Monday, January 18, 2010

Banana Bread for Kids of All Ages

This morning, I found myself staring at three bruised and blackened bananas. This was not my first, or even hundredth, encounter with the rejected fruit. My otherwise wonderful husband and oldest child both refuse to consume any but the most perfectly yellow bananas. Any that have browned even a little are passed over during snack time. This preference for only yellow results in quite a few extra bananas, past their prime as the time from green to yellow to a few tiny brown spots can happen almost overnight (or at least it feels like it).
In the past, I've done a variety of banana bread recipes with or without nuts of all kinds. I've made banana muffins, peanut butter banana bread, Amish banana cake and many many banana yogurt smoothies. I adore banana breads both fresh and toasted. Is there anything more delightful than toasted banana bread with cream cheese or butter? The children have not exhibited my fondness for banana bread unless I throw in some chocolate chips, and even then, they manage to often eat out the chocolate chips and leave most of the bread. Muffin shapes they accept a little more readily, even if the same recipe. Form appears to be important to them in ways I would not have been able to articulate pre-children.
Today though I had a picky child recipe success with the bananas no longer fit for direct consumption. I'm out of chocolate chips (and vanilla, as you will see the omission in the recipe), but really wanted a bread that girls would eat willingly at lunch tomorrow. I did, however, have some King Arthur double dark cocoa powder (decadent stuff!) and chia seeds I had bought a few months ago on a fit of health after reading about them in a running book. I borrowed the base of the recipe from Bernard Clayton's wonderful bread book (I have the older version) and improvised from there.
The result: a success even with the most pickiest eater in the house. They even asked for more. Wow. Chocolate really does make everything better and, as I found out, when you make the whole bread chocolate, they can't pick it out. I got them now.

Chocolate Banana Bread for Everyone
6 Tbsp butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp chia seeds (optional, but yummy little crunch--or try poppy seeds)
3 Tbsp cocoa powder (the dark King Arthur is wonderful)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

  1. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Grease a medium (8 x 4) baking pan. I use Pam.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and ad the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the banana puree.
  4. In a second medium bowl, mix the flour, seeds, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt with a whisk until combined.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, mix in 2/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture then once combined, add the remainder of the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Do not overmix or the bread will be tough.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes--until firm on top (not jiggly). Cool on a rack for five minutes in the pan and then turn out and finish cooling.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Bread

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making and consuming natalizia, a fabulous Italian bread similar to, but not quite as adorned as, panettone. I call this a tradition because I have been making it for approximately 10 years, ever since I found a obscure cookbook Celebrating Italy by Carol Field. Field provides a wonderful history of tiny hamlets and feast days along with seemingly well-researched and old recipes (I mean old as in back to the Roman period). She spend a good portion of the Natale section on the pandolce, panettone and natalizia Christmas breads. It takes me all day to make 2 tall domed natalizia and the time is worth it. This bread is airy, eggy and when sliced thin, toasted and slathered with butter is the most delicious thing I know. Sorry if I am drooling.

Now, on another bread topic (yes, bread does seem to feature heavily in my life), I made a wonderful discovery today. If I heat my oven as high as it will go (which, for the record, is 550F), place a cast iron skillet on the bottom filled with warm water and bake baguettes at this blasting heat for 25 minutes, their crunch is fabulous and they get wonderful air pockets. While I still say I could use a bread oven someday when we settled down, this new approach definitely produces an almost bakery-worthy crust.