|The prettiest thing I've made lately, if not the very best.|
Day before yesterday, late afternoon, I was about to unload the dishwasher and thought I would mind the chore less if I had something to listen to. Although I had tried and failed to read it several decades ago, I decided to download The Screwtape Letters. by
by C.S. Lewis because it was cheap ($5.95) and short. For the next 3.5 hours I did not at all mind unloading the dishwasher, cleansing a mildewy lunchbox, reducing tangerine juice, sterilizing the drawer organizers, mixing another loaf of banana bread, and then baking a completely gratuitous marmalade tart for dessert because I could not stop listening. A book beloved by both Sarah Palin (well, supposedly) and David Foster Wallace? And me?
You have to read this book!
I've baked three banana bread recipes since I last posted on the topic, omitting nuts and chocolate (when called for) partly because they would skew the comparisons, but mostly because I like the texture of banana bread to replicate the smooth, custardy texture of an actual banana.
|perfect banana bread and burnt banana bread|
1. The banana bread recipe from Joanne Chang's Flour
(recommended by Nora K and printed here
) was the most perfect and beautiful loaf. Owen thought it was less moist than my usual Beth Hensperger's recipe, but ate huge chunks of it nonetheless. He was right about it being slightly less moist, but then he and I like banana bread that is almost wet -- a bread some would describe as "dense" and "heavy." Chang's bread is light. Her recipe calls for cinnamon which I would omit in future because I like unadulterated banana flavor. But that's just my taste. This is a truly fantastic banana bread and I highly recommend. (If you make the recipe using the version online, choose a 9x5 inch loaf pan and please note that the original recipe as printed in Chang's book calls for heating the oven to 325 degrees F. Nora K said yogurt can be substituted for the sour cream/creme fraiche so I used yogurt and it worked great.)
2. The roasted banana bread from Kristin's recipe
smelled incredible, first when the bananas were roasting and later when the bread was baking. I also loved the way the recipe was written. I don't ever actually mash bananas in a bowl, always drop them directly from their peels into the mixer and I appreciated seeing a recipe acknowledge this shortcut. Sadly, I managed to burn this loaf -- a thick layer of burn. But that the unburnt middle layer had the mightiest banana flavor of the loaves I've baked so far.
3. The Braddock Tavern banana bread recipe
posted by Sarah Policastro in the comments to the original banana bread post is the closest to the benchmark Hensperger recipe. I think it might be better, but I would have to taste the two side by side. This recipe uses butter (which you cream rather than melt), 5 bananas (required to fill 2 cups -- lots!) and some applesauce. I made one big loaf, baked it for a longer time than specified for two small loaves, refrigerated the loaf overnight and ended up with a custardy and creamy bread, almost like a pudding. I love this bread, which is totally different from the other two banana breads and probably the closest to my personal ideal.
|maybe underbaked, but very tasty.|
4. I also baked the banana blondies
from Short and Sweet
by Dan Lepard. (Recipe here
; you'll need a metric scale.) They are a gooey confection packed with bananas, white chocolate, and brazil nuts and of course they are in a whole separate category from banana bread. These blondies are the work, as Screwtape might put it, of "our Father below." I ate one blondie and am not allowed near the rest.
End of banana bread claptrap. For now.
On another subject, Nancy Silverton's Mozza got me started cooking mussels
which I'd always thought of as "special," but which turn out to be fast and cheap and great for weeknights. Don't wait to order them in restaurants; they're much easier to make at home than a pot of soup. The other day I steamed mussels
according to Big Sur Bakery Cookbook's
very rudimentary recipe (white wine, herbs) but the resulting mussels couldn't hold a candle to that original zesty Silverton recipe
. My husband said, "You should only make those first mussels you made." He is right. I have found my mussels.
|Owen: "I didn't like them."|
This past week, I also made seared scallops with cauliflower puree and tangerine reduction
out of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook.
It sounds fussy, but was super-easy.You start with big sea scallops -- expensive, but you only need 2 per person. Boil 1 cup of tangerine juice (recipe says fresh; I used bottled) until it's reduced to 2 tablespoons of jammy syrup. Boil a cut-up head of cauliflower for 12 minutes and puree with 1/2 cup warm cream and 1/4 cup of chicken broth. You season then sear the scallops in a lightly oiled skillet, 3 minutes per side. Scrape cauliflower puree onto a plate (you can put everything on one platter, but I think this dish looks better apportioned to individual plates), place scallops on cauliflower, pour tangerine reduction on scallops. You now have a dinner that looks fancy, tastes wonderful, and requires almost no effort. Your kids might not eat this, which means more scallops for you. Detailed recipe is here
|topped with grapefruit, blood orange, cara cara orange|
Finally, as mentioned, I baked the gorgeous marmalade tart
from Big Sur Bakery.
It's a generous rectangle of sweet dough topped with a cup of marmalade, homemade almond cream (sugar, orange rind, butter, chopped almonds) and sliced citrus fruit. My husband was wildly enthusiastic, but only after he picked off the wheels of stringy and bitter grapefruit. A very slight adaptation of the recipe is here
; I agree with Blue Ridge Baker that the dough needs much more liquid than called for. If you try this, I'd go with oranges for the topping and skip the grapefruit, which (unlike bananas) is apparently not enhanced by baking.
I'm out of breath now and you've probably stopped reading, but this recipe
|Too many banana blondies?|