St. John Banana Bread + 5 Must-Try Banana Bread Links

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“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

Tess arrived two days after Ann’s daughter was born with warm banana bread in one hand and a dozen red roses in the other.  Tess wasn’t much for hugs or kisses and I love you showed far too much weakness.  Tess was many things but never vulnerable.  She was never brought to her knees in love or heartache, grief or anguish.  And if Tess had, no one was witness to it.  Food meant love.  And flowers? I’m thinking of you. Happy Birthday. Congratulations.  I’m proud of you.  I love you but I’ll never tell you.  Ann understood this about her mother.  She didn’t mind Tess’ peculiarities about love.

Ann hugged Tess harder than usual feeling her breasts now engorged with milk and nipples raw and tender press against her mother’s own aging breasts.

[Breasts that eleven years later would turn against her, forming cancer that Tess ignored, eating her body, mind, and soul a bit each day.  Days turned into weeks into months, months into years, an act of war leaving open wounds that could not heal for those that loved her.}

Mae, still pink from birth with bits of patchy Neanderthal hair on one shoulder and perfect rose-colored lips, cooed from the other room summoning the women to attend to her.  Tess picked her up and held her with such tenderness Ann felt like crying.   Ann blamed postpartum hormones on the tears forming but never coming to fruition. And yet she knew the tears were more than hormones.  Watching her mother become so accessible to this child made her heart hurt.  Ann could not bare to watch them interact any longer and then Tess asked Mae: “I wonder what your purpose will be?”

Ann thinks of this now as she sits with Tess who is covered in afghans because she can’t get warm enough. Tissues fill the basket next to the tattered chair she cannot leave and half of a banana sits on the side table next to Tess which Tess promises to eat…later.  Ann watches her mother’s swollen belly move with each breath, bandages from Tess’ now concave breast peak outside from the top of her shirt.  She notices Tess’ hair, the perm she always had now faded.  She listens to Tess repeat herself over and over while trying to draw out the woman she once knew.  Ann manages to find Tess again simply by asking: where is your banana bread recipe?

St. John Banana Bread

Makes 1 9x5x3 inch loaf

Recipe handed down by my grandmother and slightly adapted by me

Ingredients:

½ or 1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups of sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 large very ripe bananas, mashed

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ raw sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) I did not use them.

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Grease and lightly flour the loaf pan and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer cream the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl once or twice with a spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients.  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with ¼ cup of raw sugar.  Bake until golden brown or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean 50-60 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Once cool remove the bread from the loaf pan.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

**Once cool wrap bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.  You can also freeze this bread until ready to use.  Be sure to defrost overnight. **

5 Must Try Banana Bread Links

If you are looking for a few interesting twists to banana bread head to the Wall St. Journal for recipes like coffee-hazelnut banana bread or black sesame coconut banana cake with white sesame cream.

Nutella lovers everywhere must check out Zoe Bakes Nutella swirled banana bread.

This banana bread recipe is one of King Arthur Flour’s recipe of 2018.

Chocolate and banana are one of my favorite combinations.  Head to Pastry Affair for chocolate cacao nib banana bread recipe that is sure not to disappoint.

Banana Cream Pie Revisited + 5 Banana Cream Pie Riffs!

bcp73aGoogle “revisit” and this is what comes up: consider again from a different perspective.  Two years ago, adrift and raw from the loss of my grandfather, I started this blog with a recipe for vanilla bean banana cream pie.  Though not my favorite pie, it was his favorite.  Hoping to soothe my broken-heart, I made a fresh banana cream freckled with vanilla beans, topped with extra banana slices and surrounded by a crunchy and sweet graham cracker crust.  I imagined him eating it and smiling. Continue reading

Jerry’s Banana Bread

_KH10045Three brown bananas sat on my counter last week staring at me. Brown bananas equals banana bread which is a family favorite; however no matter how many recipes I try it never tastes as good as Jerry’s banana bread or so I’m told by the kids and Bubba.

Jerry is my grandmother. I was the first grandchild and no matter how hard I tried I could not say Grandma. Jerry came out instead; family, friends and acquaintances have called her Jerry ever since. She is a great cook. As a kid, barely able to see over the counter, I watched her hands make everything from crème puffs and blueberry buckle to lobster salad and Christmas turkeys. Her thin, wrinkled hands with short nails that were never painted moved quickly with the ingredients. She was a magician and I loved watching her.

