boozed banana bread

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Sure, bananas are sweet enough to stand alone.

And banana bread has always been mild-mannered and unassuming; sometimes playing the part of a pseudo-breakfast for the pastry-inclined, other times accompanying a coffee in the late afternoon and even standing in for dessert. And why not? It’s sweet and almost never dry. Its flavors are simple and straightforward. Nuts or speckles of semisweet chocolate, maybe a hint of vanilla…

But it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you that my favorite banana recipe lately involves BOOZE.

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It may or may not make you rethink your banana-bread-for-breakfast-bent, but it sure as heck should keep you dreaming sips of Caribbean cocktails in this impatient early-spring daze.

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You see, I saw the first of the spring forsythia the other day and well, yellow forsythia, cue yellow (turned black and brown) bananas… Poetic pairing, isn’t it?

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And so, I stopped in at the Dominican bodega, for the sake of forsythia and tropical-spun dreams just to find two bruised bananas from the bottom of yesterday’s basket to go along with the sweet, freckled pair that had already become too soft for eating at home. Just for you, dear reader. (Ok, mostly for me.)
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But really, this is for us (and anyone who will join for coffee and baked goodness)… it has a crisp crust with a nutty, crunchy exterior and a densely moist and aromatic crumb. Of course you can make this banana bread booze-less (the original recipe is rum-free and much less spicy). But if you do spike it in Jamaican-baking solidarity (and I sincerely hope that you do), allow the mashed bananas to sit and drink up some of the rum flavor; I find this really enhances the depth of the bread as a whole.
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The best thing about this bread is how its flavor matures, deepening in the most delicious way the day after it’s made. So if you’re making this ahead of time, you’re in for an even more fragrant and still very fresh, moist loaf on day two.
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Loosely adapted from Gourmet (August 2003) via Epicurious.com
  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (3-4 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream, or yogurt mixed with a bit of heavy cream)
  • 1-2 tablespoons rum
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest, grated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a (9- by 5- by 3-inch) loaf pan, then dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small bowl, mash bananas with a fork or pastry blender and stir in 1 tablespoon rum. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric or hand mixer, beat together eggs and sugar at medium-high speed for 5-6 minutes, or until very thick and pale and egg mixture falls back on itself in a ribbon, disappearing into the bowl slowly when the beater is lifted. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly begin adding oil to the egg mixture, beating all along. Stir in crème fraîche and vanilla. Then gently fold in banana mash and the flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan, making sure to spread it evenly. Sprinkle top of batter with toasted walnuts, pressing them gently into batter so that they adhere. Bake banana loaf until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaf in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then gently remove from pan and transfer to rack to cool completely.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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