I'm totally not a thief or a stalker (don't ask any of my exes about that, please), but I am: 1) obsessed with Orangette's beautiful and delicious blog and 2) completely appropriating this banana bread recipe. It is DIVINE. And easy. And eggless, which seemed weird to me before I tried it, but was absolutely not an issue at all. This banana bread hits the perfect balance of moist and cakey and has just the right amount of sweetness. The demerara sugar that is added before the loaf goes in the oven makes the best craggy little sugary crust I have ever tasted. And even if you don't like coconut (I think I'm on a serious coconut kick, by the way), it is subtle enough that it simply adds to the texture.
You can find demerara sugar at Whole Foods and some other gourmet markets-- don't skip it or substitute it if you can (though I am thinking that the next time I try this recipe I will sub bourbon for the rum and bourbon sugar for the demerara for a little southern twist).
Adapted from HomeBaking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition around the World, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Yield: 1 loaf
I have one word for you: demerara. This bread is lovely in its own right, but it owes a good deal of its charm to this very special sugar. Demerara has large, golden grains that sparkle in the light, and sprinkled on top of this banana-moistened batter, it yields a crisp, sweetly craggy crust that steals the show - and that stays crunchy on the second day, even! You can buy demerara sugar online from any number of sources, or look for it in your local gourmet store. I found mine at an upscale market nearby, and I think Whole Foods also carries it. Either way, buy it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to sprinkle it all over the place.
About 3 large, overripe bananas
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp. dark rum
½ cup dried shredded unsweetened coconut
1 Tbsp. demerara or dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a standard-size loaf pan.
In a blender or food processor, purée the bananas. Measure out 1 ½ cups of purée. [If you have more than that, try stirring the excess into some plain yogurt. It’s delicious.] Set the purée aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vinegar and rum, and beat to mix well. Add the banana purée and the flour mixture alternately, about 1 cup at a time, beginning with the banana and beating to just incorporate. Use a spatula to fold in any flour that has not been absorbed, and stir in the coconut. Do not overmix.
Scrape the batter – it will be thick – into the prepared pan. Smooth the top, and sprinkle evenly with the demerara sugar. Bake for 50-65 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes; then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool completely.
This loaf will keep, sealed airtight, for three to four days, although it is best, I think, on the second day.
Note: You can use frozen bananas here too, and with beautiful results. Whenever I have overripe bananas sitting on my counter, I throw them – skin and all – into the freezer for safekeeping. When I want to bake with them, I pull them out a few hours before, put them in a wide, shallow bowl, and let them thaw. When they have softened fully, I tear open the skin and let the soft, slippery flesh spill out. Be sure to save any juices that come out with it; they’re very flavorful and can be puréed along with the flesh.
I made three loaves and I ate an entire one all by myself, so I'd say that's a pretty glowing endorsement from someone who eats at least an entire year's worth of one banana tree's output. Oh, also someone who also eats practically all the Chunky Monkey that Ben & Jerry's can produce.
If you need an idea for holiday gifts, bake up some loaves, decorate some little boxes and voila! Or if you need a quick dessert, just toast up a slice and top with some toasted almond ice cream and you're all set.