Thursday, June 30, 2011

You say over-ripe, I say opportunity!

     You've come to that classic realization that you, despite your best intentions, cannot eat your bananas as fast as they are growing over-ripe.  Perhaps you bought too many, or, like me, you simply have no idea how they went from being slightly green-tinted (the best way to eat a banana, in my opinion!) to brown and splotchy in a matter of three days.  How very rude of them.

     In either case, this leaves you with two options-chuck them to the garbage (and inevitably feed the neighborhood raccoons, how kind of you!) or, in the name of all things delicious and money-saving, you can swear to create magic from this mayhem!  
     I went with option number two, though admittedly I botched it a bit and wouldn't call it the highest form of magic, shall we say,  but putting that all behind us, here's an unbelievably simple recipe for Banana Nut Bread to use up all those sad banana corpses lying around your kitchen!

   Now, my mother has been making some absolutely scrumptious banana nut breads since I was a child, but, unfortunately, the time at which I chose to just go ahead and bake, darn it, (ahem...about 11 PM) I did not have access to her recipe.  So, I went with the next best thing and hunted down the simplest recipe I could find on the internet, to which I will provide a link at the end of this post.  This is a wonderful first recipe for this blog, because not only will you get to see me making classic errors, but you will also get to see first-hand how college students must cope with kitchen survival using low-level technology.  Delightful. 

     The recipe I found was wonderfully simple, and, best of all, required ingredients which I already had on hand-a wonderful thing for a student on a budget.  It also requires little brainpower-for the most part it's just add, mix well, add, mix well.  (I should mention that at first I thought the recipe was TOO simple, not giving enough detail, including pan size, but I eventually got over myself and just went with it.)

     Now, my mom has always made banana nut bread using walnuts or pecans (can't remember which one at the moment), and here I faced a dilemma.  Do I go out and buy -gasp..but that means spending money!-the appropriate nuts, or do I work with what I've got?  For you see, a past roommate has left behind in our condo a HUGE amount of nuts.  Snack sized bags of cashews, almonds, and peanuts, a huge bag of pistachios, and an even bigger container of JUST salted almonds.  Well, I decided that I'll never get anywhere near through them on my own, and snagged a single snack pack of salted almonds.  You, however, are encouraged to use whichever nuts you like, in whatever quantity, although the recipe encourages a 1/2 cup.  

     This led to problem number two. I do not have any sort of meat tenderizer, slap chop, or other kitchen utilities for the purposes of pounding up nuts.  So I went old school.  Very old.  I grabbed my $1 pink, unbelievably tiny (and therefore generally useless) hammer that I had purchased on a whim before starting college on the off chance that I would ever need it.  Go figure.  But ya know what?  It did the job.  Probably would've done it better had I gone about  things the proper way and put the nuts into a plastic sandwich bag so that they spread out & received the hammer's force equally, but I didn't feel like wasting plastic, so I just cut a little air slit in the prepackaged bag to avoid popping them everywhere and went at it. The nuts were rather uneven, but, serviceable.  

     My final small woe for this event which ended rather unceremoniously around 1 AM was in the baking time.  I tend to test the things I bake for long, long periods of time about 10-15 minutes before they SHOULD be done, due to the fact that someone else's oven could possibly have a fair amount of difference in heat from mine.  Stuck a knife in the rather elevated middle: complete goo.  Well, carry on then, little bread baby!  I completed the suggested cooking time and checked again: still about an inch and a half of goo on the bottom.  Well...perhaps a bit more.  5 minutes sound good? Sounds good.

     Apparently was not so good.  

     The outside of the bread got extra crispy and, overall, the end result was a bit drier than I would have preferred, though it was by no means crumbling into dust.  Lesson learned? Small increases in cooking time. Baby steps, that's the key.  But in the end the problem was resolved, as I wrapped the whole thing in foil while still a wee bit warm, which created a nice humid greenhouse effect, softening up the crust and making the bread overall quite enjoyable.  My boyfriend, at least, saw no issues in snarfing down two decently thick slices upon my bringing samples to his house, and declaring them delicious.  

     We'll see what kind of praise he generates when I try making my mom's recipe in the future.

Smothered in butter (not banana chunks) is the best way to go, in my opinion!

For baking beginners: Overcooked your baked goods?  Soften up crusts' outer shells by enclosing in foil (or plastic) while still warm.  The radiating heat will become condense a bit into humidity (wow, what a horrendous way to explain THAT science...clearly I am a liberal arts student) and will work wonders for your slightly scarred baked goods.
For baking experts:  This was a solid, quick bread-but not absolutely scrumptious, perhaps even a bit too basic.  What would YOU do to add more flavor and UMPH to this recipe?

Easy Banana Nut Bread slightly adapted from :

1/2 cup vegetable/canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
2-3 ripe bananas
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbls milk 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (your choice, or optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, beat oil and sugar.  Add eggs and bananas (I cut them into chunks first) and mix until blended-should be smooth batter, might froth a little on top.  
  2. In a smaller bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Gradually blend into wet mix.  
  3. Stir in (I continued to blend) milk and vanilla.  Batter should, again, be smooth, but not runny.  Stir in nuts or chocolate chips if desired.
  4. Grease & flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan, and pour in batter.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour-when tested, a knife or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean (or pretty darn close).  Let cool and wrap for storage in foil or saran wrap
Optional: One commenter on the original recipe said she turned this bread into muffins, baking them at the same temperature for about 30 minutes.

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