Every cook or baker, no matter how successful or respected in the culinary world, has experienced his or her share of kitchen disasters. I'm sure that at one time even Julia had a gateau that fell, Emeril put too much BAM! in his etoufee, and Bobby underestimated the heat of a habanero. I am most certainly no exception. Seeing as I am a bit of a perfectionist, I used to beat myself up over these not so appetizing outcomes, but now I tend to laugh at my mishaps and chalk them off as a learning experience.
There were those lemon bars that I made for my friend Erik's party in grad school. Thank goodness I questioned the texture of the custard on the finished product prior to serving, a custard that I had apparently forgotten to add sugar to. One sour and bitter taste test later, the contents of the 9X13-inch pan came face to face with the garbage can, and I was on my way to the bakery to (gasp!) buy something to bring to the party. Lesson learned here: Don't bake when you are doing 10 other things at the same time, and set all of your ingredients out so that you don't omit anything.
Then there was the matter of my famous apple strudel, the one that I make every holiday season, so often that I don't need the recipe to refer to. Or so I thought. I had volunteered to make my masterpiece when we were spending Thanksgiving with friends in Florida. Somewhere along the line I messed up the ratio of flour to water and ended up with cement-like dough, impossible to form into my fabulous flaky crust. Gosh, that apple crisp for dessert was delicious. Lesson learned: Have the recipe handy to refer to, no matter how many times you've prepared it.
That banana bread incident always stayed with me, so it was wonderful to discover a banana bread recipe that never fails me and that everyone seems to love. Despite the name, this is not my mom's recipe (I wouldn't post that without her permission, and she is somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean right now.) This just seems like the kind of recipe that your mom would make: comforting, simple, and delicious. With 4 whole bananas in each loaf, the texture is extremely moist, and with the added spices, the aroma that emanates from the oven will have everyone clamoring for that first slice. Here are a few extra tips for this deliciously moist bread a la mom:
- Ripe bananas can be mashed by placing them in a plastic bag and squeezing or by mashing with a potato masher in a bowl. I have found that the best method for thoroughly mashing bananas is to use a food processor. Place the banana in the bowl of the processor and process until smooth. The resulting smooth texture helps to maximize the banana flavor throughout the batter and keep the loaves moist.
- These loaves can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for 3-4 days. The loaves freeze well, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, for up to one month.
- Instead of making large loaves, this recipe will yield 6-7 smaller loaves. These make wonderful gifts. Who doesn't love banana bread?
- Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or even macadamia nuts may be substituted for the pecans. For a variation on this recipe, try adding dried cranberries or dates, shredded coconut, granola, or peanut butter to the batter.
Mom's Banana-Nut Bread
Makes 2 large loaves
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 pound butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
8 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups lightly toasted chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray two 9X5 loaf pans with nonstick baking spray. In a large bowl, whics together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the bananas and the vanilla and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just until all of the dry ingredients are moist and well blended. Mix in the nuts.
Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the bread is browned, cracked on the top, and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. Let the loaves rest for 10-15 minutes and then remove from the pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.