The Recipe: My forever-and-forever favorite recipe for banana bread, rich with banana flavor, very banana-y. (That's thanks to very ripe bananas, even my favorite "black bananas"!) It calls for whole-wheat flour and wheat germ, so the recipe is even half healthful. But what really makes this banana bread special? Poppy seeds and those bright-red cheery cherries!
And now there's also Christmas Banana Bread with tart fresh cranberries. Consider making banana bread a new seasonal tradition.
The Conversation: Are super-size portions the reason we're putting on pounds?
Nutrition experts cite super-size portions as one reason why Americans put on pounds.
I recently purchased a baking pan that cuts the portion size of quick breads in half – kinda magic, just like that!
The pan holds the same volume as a standard bread pan but is shallower and longer, about twelve inches long, allowing for more slices. The longer size is especially perfect for rich quick breads but when the weather cools off, I’ll be trying it for bread too.
A half-inch thick slice from the new longer pan feeds up half the calories as one from a standard bread pan. You can accomplish the same thing – sort of – by cutting a standard loaf in half . To my eyes, somehow that feels like a spoil-sport "half slice" where the tea loaf slice feels "just right". Weird but true.
2009 update: So sorry, my new heavy, high-quality "Danish Loaf Pan" has been discontinued by King Arthur Flour. Too bad, it remains my very favorite. They do sell a stoneware version.
Speaking of super-sized portions, who's seen the 2004 documentary Super Size Me? I couldn't imagine becoming LESS excited about the fast-food chains that appear at every turn. This very watchable movie has even turned my teenage nephews off McDonalds drive-throughs. Check it out on Hulu.com, my latest non-food obsession! No special software required, just click watch and there it is!
CHEERY CHERRY BANANA BREAD
Time to table: 1 hour
Makes 1 standard loaf
- 1/2 cup (114g) salted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (66g) brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup (80g) buttermilk (or 1/3 cup milk plus 1 teaspoon vinegar)
- 3 very ripe bananas or "black bananas", mashed
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup (28g) wheat germ
- 3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (95g) whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 cup (35g) poppy seeds
- 15-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained, optional
Set oven to 350F/175C. Butter a standard-size bread loaf pan, about 8x4.
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Mix in the eggs, then the buttermilk and bananas, combine well.
In a separate bowl, stir together the spices, baking soda, wheat germ, flours and poppy seeds very well, really mixing them together. With a spatula, turn these dry ingredients into the wet mixture. When they're about halfway mixed, add the cherries and continue to combine, just until mixed.
(Why do quick-bread recipes like this say to combine "just until mixed" and say to avoid over-mixing? When you over-mix a quick-bread batter, past the point where the dry ingredients are just mixed in but no more, small holes will form during baking. It's not a total disaster but not as pretty as it could be. It's why I make sure you know to really mix the dry ingredients well, also why I suggest turning the dry ingredients and the cherries in with a spatula, not the mixer.)
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for about 30 minutes before removing from the baking pan, completely before slicing. Keeps for several days but should be wrapped well and refrigerated if it's out for more than a day.
It's super-easy to convert a banana bread recipe (mine is above) into something seasonal and Christmas-y. Just add (if it's your recipe) or substitute (if it's mine) about 1-1/2 cups (150g) fresh cranberries. It helps to cut them in half, horizontally, they go further. With my recipe, since the cherries are extra-sweet and the cranberries are unsweetened, you might want to double the sugar, too. If you don't, the banana bread will definitely be less sweet than many are used to. But I don't add more sugar and really like that the Christmas Banana Bread is barely sweet, that makes it good as a holiday morning bread, an easy choice on a cookie plate, alongside a cup of tea, even a "less-sweet ending" for a holiday brunch, say.
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What to Make with Poppy Seeds
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