Summer is here! Not sure I’m quite ready for the heat but I am thrilled that the prospect of snow has dropped to near zero. I recently developed IT band syndrome which put my training on a hiatus. On the one hand, it was kind of terrible, but on the other hand, it was a great excuse to get new running shoes. Because you definitely need a reason for new running shoes. (False. You don’t.) I have since started running again, carefully, so hopefully my half marathon on Saturday doesn’t kill me. I’m heading home to Alaska to run the Skagway Half Marathon, and then skipping back to Juneau for the following week. Hopefully the weather cooperates.
In any case, I’ve been consoling myself with copious amounts of baking. The usual cookies, as well as new ice cream flavors, and a birthday cake for M.
I also reverted to an old favorite: banana bread.
Growing up in Alaska the bananas arrive chartreuse in color and sprint past yellow before surrendering to the brown of overly ripe fruit. Maybe you are one of those people who likes the brown ones, or the spotty bananas, but my neon supply has resulted in a preference for yellow with the barest hint of green remaining. Of course this means they move rather quickly past what I call their “edible phase”, and if M isn’t around to eat them I just wait for the inevitable browning that makes for the best bread.
This is a very classic recipe pulled from the Gold Medal flour bags I used to buy. It is not overly moist, slices beautifully, and always turns out perfectly. I opt to use Crisco in lieu of butter, partly because that’s what I’ve always done and partly because you don’t have to wait for Crisco to soften. One of these days I’ll try it with butter just for comparison. Or you can try it and let me know what you think.
This bread is best wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and left on the counter overnight before slicing. It will be substantially dryer if you cut it ahead of time, so do your best to wait awhile. It also freezes beautifully, if you want to make two loaves and save one for later.
I happened to be craving something sweet, but not too sweet, so I whipped up a quick chocolate spread to use with this loaf. It pairs beautifully and still leaves the rest of the loaf chocolate free to eat plain or with butter some other
hour day. To be honest, I use far less in real life than you see in these pictures, but it looks prettier and yummier with a thick coating. (If you use this much, or more, I promise I won’t tell.)
I don’t care for nuts in much of anything, but if that’s your thing I won’t judge you too harshly for adding them. Probably.
If you’re a chocolate banana fan, throw in some chocolate chips or make the easy chocolate spread below. It’s a great way to dress up a classic recipe while still sticking to its roots. I would probably use about a fourth cup of mini chocolate chips, but just fold some in until it looks like enough for you.
Adapted from Gold Medal
Makes one loaf
1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 medium)
1/3 cup shortening or butter
2 Tbsp milk
1 cup walnuts, optional (I never add these)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat bananas briefly until well mashed. Add shortening or butter and milk, and stir until combined.
- Add dry ingredients and stir (2 on a Kitchen Aide mixer) until incorporated, then on high (6) for two minutes.
- Add eggs and beat on medium (4) until blended and fluffy.
- Stir in nuts, if desired.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and/or a Ziploc bag, and leave on the counter overnight before slicing.
- Use a sharp knife to cut, and serve plain, with butter, or with the chocolate spread below.
Makes about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup half and half
- Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, and zap for one minute.
- Stir and repeat in 30-second intervals until chips are completely melted and smooth.
- Let cool for a few minutes, then slowly stir in the half and half until completely combined.
- Store in an airtight container, and keep in the fridge if you’re not going to use it right away. (Microwave for 10-15 seconds to make it spreadable if you don’t want to wait for it to warm up on the counter.)