"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Ways to make your house smell

by Julie Tilsner on January 12, 2007

in Sugar and Spite, Sweet!

BananabreadThere they were. Two black bananas curling like shrimp in my fruit bowl. Nobody else was going to touch them. So I did. I moved them from the bowl, where they threatened to spore up my apples, and onto my counter top, where I let them sit another day. I had a plan. But I didn’t know if I could pull it off.

Then on Wednesday night I was struck with a fit of ambition. This happens from time to time. I am truly fearsome to behold when I’m on one of these streaks: I mop the kitchen floor. I finish all my assignments. I write a chapter of my novel. I clean my kids’ room. I am organized and clear-headed, capable and up for anything. In these rare moods, nothing is beyond my ability!

Not even banana bread.

And so it was that I brought the kids home from school with a playmate in tow. “Hey kids!” I chirped as they threw their backpacks and sweaters on the living room floor. “Let’s make banana bread!”

The two girls didn’t say anything, only cast me grave looks that suggested the middle-school years were coming to get me soon.

From my son: Euuuuuwuwwwwww!! Gross! Blechhhh!!!

My children are miserable cretins who don’t understand about life-affirming experiences like warm, fragrant banana bread. They don’t know from the joys of the thing toasted, and then smeared with peanut butter. They most certainly don’t grasp the greatness that is something wonderful made from something horrible and wretched, like two blackened bananas drawing fruit flies in mid-winter.

There is no consensus on what makes the perfect banana. Some like them unblemished, green-tinged, and pulled from the refrigerator. I like them moderately speckled, like this. These are some perfect, fleshy, flavorful specimens. Of course, Deb at Smitten Kitchen writes that these bananas were long gone and so perfect for her banana bread. Hmmm. She does know what she’s doing, so who am I to question? (warning: Don’t go near her blog if you’re at all hungry. The photos alone will do you in) The bananas I used were, um, further along than these. And as has already been well-established here, I don’t know what I’m doing. Nevertheless, I had it in my mind that I was not going to waste two perfectly good, nearly rotten bananas.

So out came my How to Cook Everything.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees
grease a bread tin with butter – not too big. What, you think I have measurements on hand?

One stick butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, smashed with a fork until smooth
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

Amazingly, I had most of this stuff on hand. But only two bananas. And no coconut.

Mix the dry ingredients together
Cream the butter and beat in the eggs and banana. There were no instructions on which order this action should take, so I, being stupid, creamed the butter in one bowl and mashed the bananas in another, added the butter to the banana and then added the eggs…
The eggs were cold, so the butter clumped, so I had to get out the mixer…..
Anyway…dump this into the dry ingredients and don’t mix more than necessary. Add the vanilla and walnuts.

Plop all of this into the bread pan and put it into the oven.
Bake for between 45 and 50 minutes. A toothpick or a knife inserted into the middle will tell you if

it’s done or not. Mine wasn’t, so back in it went. It ultimately took about an hour and five minutes. But my stove probably sucks.

But half an hour before this my kids started lifting their little noses to the air. “What’s the delicious smell, mommy?” And then they started to get excited. The playdate was upset that she had to leave before the bread was done. But I promised I’d bring the loaf to my daughter’s Girl Scout meeting the next day. Mostly to get rid of it. It wasn’t going to be any good anyway, I reasoned. Might as well fob it off on a bunch of other people’s kids. I’m such a bad mom.

I let the bread cool for 15 minutes before turning it out onto a plate. I cut two small slices and offered them up to the fruit of my loins, with milk. They fell on it. They begged for more. I had a piece. Not bad. Functional banana bread. I wondered how it would taste toasted.

The next day I brought the bread to the Girl Scout meeting as promised. There was only enough for a half slice for everyone, and several sniffed dismissively when they heard what it was. “I don’t like banana bread,” said one girl.

She changed her mind later on, however. In fact, this was the highlight of the year thus far: fourteen 9 and 10-year-old girls loved my banana bread. MY banana bread! And they thanked me. And they asked me to make some more next week. Wow. It filled me with hope. Maybe this will be a breakthrough cooking year after all.

Or not. I’m eyeballing a celery-root puree. Sounds fancy. And where the hell does one buy a celery root, anyway? Stay tuned.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

AT January 12, 2007 at 8:27 am

Oh no! If you keep this up you may lose the “Bad Home Cook” moniker…


BaddAss MisterJ January 13, 2007 at 9:49 pm

I love a woman who calls her own children “miserable cretins” But you are right! If they only knew how some of their sandwich meats and hotdogs and canned tuna was made!


Margaret January 15, 2007 at 3:11 pm

Your banana bread post is hilarious! I had such a great laugh reading it because I always end up with way too many extra ripe bananas on my counter. I usually buy more than I really need with the intention of making some banana bread, but I wait too long until they are waaaaaay black and must be destroyed. You’ve inspired me to try your recipe, especially with the whole wheat flour. They’re actually healthy too! Oh, and thanks for the spot on your “faves” list! We’re glad you like the Gracious Bowl!


Margaret January 15, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Oh yeah, about the celery root puree. My advice: make celery root/potato puree instead for some excellent mashed potatoes. Celery root puree alone is fairly bitter and sharp in my opinion. Mixed with potatoes, all you get is the sweet, peppery yumminess! One of my favorite side dishes! And they should be pretty easy to find at Whole Foods.


janelle January 16, 2007 at 3:16 pm

I so have a hankering to try celery root puree: what is it about that ugly lump of a vegetable that is so intriguing?!
Loved reading about your banana bread, my kiddos eat it if I inject chocolate chips and I swear to god banana bread is a hit-or-miss baking experience.


Sandi October 6, 2014 at 1:02 am

Lol. My best banana bread recipe calls for ‘very ripe bananas, so ripe they might be called boozy’. I don’t use it often because it also calls for 1/2 pound of butter. Can anything with 1/2 pound of butter ever turn out badly?


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