Bananas! Banana Bread
This morning I realized something odd... I have only been really cooking for 5 years. I mean, I've loved food since 4pm. July 25th, 1991. But 5 years just seems so short because food and cooking are so deep in my core code.
To be honest, I was pretty spoiled growing up because the first 10 years of my life I spent my afternoons at my family's restaurant where I would go up to my sweet grandpa and persuade him to make me an egg roll as an afternoon snack (reason #19 for my childhood chub). Then there's my parents, who were always concerned if my brother and I had enough food to eat (#8), resulting in a consistently stocked fridge of snacks and ready-to-microwave leftovers. Thankfully my mom taught me the importance of flavoring with oyster sauce and how to use a knife correctly! I've never cut myself... knock on wood. Once I left the nest, my freshman year self was kept alive by the salad bar, grilled cheeses, and breakfast biscotti at the Center Court dining hall (UC!).
So when did it click? When did I decide that I rather test out recipes than work on diagrams for studio? Ironically, I think it was while I was interning at my dream office in NYC. Not because I was having the time of my life and spent each weekend scouring the city for the best donuts, dumplings, or ethnic hole in the wall. My experience there was actually quite the opposite. I was 20 years old, I knew no one in the city, I sadly got takeout from Ollie's like once a week, and I was in a pretty terrible and emotionally draining relationship. Without getting too too serious, I often look back at my time in New York and wish I was in a better mindset so that I could have taken full advantage of my time there. My heart does smiles when I remember running around the city with my mom looking for dim sum or when BFFs Katie and Jeff and I had a surprise 2 hour reunion and we looked at Christmas lights : ))))))
Anyways, how does this relate to Banana Bread???????! Well, at one of our all staff breakfast meetings we had nearly a dozen distinctly different Banana Breads delivered, and I remembered just being blown away by each flavor. Flavors that I didn't even know went together. That was probably the day I learned what cardamom was and started to like dark chocolate. I cannot for the life of me tell you where those loaves where from. I was most likely concerned with stuffing my face with all 12 banana breads before I had to go down into the non-ventilated basement to build an annoyingly huge model. This was towards the end of my internship and I remember thinking how I wanted to figure out how to make banana bread that good once I went back to Ohio.
I know this is kind of a ridiculous story... but that banana bread was the catalyst for my cooking journey. Okay, it wasn't really the catalyst but it was the very small moment where I really started to care and become curious about the possibilities of food. I made Banana Bread when I went back to Ohio and I continued to experiment and refine my base recipe. At one point I made alien-esque muffins with bulgy blueberry eyes. I would leave a slice on a friend's studio desk if they were staying all night to work. I chopped up my favorite Cleveland Chocolate into the batter and almost died from how decadent it was. Try it sometime! I made it for my now boyfriend before he was my boyfriend and it's still one of his favorite treats.
So I've been developing this recipe for 5 years now and it is full of so much love. This is my go-to recipe if I want to bake a gift for someone. This is what I would have given our new downstairs neighbors if they weren't terrible and didn't break windows. This is something you should make soon and start to make it your own.
BANANAS! BANANA BREAD
2 C All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C (1 stick) Butter - room temperature
3/4 C Brown Sugar
2 Eggs - beaten
5 Super Ripe Bananas + 1 Ripe Banana for Topping (optional)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a small bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Once creamed, mix in beaten eggs.
Pour creamed mixture into flour mixture. Mix until just combined, do not over mix.
Mash 5 super ripe bananas and add to Banana Bread mixture. I like to leave a few large chunks of banana for texture. Mix until combined.
Grease your loaf pan and pour in mixture.
If adding the sliced banana topping, thinly slice up a just ripe banana. If the banana is too ripe it will be a little difficult to work with. You'll end up only needing about 2/3 of your banana. Arrange your slices in a crescent/banana shape on top of your loaf.
Sprinkle a bit of brown sugar to help the banana caramelize and pop in the oven for 70-80mins*. The area beneath the banana topping will be the last to bake. Insert toothpick and if it comes out clean it is ready to come out of the oven.
Set out to cool and then enjoy!
* 40 minute cooking time for 9x9 pan. 25 minute cooking time for muffins.