I think that I mentioned that my Mom was a great baker. However, there was one thing she never baked: anything with yeast in it. She never got the knack of kneading and baking, and she never tried. I suppose she might not have had the time; she had three children to raise and five mouths to feed.
My grandma must have taught my mom how to bake what I call teabreads—that is, bread that does not require yeast to rise, but only has baking soda or baking powder in it to provide a little bit of lift to the batter. My grandma used to do wonderful cranberry nut breads or date nut breads. My mother’s forté was banana bread, for a good reason: whenever we bought bananas, it was almost inevitable that one or two of them went brown before we got around to eating them. We only had dates at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and my mom painstakingly stuffed each date with a piece of walnut then rolled it in icing sugar. She never baked with them.
As kids, we normally had cereal for breakfast. I suppose that nowadays kids have toast and coffee instead. We were told that coffee and tea would stunt our growth, and I never drank coffee until I was 14 or 15 years old. When we did have bananas, we would slice them onto the breakfast cereal. However, we would forget they were there, sometimes, and it was those times that Mom sprang into baking action.
I have gathered from the news media that a good way to get unripe fruit to ripen more quickly is to put it in a paper bag with a ripe banana and close up the bag. The banana gives off a gas which coaxes the other fruit to ripen. Of course, more often than not, you end up with an overripe banana; that’s what I had this morning (along with three ripe and luscious nectarines that were hard as baseballs when I bought them). So, it’s banana bread time.
Here’s the recipe that I use for Banana Nut Bread. Again, there are a thousand thousand banana bread recipes out there on the Internet; this is the one that I have used for (it seems) eons, and it works for me. Your mileage may vary and, if you aren’t happy with this one, search for another.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar or Splenda
2 large bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
The zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted
Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F/180 deg. C/Gas Mark 4. Butter (or oil; I use vegetable oil) and flour a loaf pan measuring 8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″, shake out the excess flour, and set aside.
In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light. Put the bananas in another bowl and stir in the eggs and lemon zest. Mix together in a third bowl the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Alternately stir the banana/egg and flour mixtures into the butter and sugar. Finally fold in the nuts.
Note that the batter will be very stiff. As the only liquid in it is the eggs and (some of) the banana, when fully blended it will be nearly solid. You’ll need all your elbow power to keep blending it.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until the bread tests done, about 1 hour.
The relatively slow oven will give the bread time to rise. If the oven is too hot, the bread will solidify before it rises and you’ll end up with a doorstop.
To test this bread, I have my all-purpose knife, which I believe belonged to Mom. It was usually used to slice tomatoes and cucumbers, and I use it for that too. However, it has a thin scimitar-shaped blade which makes it perfect also for testing the doneness of a bread. You slide it into the exact center of the loaf and then withdraw it. If there is batter on it, the bread is not yet done. Only when it comes out clean is the bread done. You could use a skewer if you don’t have a suitable knife.
Cool the bread on a rack before turning it out and slicing. Makes 1 loaf
Don’t let it cool all the way, though. There is nothing tastier than a slice of newly-baked banana bread spread with butter or cream cheese with your afternoon coffee. Enjoy!