the same size, so there can be quite a difference in the amount of banana one is adding to a recipe. Joanne Chang was the first one to further elaborate on the quantity of bananas used in the recipe. In addition to listing 3 1/2 ripe bananas, she provided a weight measurement (340 grams) as well as the American weight conversion amount (or 1 1/2 cups mashed). From this point forward when making this banana bread, I may allow 3 to 4 bananas to ripen but I will add 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas to the batter.
In going with the 1 1/2 cups option, it ironically turned out to be 3 1/2 of the sized ripened bananas. Whether or not this was a coincidence, I am sticking with cup measurement option. Remember, the riper the bananas the easier it is to mash them. A day or two more of a wait for them to ripen will make a difference. More ripe is better than less ripe.
The dry ingredients are sifted and set aside while the wet ingredients are combined. After the sugar and eggs are mixed together in standing mixer, the canola oil is slowly added (another lesson in patience) so as not to deflate the air incorporated into the egg and sugar mixture. The mashed bananas, vanilla and some creme fraiche are added in for even more flavor.
It surprises me that not all recipes calling for nuts advise they be toasted. But whether or not they do, I always do. Toasting walnuts at 325 degrees for 10 minutes will transform the taste and flavor of the nuts as well as transform whatever it is you baking.
The dry ingredients and toasted walnuts are folded in with a spatula until the flour is fully blended in or said differently, you should not see any streaks of flour in the batter.
On a recent trip up to New Hampshire I bought a new loaf pan, a 10" x 5" one. The pan was christened with this banana bread recipe. Even though it was a non-stick pan, I lined it with parchment paper. The banana bread bakes for almost 75 minutes in a 325 degree oven. I began checking for doneness at 60 minutes, but knew then it needed another 15 minutes. In spite of the long baking time, this is a really moist bread. I just might use this recipe to have a banana bread throw down with my sister. We will definitely need to find some impartial judges for this throw down.
Banana Bread (slight adaption of Flour's Famous Banana Bread recipe created by Joanne Chang)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 heaping teaspoon of Saigon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas (or 1 1/2 cups of ripe bananas mashed)
2 Tablespoons of creme fraiche (or you could substitute sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
3. Using a whisk attachment in a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
4. Slowly add canola oil (don't pour in all at once).
5. Add mashed bananas, creme fraiche and vanilla, mixing until combined.
6. Fold in flour mixture and toasted walnuts until thoroughly combined.
7. Pour batter into prepared 10x5 inch parchment paper lined loaf pan.
8. Bake 60 to 75 minutes (check at 60 minutes, but it will most likely take the full 75 minutes).
9. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before unmolding.
10. Wrapped in plastic wrap the bread will be good for up to 3 days (if it lasts that long) or it can be frozen for up to 2 weeks.
This past weekend I drove up to New Hampshire to meet up with my friend Anne, someone I had not seen in a very, very long time. But neither time or distance has ever affected our ability to just 'pick up where we left off'. She is also one of those rare friends where I feel incredibly comfortable talking about anything and everything with her, even things I may kept only to myself. Whether our lives intersected at some point in another lifetime (yes, I lean toward believing in past lives) or whether we share an unexplainable connection to one another, I have grown and benefited from her friendship, wisdom and insights over the years.
There are people that come into our lives for a short time and then there are the ones who stay. For me those that remain in my life are those that I consider my true friends, the ones I trust most and the ones I am not afraid to share my thinking with (even when this thinking isn't always rational). The people who come into my life and never leave are the ones I love and care for the most, regardless of the quantity of interactions I have with them. Everyone else in my life is just an acquaintance.
Regardless of the reason or when someone came into my life, it is longevity in a friendship that I value most. For me it can be (and has been) incredibly painful when friendships are only context dependent. I have had my share of what I call 'false friends' over the course of my lifetime, those who seek to have only their needs met in the friendship, those who become your friend because of the position you hold, or even those who take more than they give. The most significant difference between a real friend and a false friend from my perspective? Well, I guess I believe that in times of conflict or misunderstandings, the real friend is someone who works to resolve and forgive while the false friend is someone who seeks to find fault or uses the conflict to take breaks from the friendship. If I have learned anything over the course of my lifetime, it has been the realization (and reaffirmation) that honesty and trust are the most important qualities in a genuine, in it for the long run friendship. A friendship may not always be about the quantity of interactions, but it is always about the quality of them.