Saturday, February 3, 2007

Simple Banana Bread

This one is a cinch to make and it tastes fabulous. It does take a little time -- an hour total in the oven, about -- but it's well worth the wait. We usually make a loaf and freeze half of it. It's a good alternative to the scones we eat every morning because it has a lot less butter; in fact, you don't use butter at all. Shortening is the key in this recipe, because it gives the bread a moist chewiness that you can't really get with just butter alone.
We haven't made this bread in awhile, but now that I'm looking over my recipe book, I want to make it right this second. I might do just that -- what a nice way to start a Saturday. I got the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition, and it seems to me like the breads and coffee cakes section is very similar to the 1975. For example, they suggest making this bread in a tin can: so that they slice prettily for tea." If you decide to use a can, opt for a 6-oz all metal can and only fill them about 3/4 of the way. This gives the bread enough room to expand. In addition, you'll want to cook it for less time, because the breads will be smaller than if you made just one loaf.
You should also plan on eating this bread soon after making it, as it tends to dry out quickly: "they wither young," the cookbook admonishes. It also mentions that these types of bread slice better if you wrap them in foil after cooling and refrigerate for about 12 hours. We have never done that, and slicing them has never been an issue, but that may only be because I don't really care if the slices are a bit jagged around the edges. That's fine by me, but were I serving a fancy tea, I might heed that advice. I do like to eat this bread with tea, though -- it's a great alternative to scones on a weekday morning.

Simple Banana Bread
Begin by bringing all your ingredients to room temperature -- 70º or so -- and preheat the oven to 350º. Sift together 1-3/4 a cup of sifted all-purpose flour, 2-1/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Blend in a separate bowl 1/3 cup shortening, 2/3 a cup of sugar, and 3/4 a teaspoon grated lemon rind. The acidity of the lemon makes the bread taste sweeter after it bakes. Beat in 1 large egg (or two small eggs) and 1 to 1-1/4 cups ripe mashed banana. This part is quite variable, because it depends on the size of the bananas you have, but two should be enough to make a moist and tasty bread. You can use nearly over-ripe bananas for this, making it ideal for baking near the end of the week, when your fruit has nearly spoiled and you're not interested in eating it plain. Just mash them with a fork before adding to the other ingredients.
Add the sifted ingredients in stages -- so it is easier to mix -- to the wet ingredients and beat the batter after each addition until it is smooth. You can opt to fold in 1/2 cup broken nutmeats, such as walnuts or cashews, and 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots. We made it with just the nuts -- no dried fruit -- and it was fantastic. You could also throw in some raisins if you'd like, but personally I am not a fan of dried fruit in my bread.
Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan (about 8x4 or a bit larger) and bake for about one hour, until done.
The recipe says that it needs to be cooled before you slice it, but you can eat it hot. It's tastier that way, I think!

No comments:

D & I design merchandise related to the HUAC hearings. Visit our store: