Sunday, October 4, 2009

All Gussied Up

I am particularly picky about bananas. I will only eat them when they are JUST ripe, still with a tinge of green to them. Ideally they should be unblemished with nary a black mark on the peel. And God forbid I bite into the banana to find any mushy brown areas. The whole banana goes into the garbage (guilt by association). But I love bananas. I eat at least one every day. However, given my very narrow definition of edible bananas, I end up going to the grocery store and buying a few barely ripe bananas about every two to three days.  

Every once in awhile I get over zealous and buy a half dozen. I carefully select them from four or five different bunches, trying for a spectrum of greenness in hopes of each banana ripening in turn so I can get almost a week's worth of bananas. In spite of my efforts, the bananas don't cooperate. By day two the remaining and previously totally green and unripe bananas are suddenly speckled and dark yellow! ¡Quelle horreur! I'm embarrassed to admit this but they usually go immediately into the trash. 

Of course, from time to time, my conscious gets to me and I take the inedible bananas and make banana bread with them, which is truly the only acceptable use of bananas in such a compromised state. But why make just your ordinary banana bread when you can make a banana bread that's all gussied up?! That's what I thought . . . . 

One of my favorite reads this year was A Homemade Life by Orangette blogger Molly Wizenburg. It's bursting with great and personal stories about her life and the influence food has had on it — whether it was in the background or the center stage, to help nurse wounds or celebrate happy moments, or just to serve as reminders of experiences that shape us as individuals. Part of the joy of this book is the numerous recipes Molly so graciously shares with her readers. I'm not exaggerating when I say I've dog-eared three-quarters of the pages to mark recipes I want to try. One of the highest repeating recipes thus far has been Molly's Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger. That's right: Moist, dense banana bread oozing with little pockets of melty chocolate and piquant studs of translucent golden ginger. 

It's hands down the fanciest banana bread, and dare I say gussied up banana bread I've ever eaten. It's sumptuous enough to serve as dessert after dinner, something I'd never do with the original version. It strikes a delicious harmony with the rich semisweet chocolate, the crystallized ginger (which is like an adult gumdrop with a slight kick), and the bananas. Honestly, once you try it, it's virtually impossible to eat Plain Jane Banana Bread ever again. 

And did I mention how easy it is to make? It doesn't even require a mixer or softened butter, which is my baking nemesis. Maybe that speaks to my impatience (not my proudest trait). When I want to make cookies, I want to make cookies. Right then. Not six hours later once the butter has softened up. Let me just tell you that I've yet to perfect the "softening" of butter via the microwave. I just get liquid butter. But I digress . . . . 

So next time, instead of force-feeding yourself those disgusting overripe bananas, make this instead. It will make you feel all pretty and decadent — even if you're sitting at home in your sweat pants eating off a paper plate. 

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
By Molly Wizenburg

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (not low or nonfat)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5-in loaf pan with cooking spray or butter. 
Melt butter on the stove or in the microwave and set aside to cool slightly. 
In a large bowl,whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside. 
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed bananas, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy, just make sure all the flour has been incorporated. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top. 
Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to an hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with foil. 
Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then tip out onto the rack and let it cool completely before slicing. Yields: 1 loaf pan. 

Notes: Try to chop the crystallized ginger as finely as possible, which admittedly is not easy but is worth the effort. And definitely keep it to 1/3 cup. I added more once and it was too strong and seemingly disjointed. I have been told this freezes well wrapped in plastic and again in foil, but I've never had any left to freeze. But speaking of freezers, you can keep ripe bananas in there until you're ready to use them. They will turn black but will be perfect for baking when thawed. 

1 comment:

  1. if you want to go really decadent you can do french toast with your gussied up banana bread. you can also do banana nut pancakes that are to die fore with the brown bananas. Or my favorite a smoothie with banana, ice, soy milk and peanut butter. to die for!