So, it has been a long time since my last post. Over a month. I am not going to bore or insult you with a long enumeration of reasons why this was, but trust me, I’ve been busy doing very worthwhile, necessary things. I apologize, and hope you will all be able to forgive me.
One of things I did was spend a week in Indiana, visiting various friends and family members. It was a precious and enjoyable trip: I feel as though I connected with my family on a deeper and more authentic level than ever before, and it was a complete joy. *cue the kittens and rainbows* *audience gagging from the overly sweet aftertaste of my sentimentality*
But seriously, it was that good. So, there.
Of the many people I spent time with while in the Hoosier state, there was one friend who I was particularly excited to see, Cherrie. You see, she and I were like soul-siblings for several years.
For example: nine years ago, when I got back from a month on the Appalachian Trail, her home was the first place I went to when I got back to Indiana. One of my favorite pictures of me of all time was taken that day. It shows me, sweaty and buff and clothed in dirty forest gear, lifting all three of her daughters at once: one on my back and one in each arm. My hair was dreadlocked, my knees were scuffed and scabbed, and I was smiling the dorkiest, most delighted smile you can imagine. She and her family were like home for me.
Then, sadly, Cherrie and I had a parting of the ways. It was over everything and nothing, and the long and short of it is that we didn’t speak for over 3 years. By the time our feelings had settled, our phone numbers and email addresses had changed, and both of us had moved. Sigh. Although I wanted to, I had no way to reach her.
That is, until we found each other in the virtual ether of Facebook. After the apologies, we exchanged messages, pleasantries and links in the way that all good Facebook friends do. Which was a perfect delight, except for the way that it made me miss her and her family even more than I had.
So, of course I made it a priority to spend some time with her while I was in the area. It was such a joy to sit down with Cherrie over a cup of coffee, talking about everything and nothing while her daughters and husband chatted, played, and watched television in the next room. We made dinner together, laughing and catching up on how our lives have shifted and changed.
One thing that particularly tickled me was the way they all remembered my banana bread. In fact, when I was on the phone with Cherrie, before I even got to their home, I could here the young voices in the background asking if I would be able to make banana bread while I was there. I knew that they always loved it, but I honestly didn’t expect that, years later, they’d still be raving about it.
Sadly, I didn’t have the time to make bread while I was there, but I made them a promise: upon my return to Rochester, I would make a few loaves of the banana bread recipe that they so fondly remembered and send it on to them. I also promised that my first blog post after my more-than-a-month-long hiatus would be the recipe.
I did as I promised, and sent two loaves on to them: I just got a call a few hours ago from Cherrie that the loaves arrived. She thanked me, we chatted a bit about the general stresses and joys of life, and when I finally hung up, I had a big smile on my face. It is truly one of the blessings of life to be able to share our gifts, talents, and food with loved ones.
So, now there’s nothing left to do but post the recipe.
Just so you know, this isn’t the world’s healthiest bread recipe: it actually exists somewhere on the border between bread and cake. But it is beyond delicious, and should be made and enjoyed often, despite the butter and sugar within.
If you do want to boost the nutritional value a bit, be sure to use a whole grain flour or oat flour, and add the optional nuts and dried fruits. You can also substitute 1/2 c wheat germ for 1/2 c of the flour. Even if you do none of these things, at least there’s a plethora of banana in the recipe to ensure that there are some vitamins and minerals to go along with the sweet indulgence.
This recipe has two ingredients that make it different than most other banana breads, and it is these two items that make it such a moist, memorable bread: yogurt and maple syrup. They are such simple, commonplace ingredients, but they do wonders towards improving the texture of the finished loaves.
One quick tip: I find that it really helps to grease the measuring cup lightly with canola oil when measuring viscous, sweet liquids such as maple syrup, honey and molasses. I mean, why waste the gooey sweetness because it’s stuck on the side of the measuring cup and all along your rubber spatula, when you could easily just pour it all in with no trouble?
Whenever you bake with bananas, you want them to be really ripe. Like, almost completely brown and kinda gross and slimy on the inside. Also, whenever you have some bananas that are going overripe but not the time to make bread, feel free to freeze them in an airtight baggie until you have the opportunity to bake. After all, why waste the most important ingredient of this delicious recipe??
Making this recipe takes some time, patience and attention: there are quite a few steps, and all of them are important. That’s why I make a big enough batch of batter to make several loaves at once: even if it’s too much bread, these loaves freeze well and can make some pretty transcendent french toast. And as long as you follow the directions and avoid over-baking it, it is guaranteed to be the most legendary banana bread you’ve ever had.
Legen-(wait for it)-dary Banana Bread
(Makes three 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaves)
(Have all ingredients at room temperature)
- 4 1/2 c sifted flour (Yes, it really makes a difference if you don’t sift it. Just do it.)
- 1 1/2 t baking soda
- 1 t baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 2 c mashed ripe bananas
- 1/2 c plain yogurt
- 2 t vanilla
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1/2 c maple syrup
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1 1/2 t grated lemon zest (optional)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 c chopped nuts (optional)
- 1/2 c chopped dried apricots or other dried fruit (optional)
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Combine the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla.
- Beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the maple syrup. Then, gradually add the sugars and lemon zest (if using): beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternately with the banana mixture in two parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the nuts and dried fruit, if using.
- Scrape the batter into lightly greased bread pans. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon or spatula.
- Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out nearly clean, about 45 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time (unless you’re lucky enough to have a kickass convection oven, in which case you can skip this step and know that I am very, very jealous of you).
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then gently slide a thin knife around the edge of the pans to loosen the loaves. Invert the pan to remove the bread from the pans. Allow to cool at least another 15 minutes before slicing.