She doesn’t cook as mush as she did but she stills makes banana bread, usually at my daughter’s request. C claims it is the best banana bread ever and I agree. It is dam good! I called her the other day for the recipe which she gladly gave me. I made the bread with 2 changes: less sugar and some whole wheat flour. C told me it is not as good as Jerry’s. At least she is honest! I thought it tasted good but not as good. Her magical way with food is real and I can’t replicate it, but I’ll keep trying!

_KH10033I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour instead of 2 cups of all-purpose flour to add a bit nuttiness and health to the bread. I also used 3/4 cups of sugar instead of 1 cup  and it tasted great. C may have liked it more if I kept 1 cup sugar. My girl loves sweets. Also, you will not need a standing mixer or electric mixer for the recipe. Everything is mixed by hand.

_KH10040Be sure not to over mix the ingredients or you will end up with tough, rubbery bread._KH10061

The best part about this bread is the melted butter and cinnamon sugar topping you put on the bread while it is still warm. The topping adds a nice sugary crust which I know is C’s favorite part.

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The bread is perfectly moist and tastes great with a cup of coffee. It will last, well wrapped, for up to 5 days.

Jerry’s Banana Bread

barely adapted by me

Ingredients

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup of sugar (Jerry uses 1 cup but I think it tastes just as good with 3/4)

2 eggs

3 large bananas, mashed

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 cup of whole wheat flour (She uses 2 cups of all-purpose flour)

1 tsp. of baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Topping

1 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Sift together flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk melted butter and sugar until light in color. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix. Fold in mashed bananas. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely and then remove from pan.

While your bread bakes, melt 1 tbsp of butter and prepare cinnamon sugar mixture.

Pour melted butter on still warm bread and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Drink with coffee and share with friends!

Lets Start With Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie with a Graham Cracker Crust

Here we go. After two years of obsessively reading cookbooks and trying recipes I am starting a food blog. I am not sure where this will lead but I know now is the time to start. I am home full time with my two sweet, smart and funny kids, Charlotte 5 and Graham 2. I have a supportive and loving husband who many call Bubba. We have a very furry, half human dog named Alice. Friends and family are close by and we live in a great town just outside of Boston, the city where we first met and fell in love 11 years ago. We have a good life but I somehow feel lost in the day to day. I have disappeared between diaper changes and gymnastics drop offs. I think this blog just may be my way back.
I am starting with a Vanilla Bean Banana Cream Pie with a Graham Cracker crust because it was his favorite. I am referring to Papa, my grandfather, who we lost two years ago. He was a like a father to me. His passing broke my heart and it is just now that my heart feels less raw. His birthday was two weeks ago. This pie is for him.

Banana Cream Pie For Papa
slightly adapted from the Maratha Stewart Show and What’s Gaby Cooking
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For the Vanilla Bean Pudding
1 large whole egg, lightly beaten, plus 4 large egg yolks
6 to 8 medium-ripe bananas
3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

For the Graham Cracker Crust
12 full-size graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Crust

Pre-heat the oven to 375
Place the graham crackers and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to break the crackers up and then process for 1-2 minutes until the crackers are the same consistency as the sugar.
Add the melted butter and pulse to combine so the crackers look just damp.
Remove the mixture from the food processor and transfer the crumbs into a 9 inch pie pan. Press the the crumbs into a crust evenly along the bottom and up the side.
Bake the crust for about 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and let cool.

For the Pudding
In a bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks; set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together milk, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Bring to a simmer (do not boil), and cook, whisking constantly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk a quarter of hot-milk mixture into egg yolks; whisk in remaining milk mixture. Strain into a clean saucepan (I didn’t do this step and it was fine), and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until custard is thick and bubbles appear in center, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Place in refrigerator until chilled, 30 to 35 minutes. (The filling can be kept in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, up to 1 day.)

Cut 3 or 4 bananas into 1/4-inch slices, on the bias. Start at the edge of the piecrust, arrange the slices in slightly overlapping rows. Cover with custard, using an offset spatula to smooth it into an even layer. I don’t love whip cream so I didn’t add it but if you love it throw some on!

Whipped Cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine cream and confectioners’ sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Using a small offset spatula, spread the whipped cream on top of the custard.

Refrigerate pie, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.