The name is a tossup: Craft or Artisan? And do I add Westchester to the name or leave it blameless and whole? Please weigh in afterward.
This used to be a food blog. I'll stop there.
I love banana bread. I love tossing fermented counter bananas into the freezer and plucking them out at will. What I really dislike is dry banana bread. Gak. I'm not fond of anything with an over dominant taste or texture.
I am also questioning our reliance on kitchen implements of destruction in order to bake or cook a thing that is good.
Did we have standing mixers 200 years ago? Did we even have hand beaters? Did we have perfectly temp controlled ovens? Did we have instant read thermometers? I have a better question(s):
In the 18th century, did we have loathsome, inedible food? Is cake a novelty invented in the second half of the 20th century? How about meringue? Custard? I put my mixer away and took out a kitchen whisk to see what I could do. It worked out well, as did the 1,2,3,4 cakes last week. If you don't own a whisk, use a large spoon. Be brave.
INGREDIENTS: grouped by order of product and process. There are no duplicates:
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large overripe bananas - you want about 1.5 cups
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- *1/2 cup buttermilk (substitution below)
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup flour (yes, another one)
Kitchen Notes (good idea to read these first, even though you don't want to)
Timing: The process that follows is not complex but the order of events does matter. If you jump around, you'll just have to wait a bit. Don't worry.
Your bananas: If you are using frozen bananas that have hopefully turned black, take them out of the freezer a couple hours before you begin. When they have thawed, extrude them into a bowl. Extruding fermented thawed bananas is one of the best parts of life. Use a fork to give them a good, sound mashing. Chunks and lumps are better than pureed. Do the same with your overripe, juicy, fermenting counter bananas if that's what you've got. Maybe they need to be extruded too? That means extra juicy.
Buttermilk substitute: Pour 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk into a glass. Add 1.5 tsp white distilled vinegar OR 1.5 tsp FRESH lemon juice to the glass. Wait for it... when you see it curdle (almost right away), give it a stir and set it aside.
Flour separation: The flour is separated because even if measured in grams, your flour is different than the flour used by the last baker. I might bake a small loaf of bread using a recipe calling for 2 cups of flour. I might need far less. If I force both cups into the dough, I get a dry brick. It is better to err toward the too wet side. If I have to stop adding flour, and the leavening agents are mixed into all of the flour, then I will be short some baking powder, or soda, or yeast, or whatever I'm using. Tragic.
Candy: you will make candy! Yay! Truthfully, this is alchemy. Doesn't matter if you've got a good candy thermometer. Even if you do, don't use it now.
Brown Butter: butter will be browned, not black. If the butter turns black, start over.
CRAFTY ARTISAN BANANA BREAD
Set aside 1/2 cup buttermilk. Buy it or build it. See instructions in the kitchen notes
Prepare the Buttery Bits
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a smallish heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Whisk 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar into the butter. Whisk continuously until smooth and thick. This won't take long. The butter will still separate a bit; that's OK. Depending on your stove, you may need to lower the burner temp. If you smell or see any sign of burning, take it off the burner and keep whisking. Turn out what has now become sludge onto a small plate or into a small bowl. Put it in the freezer and walk away.
In the same heavy bottom pan, brown 6 Tbsp butter. Whisk constantly over medium heat. Do not burn this. It can go from pale tan to black in seconds. Watch while you whisk. Pour the brown butter into a bowl and set aside to cool.
The Dry Stuff
Whisk the baking soda, powder, and salt into 1 cup of flour. Set it aside.
Measure out the 2nd cup of flour and place it beside the leavened mix.
Preheat and Prepare
Make sure you have a centered rack. Preheat a moderate oven (ok, 350, but you knew that).
Grease, oil, butter, spray (don't care) JUST the bottom of a 9" bread pan. Do not use flour. Do not butter the sides. I know you want to but it will end badly.
- WHISK two large eggs and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar until creamy. Tip: cradle the bowl in the crook of your non-dominant arm
- Whisk in the COOLED browned butter. If it isn't cooled, it might cook or curdle the eggs. If it isn't cooled, either wait a bit, or temper the batter. (look it up)
- Exchange the whisk for a wooden (or just a large) spoon and beat in the banana pulp
- Add bourbon and vanilla and give it a stir
- Beat in half a cup of the leavened flour
- Beat in approximately 1/3 of the buttermilk (just guess)
- Beat in the remainder of the leavened flour followed by the next third of the buttermilk.
Probably soupy, right? If so, add half a cup of the standby flour followed by the last of the buttermilk. Now you're on your own. That last half cup of flour? The batter should pour. It should not be stiff. It should not be a river. Up to you but make sure you get all that buttermilk into the mix.
Set the mix aside.
Take the sludge out of the freezer. If it's too hot to handle, put it back and wait until you can pick it up without burning yourself. When the candy can be handled without melting your fingers or a plastic bag, drop it into a quart size ziplock bag, zip it almost all the way up, drop it onto the floor, and beat the crap out of it with a rolling pin. Or a large pan. Hammer? Try not to break the bag or turn it all dust.
If the candy is not brittle enough to shatter, put it on a cutting board and cut it up. If it's too sticky to cut, pull it apart into smallish chunks. It's all good.
Stir the candy into the batter, pour the batter into the prepared pan, and put the pan in the center of the oven. Set a timer for 45 minutes and clean up the mess.
THOU SHALT NOT BREAK THE HEAT
(unless something is on fire)
At 45 minutes, open the door and very quickly insert something pointy (toothpick, size 2 knitting needle, knife) into the center of the bread. Close the door and examine your pointy thing.
- If dry, remove the bread from the oven asap. It should not be dry. Your oven is probably too hot
- If moist enough that batter sticks to the pointy thing, set the timer for 5 minutes
- If it's grossly wet, maybe your oven is not hot enough? Think about adjusting, but either way, give it another 10 minutes before you break the heat again.
When the pointy thing comes out dry (very moist crumbs are good), remove pan from the oven and turn the loaf out onto a wire rack (or whatever you have). Don't let it sit in the pan. It will cook itself until dead. If you can convince your loaf to stand on its side, that would be for the best. Feel free to prop it up with the bourbon bottle.
Wait ten minutes.