Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banana Bread + Stewed Prunes w/ Citrus & Cinnamon inspired by A Homemade Life

Growing up, my family had banana bread.  Sure, we had other things as well, but our banana bread was where it was at.  I don't remember the first time I ate it.  I don't remember the first time I made it.  It's as if it just always was.  I know the recipe comes from at least as far back as my maternal great grandma.  She passed before I was even born, but it was carried on through my grandma and her gaggle of sisters.  From there, it was passed on to my mom...and surely countless cousins.  Somewhere down the line, she passed it on to me.

Our banana bread smells like home...tastes like home...is home.  It's something I've always been able to make, no matter my station in life because there is no mixer required.  No.  Scratch that.  There is no mixer allowed.  It's always been mixed by hand, using a fork.  Hand-written instructions explicitly detail the fact that it must be done by hand, using a fork.  So we do.  It originated in a time before electric mixers were even invented.  I think.   We've also always lined the pan with foil, as opposed to greasing or buttering (or oleo-ing) it.  As far back as I can remember our banana bread, I can remember it wrapped in the long layer of foil it was cooked in.  I still love peeling back the foil and slicing off a big, thick, moist slice.  I think it's perfect for breakfast.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that I've never tried to make this in a mixer.  Or in a pan that wasn't lined with foil.  Of course I have.  But it never turns out quite the same when I do.  The one exception is the mashing of the bananas.  I've come to like using my old baby food processor to mash up the banana all nice and smooth.  It eliminates chunks of banana throughout the bread.  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing...I just prefer it.  As far as the foil goes, I like to take off a sheet that is at least double the size of the loaf pan.  This allows me to wrap the banana bread inside of it and let it sit on the counter.  We're a family divided on nuts.  Usually the adults are pro-nuts and the kids are firmly against them.  I've always liked it either way.  I mean...sometimes you feel like a nut...  I've also used chocolate chips or dried fruits and ginger instead of or in addition to the nuts.  I don't think this makes much of a difference- add your favorite or leave it plain.

I mentioned that I love a warm slice for breakfast, right?  Well, I decided that after hearing Molly Wizenberg's description of one of her family traditions passed down from her father, that I needed to make a batch of luscious stewed prunes to eat with my banana bread.  Molly says she likes them best cold.  I found that I did enjoy them cold with some thick and tangy Greek yogurt, but I love them even more warm alongside some warm banana bread and coffee...or meltingly swirled into hot oatmeal or grits.
Our Favorite Banana Bread
from the kitchen of girlichef
yield: 1 loaf

4 oz. butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 Tbs. sour milk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
pinch sea salt
2-3 very ripe (we're talkin' brown) bananas (to make ~1 c. purée)
½ c. chopped pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips, or other add-ins, optional
Preheat oven to 325° F.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy by hand, using a fork.  Dissolve the baking soda in the sour milk.  I usually measure the milk and pour it into a tiny bowl or measuring cup, then add soda and stir.  Add this to the bowl and stir to mix.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Add flour and salt, and mix gently until just combined.  Mash up the banana as well as you can.  I often break the "rules" here and do it in my mini-processor...the one I used for making baby food so many years ago...  Gently stir the banana into the mixture and then fold in any add-ins, if using.

Line a loaf pan with foil, pressing it against the bottom and sides until flat, and then scoop the thick batter into the lined tin and smooth out the surface a bit.  Slide into the preheated oven and bake for ~50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick slides in and out cleanly.
Stewed Prunes w/ Citrus & Cinnamon
slightly adapted from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
yield: ~6-8 svgs.

1 clementine
½ lemon (cut lengthwise)
~9 oz. best-quality pitted prunes
1 cinnamon stick
Cut the clementine in half from step to tip, and then slice it and the lemon very thinly (peel & all).  Pop out any seeds you run across.  Place the slices in a saucepan with the cinnamon stick and prunes, then cover with enough water to just cover.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn the heat down so that the liquid just "barely trembles" (<--- I love that term), for ~30-40 minutes, or until prunes are tender and the citrus is soft.  The liquid in the pan should look a bit syrupy, as well.  Serve warm, or let them cool to room temperature and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.  

As with many things, the flavors improve with rest.
Our current Cook the Books selection is A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg (Orangette).  This is my post inspired by the book.  Dare I voice the fact that I always thought, when I wrote a book, it would be in this same style.  Wizenberg writes in thoughts and memories.  There are no sections, rather a collection of short pieces brilliantly written to conjure up her memories and how they relate to food.  It reminds me of Nora Ephron's writing, which was what made me think this would be the perfect way for me to write a book.  I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, specifically.  I think it's a lot like writing a blog...it's a collection.  And it's brilliant.
cookthebooks
I am also sharing this post with:
weekend cooking