Some days are easier to tackle than others. Today I woke up knowing it was Banana Bread Day. I’ve been watching our bananas for the last few days. The recipe I use calls for three bananas that are on the overripe side. You know the kind of banana I’m talking about: the yellow skin is overtaken by streaks of dark brown and black spots. They are the vagrants of the fruit world – doomed to be passed over by any fruit seeker. They even smell overripe. Too banana-y, if that’s possible. These bananas however are perfect for baking so I was keeping my eye on them. I knew I needed the three so I kept watch on the supply. The bananas were probably at peak ripeness on Monday. By Tuesday night, they had started to lean towards the dark side. On Wednesday they continued towards the darkness – more black spots on the skin, more banana aroma in the air. All I had to do now was make sure that Lola didn’t eat one. She could make a sudden move for a smoothie which would be fine use for a banana like this, but would foil my inventory plans for making a bread. Fortunately, Lola went smoothie-less. When I woke up on Thursday, I had three bananas perfect for baking.
Then I just made a banana bread. I made my coffee first and when that was brewing, Lola left the kitchen to go take a shower. That gave me the opportunity to have the kitchen to myself. I wanted to get the banana bread cooked early in the day so I could enjoy it in the afternoon. I also had an appointment at noon, so I would be leaving the house later that morning, which meant I was facing some time constraints. This was perfect. I pulled down the recipe which is in our All Star Recipe Box. We have two recipe boxes. One is chock full of all kinds of recipes which we have collected over the years, most of which we have never even made. It’s more of an idea box. The other box contains the recipes we use pretty frequently. It was originally gifted to Lola by her sister Becky who filled it with copies of all her Mom’s tried and true favorites, so it holds a certain nostalgic value. But the recipes in there are also our stars. Over the years we have added in more – my fudge recipe, my chocolate ball recipe and even the banana bread recipe (which is actually a Becky recipe). In the event of a catastrophe that makes us leave our house with just ten minutes to get out, that recipe box is on the short list of things to grab (along with all my Warrant CDs).
I gathered up all the ingredients. I tried to work fastidiously. I would put ingredients away immediately after I used them. I cleaned dishes as I went, so the sink never filled up. I made good use of space. I’ve made this recipe a ton of times, so I knew what I was doing. In no time I had the batter ready and poured into a loaf pan. It went into a 300 degree oven for about an hour and a half. I had the kitchen cleaned up before Lola was out of the shower. That was efficient work, if I do say so myself. I then went about my day as usual knowing I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to crank out a loaf (hee hee) for the rest of the day.
My banana watch this week mirrors the actual history of the banana bread. Bananas were first sold in the United States in the 1870’s and had become immensely popular by the turn of the century. But because there was no refrigeration or cold storage solutions, bananas would spoil pretty quickly, as they tend to do. That’s when bakers started to take the overripe bananas and meld them into their cooking. This coincided with the invention and production of baking soda and baking powder (both invented in the mid-1800’s). These ingredients are used in all sorts of baking but are essential for making quick breads – breads that are leavened using chemicals. That’s the category a banana bread would fall in along with your soda breads (St. Patrick’s Day is coming!). The invention of banana bread comes from the necessity of using up all their produce (the overripe bananas) and the innovation of baking short cuts (the baking powder). The first banana bread recipe in print appears in 1933 by the folks at Pillsbury, although the first breads probably showed up in the kitchens of hard working Americans trying to feed their family on a budget and trying to use up those damn bananas. (Info from “Banana Bread History“)
When the banana bread had come out of the oven, it had filled the kitchen with the delightful smell of baked goods. That’s a joy to have in your house, especially in the morning. I let it cool for a bit, but then removed it from the loaf pan. Thanks to my expert flouring of the the pan along with some Crisco, it popped right out fully in tact. That’s always a worry about baking loaves – you don’t want it to fall apart out of the pan. This one was perfect. I went about with the rest of my morning. At noon, when I was leaving, I noticed Lola had just cut into it. The smell must have finally broken her down. She had her piece in the toaster oven with a slab of butter on top. Toasting the bread with the butter on top is a recent discovery for Lola. She likes how it distributes the butter evenly and also means you don’t have to tear up your slice while trying to spread cold butter across the top. Butter is essential to enjoying a good piece of banana bread. It just pairs well. It gives it extra moistness and also that creamy flavor. It brings out the goodness of the whole piece and especially makes the taste of the nuts shine through. I asked Lola if I had passed muster on this one and I had. She was loving her morning snack.
I came back home in the afternoon and was ready for a snack too, so a piece of banana bread was the perfect cure. I didn’t toast mine. I usually do, but for some reason, maybe because it was so fresh, I just ate it at room temp. I did put butter on it of course. So good. It gave me the energy boost I needed to make it to dinner. I was going to use the banana bread for dinner too and make a recipe from Bobby Flay that I have made before. It’s for Banana Bread Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce. These are unbelievably good if you have the time to make them (and really having banana bread is half the recipe). But I wasn’t feeling much for a sweet dinner, plus I was a little shy on my banana inventory, so I skipped it. Nope, my celebration today was just a nice fresh piece of homemade banana bread in the afternoon. That was everything I needed it to be.
Next Up: National Tortilla Chips Day