Not another Banana Bread recipe, you say? Well, you know I've been searching for the perfect banana bread or banana cake recipe. It has to be full of banana-y flavour and must keep well...and every bit of the crust has to be edible and not rock hard.
My go-to Banana Bread recipe is still one of my favourites and never fails to meet my expectations. The ingredient list is brief and the technique is quick (hey, it's a quickbread after all). However, my mother doesn't like the crust. She thinks it's too hard (but really, it isn't). It's crunchy if I don't wrap it in plastic wrap right away after baking. My husband likes crusts and crunch. I can't win. Thus, my unending quest for the perfect banana bread recipe...
I don't mind crusts, per se, but growing up, mom was sort of like a t.v. dinner, Shake'n Bake, Duncan Hines cake mix, WonderBread kind of mom. She was a career woman and busy, busy, busy. She had no intuitive way about the kitchen like her mother did. I think cooking skills skipped a generation. My maternal grandmother made fantastic meals and was a natural cook--not requiring recipes quite often.
So, as a kid, it was such a treat when we had Swanson t.v. dinners because I liked the divided trays the food came in. We never bothered trying any flavours other than the Salisbury Steak dinner meals. It was a particular treat because first, it was different than what mom usually made, and second, there was always dessert. Our household always had snacks, but we rarely ever had dessert after dinner.
Mom loves everything highly refined and white: including rice, bread and baked goods. All baked goods had to be very moist and crunch wasn't a particularly kind adjective she'd use to describe something edible other than potato chips. I remember early on, sometime in my toddler years, my mother would lovingly make me good eats from white bread. The brand she purchased at that time was Sunbeam bread...the brand that came in a white plastic bag with a picture of a little girl with a blue bow on her head, biting into a slice of buttered bread. Little Miss Sunbeam was iconic and her image graced our formica kitchen table all through my formative years.
My mother never fiddled with cookie cutters or knives to create cute cut-outs from the sliced bread. She'd simply toast it, slather it with tons of salted butter, and then marmalade, and lovingly bite out a pattern with her teeth. I always liked her star patterns. Low-tech yet effective, indeed.
After school sometimes, I received a favourite treat: a slice of squishily soft white Sunbeam bread, sans crust, slathered with butter and sprinkled with white sugar. No cinnamon. Not toasted. Just soft, buttery sweetness. It tasted like cake. We rarely had cake in our home. Only on birthdays. I haven't had a sugar sandwich in 35 years. That's okay though, because now I can bake my own cakes.
My childhood favourites were Ding Dongs and Wagon Wheels. I haven't touched them in 30 years; not because they're not around still, but because I think they changed the recipe or something! Ding Dongs are now called King Dons. What's with that? and the cakes are drier and less tasty. Wagon Wheels seem tinier...more like Go-Cart Wheels.
But I digress. I was talking of the Crusties, wasn't I?
look at all that golden brown goodness! this crust is delicious--crunchy or soft!
Nowadays in Asian bakeries, you can buy white pullman-style loaves presliced and crustless. Yes, they actually cut off all the crusts for you in the bakery before bagging it. I couldn't believe it. I didn't pick up a loaf at all because I'm not crust-phobic; but apparently there must be a population of people out there who are (and who are too lazy to cut off the crusts themselves).
I've made Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt cake recipe about 5 times already. Each time I used a bundt pan and my mother would complain there was too much crust and that it was too dry.
This time, I adapted the recipe for loaf pans. The recipe makes 2 loaves neatly and the baking time doesn't really change at all. However, the crust ratio is more suitable for her palate. The bundt did have more crust after all, it seemed. I changed the recipe a bit by replacing one cup of the white sugar with one cup of brown sugar. It added a nice depth and caramel-like flavour to the cake. I definitely prefer the brown sugar to white.
Almost immediately after cooling, I wrapped one of the loaves tightly in plastic wrap to "age" overnight. The crust becomes very soft this way and is totally edible for the crust-phobic types. We immediately cut into the other loaf, whose crust was still caramelizingly crispy from the oven and Bebe cut off all the crunchy crusts with her fork, setting it aside on her plate. I asked her why she was doing it and she replied that it was the "best part" and she was saving it to eat last!
That little habit must be genetic, I think. I tend to do the same. I save the best for last too. I always enjoy a meal if my last bite consists of the best parts of the meal. My mother did this too. There's only one problem with this quirk: if you live in a family where individuals like to eat the best parts first. They hover over your juicy pile of KFC chicken skin, your maraschino cherry, your caramelized crusts...and poke their forks into what they think you're going to discard! My father often looked at my mother's pile of fried chicken skin and would comment, "Oh, you're not going to eat that?" and snatch up the little crispy bits into his mouth before she could stop him.
"Hey, I was saving that!" was an oft lamented whine in our household.
My daughters love this adapted banana cake recipe and I haven't heard a peep from my mom about the crusties. One loaf is aged to create the soft-crust and the other is crunchier, coming straight out of the oven. Eventually, by the next day both loaves have soft crusts anyway.
From now on, this'll be my go-to banana cake recipe. It's the best out of the ones I'ved tested thus far. Though my previous go-to recipe was easier to make, employed more bananas and didn't require sour cream, this recipe has better flavour and the crumb is lovely. And my family does prefer loaves to the bundt (though of course a bundt pan will look prettier). BTW, head on over to the sidebar and vote on the crusties...
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Classic Banana Bundt Cake, from Baking: From My Home to Yours
[I used 2 loaf pans instead of the one Bundt pan called for in the original recipe]
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar [I adapted by using one cup white sugar and one cup brown sugar]
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 9- to 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan. [I used 2 loaf pans, and lined the bottoms with parchment]
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.
- Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (the mixture will look curdled — just keep mixing), all the sour cream, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to de-bubble the batter, and smooth the top.
- Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes, if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding on the rack to cool to room temp.
- If you have the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving — it’s better the second day.