For all who shake in their boots at the prospect of yeast breads – weighing, mixing, rising, timing, punching and shaping – I’ve got something promising a more instant gratification: quick bread a la bananne.
Quick breads. The faithful easy-come, easy-go friends so unlike traditional yeast bread. (Who, let’s face it, can be a bit of a drama queen.) I know I know, banana bread doesn’t make a very good turkey dijon panini, but they more than make up for it when it comes to tea, unexpected guests, or cloudy mornings.
So you say you can’t bake. Quick breads are about to whisk you to lands flowing with cinnamon and molasses. Innocently pretending to be bread, the quick bread family is a cross between muffins and cake. Plus, they can be a lot healthier.
The recipe I’ve used most frequently for the classic quick bread (banana) is actually from Runner’s World magazine. I liked it enough to stick with it for a few months, but I’m not as loyal to recipes as I am to people, and I cheated.
It’s like this: when I stumbled upon a recipe with bourbon in the title, I abandoned my running shoes for the bottle of Granddaddy Bourbon I got for my birthday last year. I’ve always thought it tasted faintly of bananas anyway, and so the idea of having more banana in my bread – with highlights of caramel and butter to boot – seduced me.
If anyone asks, just tell them the bourbon made me do it.
It turns out there were things in the original I wasn’t willing to give up. Rather than making a complete switch, I let both recipes into the ring to duke it out for my affection. A tweak here, an addition there, and I had it. The shoes were back on.
My next project: a name. I couldn’t use “Runner’s World Banana Bread” as I’m sure that would turn many of you non-runners off, causing you to walk away from my site immediately. An’ I shur as hay-ell couldn’t tell it laik it was, wit that there bourbon n’ it n’ all, lest some of you think me lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.
And so I present to you, ladies and gents, a hot new recipe out of the NY State pseudo-south: my very own Bourbon Banana Bread. And, for no extra charge, the recipe that taught me how to make these quick-draw breads the right way.
As with most quick breads, you don’t need a stand mixer for this recipe. This batter comes together so fast, I’m usually left with mashed banana on my fingers thinking “why don’t I make this every week?” That’s the problem with (as we call it ‘round here) make agains: you rarely make them again. And as a further warning: starting a food blog = certain death for cooking regularity. Oh well. Who said life, or eating, should be regular?
Bourbon Banana Bread
3 ripe bananas, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup very soft salted butter (or canola oil)*
¾ cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp lowfat yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
nutmeg – from a pinch to a ½ tsp if you like nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
¼ cup ground flaxseed (optional, adds those wonderful Omega 3s!)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour + ½ cup whole wheat flour
*For a lower-fat version, reduce oil to ¼ cup and add ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk mashed bananas, butter (or oil), brown sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, bourbon and yogurt until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together all the spices, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle over wet ingredients and mix in.
- Add walnuts and flax if desired. Add the flour last, folding it into the mixture until it’s just combined. One trick with quick breads is to mix to the point where the flour is mostly incorporated, but you can still actually see some streaks lingering. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan or mini ones. Sprinkle some walnut pieces on top of each.
- Bake 45 minutes-1 hour, testing with a paring knife or skewer for done-ness. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
Perfect Pumpkin Nut Bread
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarsely
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries (optional)
- With rack in lower-middle position, heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray
- Spread nuts on baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
- Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger together in large bowl. Whisk pumpkin, sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla together in separate bowl until frothy.
- Gently fold pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in nuts and cranberries. Batter will be very thick.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth out the surface. Bake until just browned, and toothpick inserted comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 45-55 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool at least 1 hour before serving. Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Look amazed when something turns out this well in spite of your ineptitude unpredictable oven:
courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated “Holiday” 2007