I cleaned out the freezer a couple days ago and discovered a hefty stash of frozen bananas. Now, normally I might chuck them in the back of the freezer again for later use, alongside the cranberries. But that would defeat the purpose of cleaning out the freezer. So in a moment of strength and inspiration, I put those six bananas in a bowl to thaw and got out three of my trustiest cookbooks to attempt once again to find the banana bread recipe.
It seems appropriate for me to start March in this way--telling you that I have indeed, found my favorite and now staple banana bread recipe. Let's celebrate! For it has felt rather impossible to actually find a few staple recipes. I am hard to please. I don't exactly always know what I like, but I am always certain of what I do not like, especially in my own cooking.
I started adding cardamom to banana bread since Didi Emmons, author of Vegetarian Planet suggested it. Now something is missing if it isn't there. Cinnamon just doesn't cut it; cinnamon is overdone. And though I adore nutmeg, it too needs to take a backseat here. Instead of following her full recipe though, I used Joy of Cooking as a guideline because I know how it tastes. I grew up with it, and though it is quite tasty, it needs that something more. With a little extra salt, whole wheat pastry flour, brown sugar, butter (as always!) instead of shortening, and some flavor change-ups, the bread is near perfect.
Now there is the same carmelized goodness of brown sugar that the Brown Sugar Banana Cream Tart had. The recipe makes two usual-sized tea loaves. It does not need butter at all, but if you do spread some on, careful, you may swoon. I suggest eating in a seated position.
I used more sugar than is usual in a quick bread recipe, and it is not too sweet. If you want a less indulgent bread, only use 1 1/3 cups of brown sugar. If you can, have all ingredients at room temperature. It helps the crumb a lot!
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon cardamom
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 1/4 cups mashed bananas (drained of thaw juice if pre-frozen),
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry flour, wheat germ, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Cream butter until smooth then cream with the sugar until a thick sugar paste forms. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and bananas until well incorporated. Fold in flour mixture in three batches until just mixed. Fold in walnuts. Do not over mix.
Pour evenly into buttered and floured bread pans. Bake for about an hour, or until the center tested with a knife comes out clean. Let cool ten minutes in the pans, then run a knife around the edges and invert onto cooling racks. Cool at least 15 minutes more before diving in. Quick breads are best if let to cool completely before slicing, but I never can wait that long. Eat plain or with unsalted butter, or natural peanut butter. Enjoy!