Brown Butter Cardamom Banana Bread, because yes, we have some bananas...
Skip to the end of this post for the recipe for brown butter cardamom banana bread.
Banana bread has been calling to me lately. I think I have been experiencing some sort of pavlovian response to the bananas in my fruit bowl.
I usually buy bananas to use in green smoothies, to ensure I get some good iron into my body through leafy greens, most often baby spinach, but sometimes others. I am taking a break from Kale for awhile. Kale has become extremely overdone, now that it is on every restaurant menu in the city. Even McDonald's is featuring a burger with kale on it. Albeit, one measly leaf of baby kale, from what I have read on the internet.
The thing about bananas in a summer fruit bowl is that they develop brown spots very quickly. The banana spots often remind me of pictures of giraffes, for I have seen very few real life giraffes over the years. Now I know that I could put the said bananas into the refrigerator, slowing down the ripening process, and keeping them a bit longer than if I just leave them out. But bananas are never quite the same when you refrigerate them. Eventually if you don't use such a banana, it will turn into an unappealing total mush in a black jacket.
So my quickly ripening brown spotted bananas call to me and say, "you should really make some banana bread!" Dear readers, do you find that your bananas cry out, saying the same to you, or do they give you a different message? Mine knows that I have a soft spot for something sweet. To rationalize the health aspects of banana bread, I tell myself that I could eat a slice for breakfast with some almond butter.
I think that baking quick breads is one of the ways we often start our cooking lives. They don't call banana bread, a quick bread for nothing. Following a quick bread recipe most often ends successfully, and provides instant gratification. Unless of course you under bake it, and don't test the loaf by inserting a toothpick to see if the crumb is dry. If you err on the side of undercooking, unfortunately, you will cut into an oozing uncooked bit of a mess. So do follow the correct pan size and cooking time to avoid that pitfall.
Bananas and Me...
I grew up thinking that Chiquita Banana was the only brand of banana in existence on this earth. Chiquita banana was the Carmen Miranda of television commercials, and Chiquita danced and sang her song always balancing a fruit hat on her head.
I grew up with the bananagram contest run by said banana company, for which you could send in a cleverly conceived "bananagram," and win a $25 prize if they printed yours. According to my older brother, David, one of the sample examples they gave you to model your entry upon was, "My grandma loves bananas; she's a real banana gram!"
The consolation prize or "present" for losing, was a shiny bright yellow book cover for one of your school books that had winning bananagrams all over the cover. The Chiquita Banana contest was sort of a 1957 version of today's New Yorker Cartoon Caption contest at the end of each week's magazine.
This was probably the first time I entered the forum of a competitive life in such a calculated and serious manner, and tried so hard to "win" something. I sent postcard after postcard of what I hoped were witty bananagrams, often getting help from my dad, who was an old hand at making up jokes at the dinner table. And I treasured my shiny new bright yellow consolation book covers, that nonetheless made me feel like a winner, after all.
Banana History 101...
If you check out the history of bananas on Wikipedia, you will discover that the banana companies have an interesting history, and were not always on the side of the angels. In addressing plantation cultivation in the Caribbean, and Central and South Africa, you may read that:
North America shippers like Lorenzo Dow Baker and Andrew Preston, the founders of the Boston Fruit Company started this process in the 1870s, but railroad builders like Minor C Keith also participated, eventually culminating in the multi-national giant corporations like today's Chiquita Brands International and Dole. These companies were monopolistic, vertically integrated (meaning they controlled growing, processing, shipping and marketing) and usually used political manipulation to build enclave economies (economies that were internally self-sufficient, virtually tax exempt, and export oriented that contribute very little to the host economy). Their political maneuvers, which gave rise to the term Banana republic for states like Honduras and Guatemala, included working with local elites and their rivalries to influence politics or playing the international interests of the United States, especially during the Cold War, to keep the political climate favorable to their interests.
Bringing us up to date on bananas, The New York Times recently had an interesting article on the sheer quantities of bananas shipped to the ports of NYC, entitled "The Secret Life of the City Banana," by Annie Correal, stating that nowadays, 100 million bananas are distributed around New York City each week. The article is interesting in that it recounts exactly what it takes for that to happen, and how little profit is to be made in this industry. It also goes into information about our lack of diversity in banana species, and the looming problem of a new strain of a Panama Disease which may wipe out the Cavendish banana that monopolizes our banana market. The article goes on to state that "In India, where there are hundreds of banana breeds, the Cavendish is known as the hotel banana." I would love to learn more about all of those hundred of species of bananas in India.
Colbert tutorial on how to spell bananas...
I have often spelled bananas incorrectly, giving it the double n, as in "bannanas." Have you struggled with spelling it correctly too? Then do see this you tube video, for a good laugh, in which Stephen Colbert teaches Gwen Stefani the correct spelling of bananas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6mwlHnb39Y&feature=em-share_video_user
And now for the featured banana bread recipe...
Brown Butter Cardamom Banana Bread
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1-1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the upper middle section.
Grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. Once melted, continue to cook, swirling the pan often, until the butter is fragrant and deep brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the contents to a bowl, and immediately stir in the cardamom.
Carefully add the honey and bananas ()the butter will sizzle and bubble a bit) and whisk until combined.
Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and using a wooden spoon fold until well combined and no dry flour remains.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake in the oven until the top is a deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Banke about 50-55 minutes.
Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Cool the bread in the pan for about 15 minutes before carefully removing it to completely cool on a wire rack.
You may store the banana bread at room temperature in plastic wrap for 4 days. Alternatively, I like to slice it and store the slices in containers with parchment paper between each slice, in the freezer. I just toast the slices in the toaster oven when I am ready to enjoy a slice as a snack.