The Humble Loaf

Female food bloggers seem to be obsessed with banana bread. Molly Wizenberg of Orangette has more than four recipes on her blog, and then another woman at Obsessed With Baking (where I found the recipe) has run various tests on various recipes, complete with commentary and photos revealing the differences between using melted butter and unmelted. What is it about this humble loaf that keeps us coming back time and time again for more?

I don't want to go into a gender related discourse about why women seem to be jumping up and down slightly higher than the men are in celebration of this little delicacy, because I know men who make fantastic banana bread, cake, muffins and more (ie. My Dad!), but this is the observation I made while scouring the Internet for the Silver Palate Banana Bread recipe. Truth is, banana bread is extremely versatile. She can serve as a light dessert, when enriched with butter and sugar; she can dress down to a hearty whole wheat for breakfast or a snack; she can elegantly wear chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, and candied ginger, to name a few, or a thick coat of cream cheese frosting when she wants to get fancy.

I really love banana bread, just ask Fabienne, my tree-planting accomplice of four years. I loved this bread before going tree-planting, but after her loyal accompaniment (that of Fab's and the bread's) through all those years of slogging through mud and up and down hills, the bond is bound. Not to mention the fact that Fab had to witness and listen to my countless updates on how the banana bread was, or how much I'd eaten, or how much I just wanted a slice. In the morning I'd wake up groaning, sore, cold, uncomfortable, but would faithfully get dressed, pull on my boots, and walk to the mess tent where a delicious loaf of banana bread, a cup of coffee and Fab, full of life and stories, were waiting for me. Not a bad life I'd say. In fact, it's those mornings I miss the most.

This morning, I woke up to find the first snow dusting across the city. I kinda squealed with fright and excitement: I'm going to have to shovel my steps for the first time in my life! Oh Montreal, you and your seasons; I love you so much for it. But the real excitement came at breakfast. Last night I baked, for the second time this week, the perfect loaf of banana bread. Toasted, buttered, paired with fluffy scrambled eggs and a mug of tea, she's the perfect morning companion for reading the paper, or the new cookbook Ros gave me The Best International Recipe Cookbook, which is real winner by the way and a great introduction to cooking from around the world.

So without further ado, here she is:

Banana Bread

as adapted from the Silver Palate

I reduced the amount of butter to 1/4 c and the sugar to 1/2 C. I also added 1/2 C of coconut, and this time, 1/2 C of chocolate chips. She has a moist, tight crumb, and enough sweetness to satisfy; a nice mix between a hearty loaf and a cakey one. This means that I can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and only feel a little off after the 6th slice. Not bad if you ask me. It's very easy to make, without needing lots of special ingredients.

1/4 C butter (room temperature or melted)
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
3 large ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C unsweetened coconut
1/2 C chocolate chips or walnuts

- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Grease a 9X5X3 loaf pan.
- If using room temperature butter, cream together with sugar. If using melted butter, mix together with sugar.
- Add eggs and vanilla.
- Mash up the bananas in a separate bowl using a fork or a potato masher and add to butter and sugar mixture.
- In a separate bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet gradually, stirring the batter as you add the flour.
- Before the dough is completely blended, add the chocolate chips. This way you'll avoid over mixing the dough.
- When the dough has just come together, it's alright if some streaks of flour are still present, pour the batter into the loaf pan.
- The baking time may vary. I have a really thick, dark, non-stick loaf pan that cooks the loaf quite a bit faster than a regular aluminum one would. So my loaf takes about 45 minutes. However, the suggested baking time is for 1 hour. To avoid over or under cooking, check the loaf after 40 minutes. Push lightly on the top and if it springs back quickly under your finger there's a good chance she's almost done. Test further by inserting a clean sharp knife into the center. It should come out clean. Other indications of doneness are, a well-browned top and when the sides of the loaf start to come away from the sides of the pan.

- Don't forget, this recipe could easily be used for muffins. I imagine it'd make from 6-8 muffins made in regular sized muffin tins. But don't forget to reduce the cooking time to about 25 minutes, same temperature.

- murph

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