Here we are, Game 5. I wish I had something prolific to say regarding the season so far, but I got nothing. This is not at all to say I am upset or even mad -- I just knew going in this would be a season of uncertainty. The game against LSU gave me definite hope for the defense, and I hope it provided good film for the offense. We shall see. In the meantime, we have two more morning kickoffs -- egad. I am a firm believer in celebrating breakfast, so I give you my signature banana bread adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (based on personal preference, I always go for less)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of crushed pecans
Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan.
I can't always find those perfect, slightly brown bananas that were destined for banana bread, so I cheat a little if I need to make a loaf soon. Buy the ripest bananas you can find, toss them in a large Ziploc bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, seal and place in the freezer. Overnight should suffice. Remove the bananas about an hour or so before you want to work with them. Allow them to defrost a bit (and get rid of some of the excess moisture). Peel carefully and mash with a potato masher.
Joy the Baker offered an easy way to make brown sugar on the fly. I love it so much, I don't bother to buy brown sugar anymore. Mix a tablespoon (slightly less for light brown, just a tad more for dark brown) of molasses into a cup of sugar. Mix throroughly with a fork. It produces a remarkably fluffy brown sugar.
Put the egg out to warm up around the same time you do the bananas. Because the butter is melted (and in my case, generally fresh off the stove), it can cook the egg when added if the egg is cold.
This bread is fantastic with the bourbon, but I admit that while there isn't enough bourbon to truly impact the overall taste, a tablespoon is more than enough to impact the aroma. If you are not a bourbon fan, just skip it. If I skip the bourbon, sometimes I will go for a 1½ to 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Speaking of vanilla, Lisa Yockelson, of Baking Style, intensifies her vanilla by splitting a vanilla bean, scraping out the seeds, chopping the bean and adding it to the bottle. Store in a cool, dark place and give it a good shake every now and then. It should be a creamier version of itself in about two weeks.
I like to bake with all purpose unbleached flour. Gold Medal is my budget flour, but I love King Arthur. The last few times I have made this bread, I used ¾ cup of all purpose flour and ¾ cup of whole wheat. A little fiber never hurt anyone.
After the loaf cools, I wrap it in plastic wrap and then in foil to keep it moist (the butter and the chocolate definitely aid in this). It will stay moist for about two to three days.
Enjoy, and War Eagle!