Monday, July 15, 2013

Banana Bread FOREVAH!

Picture this: you are wandering the aisles of your favourite ethnic grocery, scanning row after row of enticing, mysterious products. You are tempted to buy them all... but, your inner censor reminds you, you don't even know what they are! How do you learn how to eat them? 
At which point, of course - because you're a natural rebel and won't take this kind of sh*t by some pesky Jiminy Cricket - you grab a random jar and plop it in you basket. 
And your choice falls on ube (purple yam) - because of its lovely colour,  possibly. Or because Fate guided your hand. 

Now when you're dealing with an exotic ingredient, you have two options: you can either scan those glossy haute cuisine magazines to see how some famous chef used it to add to his latest creation's mystique, or search for blogs by faraway foodies who regard it as everyday fare. 
Can you guess which way I go? 

Thus it happened that I stumbled into this recipe, that I promptly proceeded to not bake at all - seriously, I ended up eating my ube with a spoon and filing the cake for future reference, so this post has nothing to do with it at all. Just bear with me for a while, ok?

Look, the point of this whole story is: I discovered this wonderful blog called Bake Happy, by a sweet Filipino girl with a difficult name: Aikko

Of all the fellow bloggers I touched briefly upon, she's the one I feel closer to. 
She has a dull-sounding job and bakes as a hobby, and you can tell she loves every moment of it. To me, living on the other side of the world, her ingredient lists feel exotic - yet her desserts come through as homely and comforting, with none of the pretentiousness of some experimental p√Ętissiers.
Much like me, she updates her blog erratically, with a fun mix of personal stories, super-cute decorating tutorials and recipes. 
She truly is a happy baker, and I wholeheartedly believe that - while recognition is good, and money definitely would be great - this is what creating desserts is all about. 

Among her recipes there is one I have baked more times than any other in my whole life, and no kidding. One that I find myself craving every few days, so much so that I keep making it even now, in the middle of July, when the mere thought of turning on the oven makes me cringe. 

It's her mother's banana bread. Trust me, you're going to LOVE it!

I won't overwhelm you with tons of WIP shots for once, as Aikko's put up a great tutorial already and, let's face it, her pics are far better tham mine could ever hope to be (I'm digging the hot pink background, gurl. I honestly am.)

Only one thing I will add, just because I believe it's worth repeating ad nauseam: for this recipe you need your bananas to be ripe. And by "ripe" I seriously mean, this ripe: 

I won't say I'm at a point where I buy bananas to deliberately let them go all brown and squishy, because that would make my life a very sad business, I guess. 
But, hey... friends don't judge, right?

Now here's a (stunningly bad) close-up of the baked bread. Can you make out the little brown flecks in there? They're proof that there are no artificial flavourings inside this baby. Just real, honest-to-God bananas!

This bread is yummy as it comes out of the oven, but will turn more and more awesome the longer it sits on your counter. If properly covered, it keeps at room temperature for a surprisingly long time - I store mine under a glass dome and it lasts me for over a week!
(Of course if you really want to, you can freeze it as well. I like to bake it in a Bundt pan, as opposed to a more traditional loaf shape, so it's easier to portion and freeze in single servings...)

Now this banana bread is as simple as it can possibly get, which is the very reason why I love it so much. 
I mean, I know people out there bake all sort of things into their banana bread - pineapple chunks and spices and nuts and chocolate chips - or drenching it with booze... and I've tried many such recipes and enjoyed them all... but this is the one I keep making over and over again. It's a breakfast staple as far as I'm concerned!

Still, if know me at all, you'll have noticed by now that I can't leave a good thing darn well alone. 
So here my evil brain goes, "What if I bake it exactly the same, only swapping the 'nanas for some other fruit?" MANGOES, for example! Since they are, like, my favourite fruit in the world

Enquiring minds want to know, and all that. So I made it happen.

The mango bread didn't rise nearly as much as its banana counterpart, and ended up much more dense (although still moist and delicious.) 
I couldn't taste the mango in it, which was kind of disappointing - then again, I'm 100% anosmic, so maybe someone with an average sense of smell would have been able to detect the fruit. 
Smothered with mango sauce and teamed up with fruit salad and a dollop of (guess, guess?) mango jam, it still made for a filling, refreshing summer lunch!

It's surely something worth experimenting with, using different fruit - apple butter for sure, and maybe pureed prunes? 
But for my breakfast needs, I think I'll stick to Aikko's (and her mother's) recipe - it's just that good!

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