The skeletons are out

I think there's something you should know. This freezer dredging—it's bringing up some heavy stuff—dragging some skeletons out. Banana skeletons, mainly. A whole ten of them.

There, I said it.

Now you know—I have a problem with banana theft. I don't buy them, generally, or at least I try not to, but we have a lot of house-guests in the summer. They come in with bags and bags of groceries, stay for a night or two, and leave their cereal and bananas behind. The bananas start to go brown, I clap my hands with delight, and I tuck them in to the freezer. The real problem, you see, is banana bread.

I really can't live without it.

I don't remember when I made my first batch—I must have been five or six—but it's always been a favorite in my family. We got our recipe from our friend Bonnie, who somehow got all the ratios just right. It turns out the same lovely loaf each time: moist, sweet, and best just slightly undercooked.

My sister and I used to make banana bread on school nights after dinner, mixers whirring and chunks of butter and sugar zinging off in every direction. (I'm sure my mother was just thrilled, but she never said a word. Thank you mom!) We'd stick it in the oven and sit peering eagerly over the counter top toward the stove as we did our homework, waiting for the moment when we could pull it out, slice, and dig in.

I don't know why I held off succumbing to this ritual with all the bananas I'd hoarded into the freezer for so long, but I think it's at least partially because bananas never seemed like something to write about here. They simply can't pass as a local fruit.

But although they don't grow around here, there is a Wellfleet banana connection you should know about. It might help us come to terms. After all, a Wellfleetian—Lorenzo Dow Baker—started the commercial banana trade in the 1870s. It's only right to pay homage with a loaf of bread every now and again.

At least that's what I plan to tell myself every time I tuck away another stolen piece of fruit.


This recipe is very, very simple. It can be made in a snap—simply cream the butter, add the sugar and the wet ingredients, and then sift the dry ingredients in. The most important part, in my opinion, is that you under cook it so that the center is very soft, but not everyone likes it this way. After I pull the loaf out of the oven, the center always falls quite a bit, but I don't mind. To me, that's a sign it's perfectly done.

1 stick salted butter (I use Kate's from Maine)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the sugar and blend until well-mixed, then add the eggs, bananas, and lemon juice. Continue blending until all ingredients are combined. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, taking care not over mix as it will make the bread tough. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan, and bake until the edges are cooked through but the center is still a bit wet, about 35 to 40 minutes. If you like it a bit drier, about 50 minutes should do.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.