Monday, April 19, 2010

Back to Baking

I can not remember the last time I baked something. At home.

As the baker in the family, that's kind of sad. It is just that it has been a crazy winter and spring, with family travelling all about, and a big move out of my sisters' and my childhood home into a short term place with ovens with distinct minds of their own.

So, when I looked into the fridge last week and saw five forlorn overly ripened bananas, can you guess what I immediately craved? Banana bread (and I wish I could share a pic of this loaf today...alas, camera  is out of commission)!

Call me crazy, but I like my banana bread not too sweet, very moist - with lots of bananas. Add walnuts on top, and use my secret ingredient - whole wheat pastry flour - and it is a guaranteed win. I do not have a particular favorite recipe, so I did some research on my own earlier in the week. I had to go into NYC for a trail on Thursday, and found it quite interesting (ironic or not) that a very good article on banana bread (and the various differing results when you alter the ingredients) came TO ME. Yes, I was given the magazine with this piece in it. How absolutely fitting!

I read up, and inventoried my cabinets. Bananas? Check. Canola oil? No, but I have ghee (clarified butter)! Flour? Nope, not going to use all purpose, but Whole Wheat Pastry flour (a better flavor, and the pastry flour texture is finer than regular whole wheat flour). Buttermilk? Nope again, but I have tons of milk, and apple cider vinegar. Did you know you can add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sit, and use this in lieu of a cup of buttermilk?! And yes -- it DOES work.

Fast forward to the next morning, when I served this plain for a quick but filling breakfast on the run for two before planting trees. We were both in heaven! I also tried this as a snack with a slice of goat cheese (oh yum!), and it can be an easy dessert, drizzled with a little bit of warmed caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Banana Bread
Inspired by Saveur Magazine

1/3 c milk 
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c ghee, slightly warmed
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 c chopped walnuts
5 very ripe mashed bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" x 5" loaf pan. Set aside. Combine milk and vinegar and let sit (curdly texture will develop - this is okay). In a large bowl, whisk together  flour, baking soda, salt. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and warmed ghee. Add the milk, vanilla, eggs and stir til very smooth. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined and few lumps. Stir in the mushed banana and 2/3 of the walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan and artfully garnish with the remaining walnuts. Place in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes - the center will be set and crust deeply golden. I like this texture as it is still very moist. If you like a cakier and dry texture, keep baking until a tester inserted in the very middle comes out clean. Let cool before slicing and serving.

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