at home, taped to the inside of the spice cupboard are old, yellowed magazine pages and memo notes holding the baked recipes of my childhood. I have often read through the one for popovers and one for banana bread. the banana bread recipe is particularly dear to my family – it comes from my mother’s old college friend, aunt phuong.
when I was younger, we used to visit aunt phuong often for dinner parties and holiday get-togethers. I always looked forward to the loaves of banana bread, sometimes studded with chocolate chips, sometimes laced with shredded carrots, always perfectly moist and suffused with strong banana flavor. for some reason, we could never make it as well as my aunt did, so it remained a treat enjoyed only at her house, and over time, it faded into a cherished childhood memory.
years later, while in college, I saw my aunt again and had a slice of her banana bread. it was delicious, a simple, kitchen sink kind of banana bread stuffed with walnuts and chocolate chips, shredded carrots and coconut flakes. as I ate, I felt a pang of nostalgia, but was reminded again how much my tastes had changed since I was a child.
I once thought that nothing would ever be too sweet for me. but these days, I find myself gravitating towards lighter recipes, searching for ones where a splash of salt or a swirl of sour cream cuts through the sweetness. my aunt’s banana bread was still perfect – still so ridiculously easy to make, still a huge crowdpleaser over a decade later, but I could no longer devour half a loaf as I did when I was young.
I never thought I’d find a banana bread to rival the one my aunt made. but one day, while in my favorite boston bakery, flour, I ended up sampling a little square of banana bread. it had just a bit of a tang, which I later found out comes from crème fraîche, the perfect reconciliation between my grown-up tastes and childhood memories. with an hour-long baking time, it’s a bit of a long project, but absolutely worth it in the end, perfect for late night baking and lazy sunday brunches.
makes one 9•5-in loaf
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
230 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) sugar
100 g (1/2 cup) canola oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (1 1/3 cups mashed or ~340 g)
2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
75 g (3/4 cup) walnut halves, chopped
flour: spectacular recipes from boston’s flour bakery + cafe.
san francisco: chronicle books, 2010.
2 in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. set aside.
3 using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy (~5 minutes). (if using a handheld mixer, the same step will take ~8 minutes.)
4 on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. don’t pour the oil in all at once; add it slowly so that it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air beaten into the batter. add the bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed until just combined.
5 using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture and nuts into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined. no flour streaks should be visible, and the nuts should be evenly distributed. pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
6 bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until golden brown on top and the center springs back when pressed. let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then remove it from the pan to finish cooling.
7 the banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days, and can be stored frozen for up to 2 weeks.