This is the only banana bread recipe you will ever need. There may be others worth trying. And there’s plenty I’ve had that are almost as good – like dem breads my first wife used to bake. But having tasted this today I was reminded of why this is and forever will remain my standard.
Now, this recipe might strike you as dischordant, a petulant child striking five random piano keys at once to create a painful, brash sound that has no harmony or balance. You will notice banana, coffee, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and almond extract. Yet even if you look at these notes individually and are convinced they won’t make sense as a whole, the final product brings them together masterfully. You taste them all, little by little – a kind of sweet soul sensation, jazzy in its way but you will never once be confused about what you are eating. The “notes” that make up this bread provide texture, and the sycopations are purely divine. Instead musical chaos, you have a master whose fingers land on exactly the right keys at exactly the right time, pressing every one of your gustatory buttons.
Okay, humour me – I know I’m stretching the analogy – but it’s no coindence that this is the very recipe, Nica Rothschild, made for Thelonius Monk – in fact, it was his favorite snack. Listen to Thelonious Monk’s “Alone in San Francisco” some time, and you will catch the music that this bread inspired.
Oh, and I don’t mean to over-complicate things or imply the flavors here are at all wild. Just deep. And very very sexy. This is a REALLY good banana bread.
3 Sticks softened butter (forget what I said about fat content)
1 3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C lemon juice
2 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
1 t orange rind
4 Cups flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat for extra tooth)
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1 T baking powder
1/2 t nutmeg
2 t cinnamon
2 C pureed ripe banana steeped in C strong black coffee (that’s about 4 bananas)
OPTIONAL IMPROVISATION: 3/4 C chopped pecans or walnuts
PROCEDURE: Oven to 350. Grease 2 standard-sized loaf pans Cream the butter and sugar in your stand mixer or in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. When mixture is fluffy, add the lemon juice, orange rind and the extracts. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the butter mixture alternately with the banana puree, in thirds, mixing just enough to combine… do NOT overmix. Fold in optional ingredients if this is your thing. Spread the batter evenly between the pans, bake for 40 to 50 minutes until a probe into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before devouring: ten minutes in the pan, and another hour or so on a rack. I know this sounds difficult, but you can do it. Get down!