Thursday, July 07, 2011

When I don't know what to do with myself, I bake.

When I am having a bad day, or I am bored, I bake. When I am frustrated or feel stuck, I bake. When I am happy or sad or mad, I bake. I bake because it relaxes me. It makes me feel content. It brightens my mood.

Hello, my name is Stephanie and I can't live without baked goods.

I haven't been baking much since I gave up sugar a while ago. It's been hard, and I'll be honest, I have felt like a shadow of my former self. I may have even had a mini identity crisis. This baking break has put me in a major creative slump. Sugar might not be good for me, but baking sure is. And so today I made banana bread, a new recipe. Then I took approximately 312 pictures of my beautiful loaf.

And now I feel like myself again. Phew.

Here's the recipe, sent to me by my big brother, Elliott:

Cook's Illustrated Ultimate Banana Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf.
Cook's Illustrated recommends that very ripe, heavily speckled or even
blacked bananas should be used in this recipe. This recipe can also
be prepared with five frozen bananas that have been thawed. If using
thawed bananas, bypass the Step-2 microwaving and place the bananas
into a fine-mesh strainer. Don't use previously frozen bananas in
step 4 (slicing on top of loaf) as they will be too soft to slice.
Just sprinkle the top of the banana bread loaf with sugar.
Cook's Illustrated prefers an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan for this recipe.
If you are using a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, start to check for doneness five minutes
earlier than the recommended time below.
The banana bread has the best texture when eaten fresh, but you can
store it in for up to 3 days tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
Cool first before wrapping for storage.
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled (see note above)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1. Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350-F.
Spray an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and table salt. Set aside.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, place 5 peeled bananas. Cover the bowl with
plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in it. Microwave the bananas
about 5-minutes on the high-power setting (until they are soft and
have released liquid). Pour the microwaved bananas and liquid into a fine-mesh
strainer that is sitting in a bowl. Allow to drain 15-minutes, stirring
occasionally. When done there should be 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid.

3. Place the banana liquid in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for
5-minutes, until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Place the cooked bananas
in a mixing bowl. Pour the reduced liquid over cooked bananas and mash them
with a potato masher until they are fairly smooth. Now whisk in the butter,
eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.

4. Pour the bowl of the mashed banana mixture into the bowl with the
flour mixture. Stir until the two are combined but there should still
be some streaks of flour remaining in the batter. Fold in walnuts (optional).
Scrape banana batter into the prepared loaf pan. Slice the remaining 6th
banana diagonally into 1/4-inch slices. Overlap lines of banana slices along each side
of the loaf, but leave a 1-1/2 inch space along the center of the loaf to allow
for even rising. Evenly sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of the loaf.
5. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick, that is inserted in the center
of the loaf, comes outs clean. About 55 to 75 minutes. Cool in the
loaf pan, on a wire rack, for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan,
return loaf to wire rack and cool additional time, as desired.

It's a little time consuming, with the cooking of the bananas and juice, but it was delicious. Also, be warned, it requires six bananas, and the more ripe, the better. If you've been stashing your bananas in the freezer, and have amassed quite a collection, this is the recipe for you. Enjoy!

p.s. Do you bake when you are bored, too? 


  1. "I bake because it relaxes me."

    I told my son the same thing last night when he asked why he couldn't help me cook dinner this time. There is something about measuring and combining the ingredients that makes me feel so ordered.

    Lovely loaf, by the way.

  2. We are very different this way, Steph. I almost never bake, and my poor kids never have anything yummy sitting on the counter. But I know you're not the only one. Baking is my friend, Rebecca's happy place, too. And I don't think that depriving yourself of your beautiful creations or your passion is any way to live. If you still want to stay away from the sugar, maybe you could start packaging portions of it up all pretty and delivering it to needy or old neighbors. That might make you feel even better!

  3. oh wow! I had to read the first little bit to my husband because it is so me! Baking is my favorite thing and I cannot live without baked goods!! Icecream, candy, etc just don't cut it for me. I need some baked goodness! :)

  4. sounds delicious. i need to bake more...

  5. What a funny coincidence. We made banana bread today too! I used an allrecipes recipe and put dried banana chips on top.

    Baking always relaxes me. I don't do it as often as I would like because then I would eat all of it. If I had a better metabolism I would bake every day.

  6. Steph you and I are so much alike. I bake cookies and it makes me feel so good. one half go in the freezer for later.
    Good bananna loaf receipe. Elliott is such a good cook that this has to be delicious.

  7. My sweet tooth usually dictates the amount of baking in this house.

    Patiently waiting for my bananas to ripen so I can try that recipe.


  8. About every 4th day I bake. Because I love giving baked goods to friends and neighbors and because I love it.

  9. And I thought I was the only person that put my ripened bananas in the freezer!

    I've got a bunch and I'll be trying this recipe for sure.


  10. Funny, I have banana bread in the oven as we speak, haven't made it in probably 2 years :) Ironic you post about it. I should try that recipe. Mine has a whole cup of sugar, yikes.

  11. I love your photography, Steph. What a gorgeous loaf of bread. And the Utah pictures are magazine worthy. Miss you!

  12. I know a lot of folks who don’t eat eggs (they’re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here’s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs:

  13. ohhhhh fancy! bananas are $13 a kilo here due to the floods and I had been buying them for my baby and kids until I checked my receipt and saw I spent $18 on one bunch! I nearly had a heart attack

    when they are cheaper I will definitely make this as it looks very fancy!

    thanks for sharing

  14. Yes! Absolutely!! We just got settled into a new house...the kids' room was immediately put together...then the kitchen...finally the computer! Now, I MUST BAKE SOMETHING! :)

  15. Anonymous7:15 PM

    Maybe you can answer this burning question for someone who is not culinarily-inclined (that is putting it mildly), baking and cooking are like the same thing to me (and that thing is drudgery :)) But I hear so many people talk about how they like baking, but not cooking, or vice versa...and I don't quite get it. I mean, fundamentally I understand the difference between the two, but what feels different about it? Is it the result of the baking or is it the process that you like better than cooking?

  16. My husband and i make this banana bread! We don't quite like the taste of the mushy bananas on the top so we leave that part out. I love this banana bread! I too enjoy baking. My mother-in-law introduced me to an awesome zucchini bread recipe that my husband and I could eat all day every day!

  17. I feel exactly the same way about baking. I decided awhile ago that I can never go on a diet that makes it so I have to stop baking.


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