Few resources have been as important to humanity’s cultural development as food. That sounds like a dumb point to make, I know, but bear with me a moment. Yes, of course, there are more important resources for survival (hi, Air, and Water!) but food has a larger cultural impact than either of those resources. It’s fun to trace back how many words, treaties, and so forth all boil down to food. The words Salary and Soldier, for instance, both come from the Latin for salt. Hawaii is an American state basically because we REALLY wanted to make sure the sugar, bananas, and pineapple kept coming. Consider how closely tied Jesus is to bread and wine, from two of his first miracles, to the message at the last supper. Food is, and has been, important. Which is why there are a great many recipes whose sole purpose is “Well, can’t let this go to was
Fried Rice was made to use leftover rice and scraps of meat. Frittata literally just means “Fried”, and is a dish of “Eggs and whatever man, we don’t care”. Bubble and Squeak is basically an English frittata, filled with potatoes, cabbage, and beef. Old bread? Make Croutons, or panzanella, or toss it in soup. Casseroles, Paella, and Pizza are all basically “Here’s a starch base, now add whatever you’ve got.” Chop Suey literally translates as “Assorted pieces”, and was a meal made by Chinese immigrants to 19th century America to use up leftovers. There are plenty of recipes that use overripe fruit. And one of them is our focus for today: Banana Bread.
You Must be Nuts to Eat Black Bananas
So, recently, my family had a bunch of bananas that we had intended to use for something, and never did. As with most fruits, this meant that, after a week or so of dithering, our bananas had gone from vibrant yellow freshness to…something altogether more sinister.
However, I knew exactly what that meant: these would make great banana bread! Yes, in general, you want to use overripe bananas instead of simply ripe ones while making banana-based baked goods. (Mmm. Alliteration) There are three primary reasons for this, that all tie to the same chemical process: Bananas break themselves down via the gas ethylene while ripening. As such, when overripe, bananas possess less structure, more sugar, and more potent aromatic compounds. In short, they’re softer, sweeter, more…banana-y. The softness makes them great for mashing, and the added aromatics and sweetness lets them come through better in baked goods.
As a fun side fact, since we’re talking about banana flavor, I recently learned that something I believed about it is technically false. If you’ve ever eaten a banana, and then eaten, say, Banana Laffy Taffy, you’ve probably noticed they taste almost nothing alike. Now, supposedly, this was because banana flavoring is based off the Gros Michel banana, which was the primary banana eaten back in the early 1900’s, but got its shit rocked by a fungal infestation around the 1950’s. I mean “industrial production of it completely ceased” levels of “shit rocked”. “Near-extinction event” levels. (Fun fact: That fungal infestation? It’s morphed to affect the now-popular Cavendish cultivar! So if things go bad, we may have a collapse of THAT banana market in the next 15 years! YAY) However, actual researchers have pointed out that the claim that banana flavoring is based off Gros Michels, is technically wrong. The compound they use in banana flavoring is in ALL bananas. It’s the core flavor profile. It’s just that modern bananas have a bunch of OTHER flavor compounds as well, while Gros Michels don’t have as many. IT’s like the difference between Marinara and Arrabiata: they’re both tomato based sauces, one just has other flavors too. So, no, technically, banana flavoring isn’t BASED on Gros Michels, it’s based on pure banana flavor. It’s just that Gros Michels taste more purely like bananas.
Listen, that’s nice and all, but am I supposed to DO something with these bananas?
Yes, thank you, Caption Jon, I had almost forgotten.
Banana bread is dead simple, as the Scots, Aussies, and Irish say. It’s your basic quick bread, with bananas. What’s a quick bread? One that doesn’t use yeast. That’s it. Because you don’t have to spend hours waiting for the dough to proof, and grow in size, or knead it down, any bread that doesn’t use yeast is a ‘quick bread’. As with any quick bread, you’ll need two bowls, one for all the dry ingredients, and one for all the wet ones. Also, you’ll need WALNUTS.
Pictured here, in case you’ve somehow never encountered them before.
Now, if I haven’t talked about this before, I want to make this clear now: I fucking love walnuts. I know a bunch of weirdly specific things about them, (which is, as my 200 word thesis on banana flavoring proves, not technically a resounding endorsement of them, but more a general comment on my particular form of mental instability.) But seriously: you know how there’s good fats and bad fats? Walnuts are 72% good fats. They’re rich with phenols and tannins, which are magic science words used about wine and tea, and those are both awesome for you. A cup of them provides over 20% of your daily recommended dose of 8 different vitamins and minerals. I LOVE WALNUTS. AAAAAAHAHAAAAAAA-
I have no idea what the hell he’s doing, but I made walnut streusel for the top. Oh god, he fell over.
…Oooh-ow. What happened? I blacked out there a little. Shit, making bread.
Is that what this is? I thought I was making a bowl of prop-snot. I didn’t know WHY I was doing it, so I guess I’m happy to have an answer.
So yeah, mix like, normal dry stuff in a bowl. Flour, baking powder, baking soda. Throw some nutmeg and cinnamon in there. Too. Then take the other bowl, and mash up the bananas, like Caption Jon did. Add some eggs, melted butter, and sugar. I used white, you can use brown, either’s fine. Jesus, I have a headache now from screaming about walnuts. In a pan, throw some streusel on top (because it uses MORE walnuts, and is generally delicious), and bake for an hour.
Breads, like pigs, are much cuter when contained.
Mine overflowed, because I’m bad at remembering that bread expands. But you know what? It was still delicious, and it kept on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap for an entire week. It was sweet, crunchy, and delightful. I need to go lie down.
Have walnuts recently driven you mad? Banana bread can help! Maybe. I don’t know, man. Just chill and eat your starch.
NEXT TIME: IS HE DEAD? WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT ALL ABOUT? SHOULD WE GET HELP? I DON’T KNOW.
Makes 1 loaf (16 slices)
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 5 bananas, mashed. (should be 1 ½ cups or so)
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 c sugar
- ½ c melted butter, margarine, or cooking oil
- ¼ c chopped walnuts
- ¼ c brown sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 c chopped walnuts
- Preheat an oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan. Maybe 2. Then, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- In another bowl, combine the sugar, bananas, oil/butter/margarine, and eggs. Pour into the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Add the Walnuts, and mix into the dough.
- Pour into loaf pans, leaving at least ½” from the top of the dough to the top of the pan.
- Make the streusel by mixing the brown sugar and flour, and cutting the butter in with a fork or pastry cutter, until it’s a coarse, bread-crumb like consistency. Stir in walnuts, and sprinkle over top of loaves.
- Then put in the oven (on a baking sheet) for 45 minutes to an hour. (If it all went in one pan, do an hour, if 2, check at 45 minutes) Check if it’s done the normal way: stab the middle with a toothpick, and if it comes out clean, it’s good.
- Cool on a wire rack in the pan(s) for 10 minutes, then get it out of the pan, and let cool completely before eating.