banana bread basics

There’s the official recipe. Then there’s what you actually end up doing — by choice or cold-blooded fate. Case in point:

Banana Bread recipe from the fine folks at King Arthur Flour

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, light or dark, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium or 2 large bananas)
  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam or orange marmalade, optional but tasty
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

King Arthur Flour, Step 1: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan; or a 12″ x 4″ tea loaf pan.

What Happens to You, Step 1: Clear off cluttered kitchen counter to make room for ingredients. Empty out dishwasher of clean dishes, fill it back up with all the dirty stuff on said counter as you ponder what the heck is a tea loaf pan.

WHY, Step 1b: Read list of ingredients. Do a double take as your eyes scan the line “butter, at cool room temperature.” Quietly freak out as you realize the butter compartment in the fridge is occupied by an open container of whipped cream cheese.

WHY, Step 1c: Rejoice! Find pound of butter hiding behind box of supermarket dumplings in the freezer.

WHY, Step 1d: Let concern wash over you as you realize your half-cup of butter is actually a tiny, yellow baton of granite.

WHY, Step 1e: Use your entire body weight to press a knife into the butter granite to cut it into small pieces. Wipe your brow with a kitchen towel.

WHY, Step 1f: Thaw the frozen butter bits at half-power in the microwave for 12 seconds. No more.

WHY, Step 1g: Set aside the half-melted, warm butter, hoping it cools to “room temperature.” Move on to the next ingredient, brown sugar.

KAF, Step 2: In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, beating till smooth.

WHY, Step 2: Google “how to make brown sugar” when none is found in the pantry, which contains two spice jars of whole cloves and five cans of tuna. But no brown sugar.

WHY, Step 2b: Use the whisk attachment to flavor plain, granulated sugar with some molasses miraculously found in the pantry next to the jar of colored sprinkles.

WHY, Step 2c: Once the brown sugar is complete, mix in the hopefully-room-temperature butter, vanilla extract, the required spices and salt, and the leaveners. Oh, add only half the ground cinnamon because meh.

KAF, Step 3Add the mashed bananas, jam, honey, and eggs, again beating until smooth.

WHY, Step 3: Add the next set of ingredients — but substitute apricot preserves for apricot jam since that’s what you have, and don’t bother pre-mashing the bananas because they’re so overripe they’re practically pudding when you peel them. (Freeze the remaining two bananas, hoping next time you’ll have your act together.)

KAF, Step 4: Add the flour, then the walnuts, stirring just until smooth.

WHY, Step 4: Mix in the flour until smooth. Follow that with the chopped walnuts. Don’t bother measuring them out because you just want to get rid of the quarter-full container already. 

KAF, Step 5Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

WHY, Step 5: Pre-heat the oven, which was the first official step in the recipe and you totally ignored it, but no matter.

WHY, Step 5b: Find and grease the nine-by-five-inch loaf pan, which should surely be found in the cabinet right beside (maybe behind?) the four mini loaf pans still in their original store packaging.

WHY, Step 5c: Unwrap, wash, dry mini loaf pans. Prep them for baking as the oven dings that it’s done pre-heating.

WHY, Step 5d: Distribute banana bread batter evenly among the mini pans.

KAF, Step 6Bake the bread for 45 minutes, then gently lay a piece of aluminum foil across the top, to prevent over-browning.

WHY, Step 6: Leave pans in the oven until the batter is baked through.

KAF, Step 7Bake for an additional 25 minutes (20 minutes if you’re baking in a tea loaf pan). Remove the bread from the oven; a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean, with at most a few wet crumbs clinging to it. The tester shouldn’t show any sign of uncooked batter. If it does, bake the bread an additional 5 minutes, or until it tests done.

WHY, Step 7: Struggle to remove mini pans from the oven with your overlarge oven mitts. Curse as you set them on the counter to cool.

KAF, Step 8: Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Remove it from the pan, and cool it completely on a rack.

WHY, Step 8: Come back an hour later and unmold the banana bread. Slice into a loaf while still warm.