As the non-profit I work for is a learning center, and typically closes when the public schools close in inclement weather, it wasn’t a tremendous surprise after the snow came sweeping in gusts last night, straight on into this morning with a vengeance, that we would be enjoying a ‘snow day’ here in Milwaukee. I detest winter weather, but always welcome a day bundled up warm inside, knowing I do not have to venture out any time soon. Snow days to me always mean one glorious thing: I am home all day, so I can brew up some coffee, stay in my pj’s and wear my glasses instead of popping in my contacts, and BAKE.
I’m doing my best on this snug and cozy day in to beat the winter blues by doing just that – more specifically, I’m baking up a loaf of Baked’s Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread, from the banana chapter of their newest book, Baked Elements (also this weekend’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment). Of course, in my attempts to make this day off incredibly productive, I’m also aiming to get a big chunk of lines memorized (I’m playing the lead role in a production of The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer, this spring) and get my taxes done and submitted online… we’ll see how that goes!
Now, I’m not a huge fan of bananas, to be honest. Eaten raw, I’ve always felt that the taste of bananas gets into your nose and sticks there (does anyone out there get what I mean by that? I hope so…). It’s a strong, musky, pungent taste. However, I’m a big fan of banana breads, cakes, and muffins – or, basically anything where that heavy, cloying banana taste is intermingled with sugars, spice, and all things nice. That being said, banana bread is always a welcome enterprise for me, as long as you keep out any nasty walnuts (or nuts of any kind; adding nuts to banana bread, like adding nuts to brownies, is shameful in my book).
With the nasty weather just beginning to calm down outside, today struck me as the perfect day to perfume our apartment with that warming aroma of freshly-baked banana bread, and I’ve been excited to try this recipe since I got the book. I have fond childhood memories of my mother making banana bread quite a few times, and that smell instantly transports me back. It was usually accompanied by a nice clean house, windows open in the spring to let in the fresh air, and just an overall feeling of subtle accomplishment that “all was right in the world”. The aroma itself had to suffice with me, as my mom’s banana bread was always studded with icky walnuts! Yuck! Nuts aside, I love that memory, and the fact that banana bread baking in the oven returns me to it.
This particular recipe is wonderfully simple. Simply combine your dry ingredients in one large bowl, your wet ingredients (including some good ripe bananas – use those brown ones aging on your counter – and some glorious, golden honey) in another. Pour the wet ingredients into a well made in the center of the sifted dry ingredients, and fold all ingredients together gently while scattering in a couple tablespoons of nutty, crunchy poppy seeds. You’re done! Pour the mixture into a larger bread pan (9″ x 5″) and bake in an oven for an hour and 15 minutes… and be prepared for your abode to smell pleasant and wonderful. No need for a mixer, and the dishes used to mix this bread together involve very minimal clean-up! A winner all around, right?
As with most quick breads of this ilk, take precaution and keep an eye on your bread while it’s baking. Most quick breads rise up slightly and form a gorgeous crack or crater in the center and sadly, the edges typically over-bake while the middle can run the risk of under-baking. I try and rotate my pan throughout the baking, and even tent the bread with aluminum foil to keep it from over-browning too much. It’s largely trial and error, and you may need to experiment with a couple loaves before you arrive at the perfect loaf in your particular oven. The timing for this recipe seemed to work just fine for me, but it may not work the same for everyone… so keep your eyes on it and maybe tap the top from time to time to gauge whether the bread has set and baked sufficiently. If it’s still a little jiggly, it needs to keep baking, and if it’s already rather brown, get that foil out!
Typically, I do not butter quick breads when I eat them – I feel that the ingredients in quick breads are substantial enough to provide good flavor without butter helping them out. I make an exception with banana bread (and usually zucchini bread as well). For some crazy reason – which I cannot properly explain – I love banana bread with a thick layer of cold, salted butter slathered across the slice. BEST way to eat banana bread, trust me – it’s a pleasing texture contrast between the cool butter and room temperature bread.
With this Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread, however, I had to try a piece shortly after it cooled from the oven, so my butter melted a bit. At first taste, I worried that the inclusion of honey with the sugar may have made the bread a touch *too* sweet, and my total verdict is still out on that, but believe me – this is one tasty banana bread. You can definitely taste the honey, but it’s not overpowering. If anything, it rounds out the flavor of the banana harmoniously, and the tiny pop and crunch of those poppy seeds provide a nice, pleasing texture to the moist density of the bread. This is indeed the perfect bread to savor on a snowy afternoon… or gift to a friend! Thanks to Matt and Renato for another fabulous recipe!
Make your friends and family happy on a snowy day and bake up your own delicious, unique banana bread by following this link:
Now… on to those taxes… and yikes, all those LINES!…
Next Week: Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies (it’s the dreaded malt again…)