Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blustery Day Banana Bread

We've been having weather whiplash here these past few days. Saturday, it was warm enough to wear shorts, though it was a bit gray out. That night, there was lots of rain, and Sunday was cooler--long sleeve weather but not too bad. Yesterday, however, felt like early April rather than the second half of May. Oddly, it seems like it must be some kind of weird annual weather pattern because it was equally cold at this time last year. When I wrote about the mint last year, I mentioned wearing 2 layers of fleece in the garden. Yesterday would have been a 2-fleece day if I'd gone to the garden. Instead, I stayed inside and baked banana bread. Last night, we had a frost warning. I didn't have much to worry about there--I always stick to the "don't plant anything tender until Memorial Day" maxim--though I did bring inside a tray of plants I'd bought to put into containers. Today, it's back up to the 70s, and the forecast for Thursday is 90. It's hard to know what to think, not to mention what to wear or how many windows to keep open.

But back to the banana bread. The first time I saw this recipe, I was a bit dubious. I'm certainly fond of crystallized ginger in things like rhubarb jam and biscotti, but I wasn't sure what I'd think of it in banana bread. But I read an interview somewhere where Molly said that this was one of her top three recipes from all the recipes in her new book. And since just about everything I've made from Orangette has been lovely, I thought I should believe her.

Crystallized ginger, it turns out, works just fine in banana bread, especially when there's chocolate involved too. It's a nice contrast--the kick of the ginger, the moistness of the bread, the chocolate chips. I haven't had a go-to banana bread recipe for awhile,which is unfortunate, given that I like bananas a lot but only if they're not too ripe, and the minute they're too ripe, I let them sit there til they're too ripe to do anything with but bake or put into smoothies. In college and grad school, I always made the banana bread from Moosewood, but as I recall, it had black coffee in it, and now I wonder why. But I may have found my banana bread of choice. I'd like to try this basic recipe in different permutations (no chocolate, with walnuts--that sort of thing), but if those variations are as good as I suspect they'll be, then I won't have to look any farther. And in the meantime, I have a few more extra ripe bananas on my counter, a new bag of crystallized ginger in the cabinet and another bag of chocolate chips in the refrigerator. I'd been a bit distressed at how quickly this loaf has disappeared (I have been an altruistic soul and given several large chunks of it away), but I know just what I need to do to remedy that.

Guest Blogger Heads Up: Before I get to the recipe, one more thing. Thursday is the official Guest Blog Post Day for those of us participating in the blogathon. I'm swapping posts with Vera Marie Badertscher, who blogs at A Traveler's Library. Her post, on a cool-sounding Greek cookbook and cookbook author, will be here, and my post, on Delhi and William Dalrymple's City of Djinns, will be over there. I suggest, of course, that you read both!

And without further ado . . .

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
(from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, *
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used half all purpose and half white whole wheat flour, and it turned out really well.)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from 3-4 medium-sized bananas)
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt (I used homemade, and, of course, it was especially wonderful.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a standard-sized loaf pan.

*In the book, Molly points out that you can melt the butter by putting it in an ovenproof bowl in the preheating oven. I think this is a stroke of genius, as I have had butter explode all over the inside of the microwave more times than I can count. This time, I put the butter in a little stainless steel bowl, kept an eye on it, and took it out perfectly melted with no explosions.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and ginger, mix well to combine.

In a medium bowl, add the lightly beaten eggs, mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and gently fold in with a rubber spatula until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick and lumpy. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, at least 50 minutes. (Mine took 60-65 minutes both times I made it.) If the top seems to be browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil. Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then let cool completely on rack, though if you can't stand to wait anymore, you can try it immediately.


Lisa said...

Mmm, banana bread. Your blog always makes me hungry.

shinn said...

I agree with Lisa. Your variation of the banana bread recipe is so tempting, that I want to grab a bite downstairs.