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Chat Leftovers: Banana bread with appeal

Good morning, all. Feeling chatty? Then this is your day. Plan to be on hand at 1 for the weekly Free Range chat. It's your chance to ask for food-related advice, interact with some of our writers and maybe even win a book.

Recipe Included

In addition to many of the usual suspects, our guest chatters will include Barry Estabrook, who wrote a very cool story this week about a tomato breeder who might actually have developed a tasty supermarket tomato. And we're also expecting Samuel Fromartz, the author of today's helpful story on whole-grain baking.

And speaking of baking, here's a question we couldn't get to during last week's chat:

I have some frozen bananas that I plan on turning into banana bread. Do you have any suggestions on how to jazz up your standard banana bread, other than nuts? I have enough to make at least two loaves, so I thought I might try something different.

Oh, you bet. You named the obvious one, of course. Pecans seem to be the go-to nut for banana bread, although walnuts, black walnuts and macadamia nuts are fairly common additions.

But it sounds like you already know that, so we'll move on. A lot of folks wouldn't think of making banana bread without chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semisweet) or toffee chips, or a combination of the two. For a standard loaf-pan-size recipe, 3/4 to 1 cup should do the trick. For a more unusual addition, I recommend coconut. Use 3/4 to 1 cup of moist flaked coconut. (If you're using sweetened coconut, you might want to cut back on the recipe's sugar a bit.)

How about dried fruits? Raisins, chopped dates, dried cranberries, dried cherries and chopped apricots come to mind. Another idea: Consider adding 1/2 tablespoon or more of finely grated lemon, lime or orange zest. To go with that, you could add a little juice from the same fruit.

Spices would be good to experiment with. Think about cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg or ground cardamom. And maybe ginger -- powdered or the candied crystallized version, chopped.

Bananas and bourbon taste pretty good together, and so do bananas and rum, and I wouldn't be averse to adding a tablespoon or so of either spirit to the batter. And if I were going to add raisins, I might soak them in either bourbon or rum first.

Here's a banana bread recipe we ran waaaaay back in 1982. It's fairly standard, but at the end you'll find a really interesting suggestion for an addition.

-- Jane Touzalin

Maybelle Scott's Banana Nut Bread
Makes a 9-by-5-inch loaf

This super-easy banana bread is an excellent way to use overripe bananas, which can be peeled and frozen until you're ready to use them (never mind that they turn black and mushy). Except for a bowl to mash the bananas in, this can be a one-bowl batter. Make the bread a day or two ahead of time, because it tastes better if it ripens a bit before you eat it.

2/3 cup salted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use butter or shortening to lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan,

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until combined. Make a well in the middle of the creamed mixture and add the eggs. Use a fork to beat the eggs lightly, then use the mixer beaters to work them into the creamed sugar. Add the mashed bananas, milk, vinegar and vanilla extract; beat on medium speed to combine, then add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Beat until just combined, then use a flexible spatula to fold in the walnuts. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes; the baking time will vary depending on the moistness of the bananas. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the bread has started to pull away from the sides of the loaf pan.

VARIATIONS: Add about a cup of pumpkin puree, an extra half-cup or so of flour and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon.

By Jane Touzalin  |  May 5, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin, recipes  
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Next: Q&A: David Kirby, author of 'Animal Factory'


I have a banana bread recipe that calls for ground cardamom (and pistacios) in lieu of vanilla (and walnuts). I usually lightly crush cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle, take out the pod parts and use the seeds. The resulting bread is delicious and always gets rave reviews.

Posted by: eastwoek | May 5, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

What is the purpose of the vinegar?

Posted by: ORB21 | May 5, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Best banana bread ever I think is the one from Sundays at Moosewood cookbook. It has brown sugar, lime juice, toasted coconut. It is good w/o the lime-rum glaze you make when it is done but super with it.

Posted by: AKD1 | May 6, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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