Thursday, March 29, 2012

Banana Bread with Brandy, Maple and Chocolate

Bananas and I don't quite get along. I mean, we're friendly and all. But I have traumatic childhood memories. You see, my mother loved bananas. And banana cake. I hated it. But that's what I usually got for my birthday. A banana cake, for heaven's sake! With vanilla icing. When I blew out the candles my wish was to blow away the cake, too.

All I wanted was what any normal kid wanted: chocolate. And lots of it.

It wasn't until I turned ten-years-old that I finally got a decent cake (not that my mother isn't a great cook because she is). 

When I turned ten, I got a genuine bakery cake (no, not as in supermarket bakery--they had not yet been "invented';" this was a REAL bakery). And it was a CHOCOLATE cake! It was decorated with the things I usually carried home as a young boy. Small rocks. Snakes. Frogs. (Plastic, of course--except for the stones.) And, spelled in frosting script, "Happy Birthday Gary."

This was the first bakery in our small 1950's-kind-of town. My mom was ecstatic, not only because she didn't have to bake, but because of the creativity of the final product! I still remember her phoning neighbors and friends to describe this cake. I was special. Screw bananas! My Grandma was there when I blew out those candles. Her gift was not a wrapped present at all. It was a card. And inside was a check for "ten" dollars. My first check! I was sooooo grown up.

To me, "corporate" bananas are a bit sour and the texture is kind of like sucking toothpaste out of a tube. In fact, as a child, I once bit into a banana only to have a baby tooth dislodged.

When I was 19-years-old, I camped throughout East Africa. And I lived on . . . of all things, bananas! (In Swahili [the second most beautiful language next to French] the word is pronounced "bah-nah-nah). But those bananas were like eating vanilla ice cream and nothing like the sad clones sold in supermarkets today under the guise of Chiquita and Dole. And often green, green, green.

Oh, well.

So, I made this bread. Not sure why. 

But, to be safe, I added booze. Maple flavoring. And chocolate. Should have added more maple.

This is a very moist cake. And like any cake or bread with alcohol, it's better served a day or two later . . . But, of course, who can wait?

Use ripened bananas as pictured above. I don't recommend the "freezing" method of bananas. It may make they "squishy" but that's all. By the time bananas reach the blackened stage, they have produced a lot more sugar and taste which is what makes them so appropriate as an ingredient for baking.

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 ripened bananas (one heaping cup, mashed)
  • 1/2 cup fat - either all butter, half butter half shortening, or half butter half lard (I used the butter and lard)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, roughly cut (use a good chocolate)
  • 3-4 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring, added 1/4 teaspoon at a time

Mash bananas and add the brandy. Mix. Add maple flavoring 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you get a flavor/blend you like. Add the vanilla. Allow to sit for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Grease/spray a 9 x 5 bread pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper to fit into the bottom. Grease/spray that, too.

Measure your flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Set aside. Rough chop your chocolate.

In a medium bowl, add the brown and white sugar with the fat. Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat for three minutes. Add the egg and blend well.

Add the banana mixture and gently mix to incorporate. Mix in the one tablespoon mayonnaise and blend well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula just until streaks of flour disappear. Add the chocolate and stir just until incorporated.

Spoon into pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. 

Allow to rest in pan for 15-20 minutes before removing and cool completely before cutting.

Notes: I used a convection oven set at 340 F degrees and baked mine for 55 minutes. These would great as cupcakes, just vary the baking time.