The phrase "no place like home" really struck a chord with me when we finally crashed in our bed after a grueling 1200 mile drive from NYC. Manhatten rush hour? No problem. New York drivers are New York Drivers, done and done. You must drive like one to succeed in getting to where you need to go (read: I am really glad my boyfriend was driving). Pennsylvania drivers, interstates, "construction" and speed limit signs? Shitty and weird. The rolling hills and pastures *almost* make up for those. Indiana? Smelly and waaaay to long. And did I mention smelly? It really seemed like it would never stop. And do I need to say anything about Illinois drivers? No. But Illinois drivers in morning rush hour? I can't even...
Yeah, we could have stopped. But we didn't. Wisconsin was calling our hearts, as was our little loft in Madison. We love this place. We love the trees, the flowers, the quiet, the sky (we can SEE the STARS!!!), our balcony, the birds that we can hear singing in the morning. No, we still really don't like our loud neighbors, those who can't park a car in our lot to save a life, and the obnoxiously loud bus noises right outside our patio door. We are still frustrated with the food scene here. But guess what? We can live with all of that. We love our state, our city, our families, our values and our culture. Madison may not be the best city for everything, and Wisconsin may not be perfect. But I will proudly call this place my home and stomping ground. Thank you, Wisconsin, for being awesome, clean and...well, awesome.
We will drive to the country...I mean, I may GO HOME to see my Mom and family for Mother's Day. I will relish the rolling hills, green fields and smell of cow manure-thank you very much. Manhattan was great, but nothing beats home (and fresh air). I am so glad we were away for a while, and will be sharing pictures and our experiences soon. But for now...priorities: banana bread. With organic Wisconsin butter and eggs.
The first thing I did (ok, ok...I unpacked our cooler and put away a few things first) was make this banana bread. Because banana bread=home. Simple, no nuts, not vegan...made with love, some banged-up 1200 mile-in-the-back-seat-bananas (well, technically, they made the journey TO the east coast with us, too) and made IN MY KITCHEN. I can't even tell you how much I missed my kitchen. My place to create and nourish myself and others. A place to show love and affection, and to share with others.
This bread...it is simple, perfectly sweet, slightly nutty from the browned butter. This recipe is a keeper. It is rich with a whole 3/4 cup of fat! So for me, it borders the line of cake (I won't tell if you slathered on a light icing or frosting). But feel free to reduce the fat to 1/2 cup if desired-I will try this next time. And I know what you are thinking: the extra pan and time to make the browned butter is totally worth it. And please: don't use shitty butter. Get yourself some organic, locally made stuff...ok? If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/4 tsp. Treat yourself right, and get some locally raised eggs, too? The few extra bucks are worth it on all levels-including the environment.
So here it is...some plain, simple, aromatic and delicious banana bread. I bet that motherly-figure in your life would appreciate this, along with a nice cup of coffee or tea.
Thank you, Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker for the recipe guidance...and many blog posts to read on the car ride home.
Browned Butter Banana Bread // nut-free, soy-free // makes one 9"x5" loaf //
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached, all-purpose)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ cup coconut sugar, sucanant or organic brown sugar
- 1 tsp molasses (optional)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups) very ripe bananas
- 2 eggs, preferably local or organic
- ¼ cup any type of milk (I used almond) or buttermilk
- ½ tsp cider vinegar, if using regular milk and want buttermilk flavor
- 6 oz or ¾ cup organic butter, browned over low heat (or, use 4 oz brown butter and 2 oz melted virgin coconut oil; see my note above about reducing to 1/2 cup if desired)
1. preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan.
2. in a small pot or sauce pan, melt the fats. Over medium heat, gently cook. It will go through a sizzling and frothing stage before the milk solids start to brown. The butter will NOT be a homogenous brown color, rather a melted pool of fat with bits of browning milk solids (sugars, proteins, salts, etc) that have gone through the Maillard reaction (...super important in so many cooking, baking and confectionery applications!). Off the heat and allow to cool.
3. In a bowl, mash the banana with the molasses, sugar, vanilla, eggs, milk and/or vinegar. Add the melted browned butter mixture. Note: you do not want this mixture to be too warm from the melted butter/coconut oil, as it will activate the baking soda much quicker, leaving less to react in the oven, resulting in a less-risen loaf.
4. Sift the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix with a fork or spatula to combine, making sure no dry ingredients are lurking at the bottom or sides of the bowl, just don't over-do it on the mixing, lest you get tunnels in your bread.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until a tester comes out clean. Cool for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best for texture and flavor development. You can freeze this bread if you wrap it very well in plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil on the outside for 2 months, or simply wrap in and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a toaster or warm oven, if desired.
Some of the things you'll need. The browner the bananas, the better (side note: I remember my sophomore year in undergrad for a report on the chemistry behind the ripening process in bananas...I won't bore you with that...all you need to know is brown=sweet goodness). These had a few bruises from the car ride, but that is a-okay:
Oh banananas...betcha didn't think they could last a trip to-and-from the east coast! The eggs I used were from New Century Farms.
The dry stuff, in a sifted-mountain (don't skip the sifting, please!):
The mashed 'nana mess and the browned butter/coconut oil:
Ok, the browned butter situation...notice how the milk solids have browned? This is what you want!
The batter, ready to bake. Isn't in a lovely butterscotch color? Love that!
The finished loaf, with a tender and delicate crumb. Mmmm...crumb...
Slice it up and enjoy with tea and/or coffee-that is a must! Notice that the top pieces does have some evidence of over-mixing. I'll blame that on my nerves from the card ride. Still delicious.
So simple, so comforting...worth sharing and lingering over. This probably isn't the best banana bread to shove into a bag and eat on-the-run (well, ok, maybe do that the next day when it isn't fresh-fresh!)
Ok, enough about this banana bread. You get the picture. Go make it, and share it! Happy Sunday and Happy Mothers Day!