Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

 

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Let’s talk about banana bread. It has been years since I thought about banana bread. One day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I don’t remember what sparked my interest in banana bread. I looked through old cookbooks, perused the web. My daughter suggested I try Chrissy Teigen’s banana bread. It was delicious. Baked in a bundt pan. Crispy top. Deliciously moist from the package of pudding. Wonderful. I will share that recipe another time.

I wanted something closer to traditional banana bread, but not heavy like a brick. Cue Joanne Chang. She’s brilliant. She’s successful. She makes banana bread!  Someday I will use that Flour gift card. I checked out her first cookbook from the library a gazillion times, without ever baking anything. I’m like that. More of a cookbook hoarder. This time was going to be different. I ordered it from a consortium library. Bought a bunch of bananas and waited for them to over ripen. I’m not a patient person.

The next step: actually read recipe. I looked over the ingredients. Simple, every day ingredients. Sour cream was a little different, but I know this helps with the crumb. Cinnamon? I’m in. Walnuts? Not so much. I don’t like nuts in baked goods. Walnuts taste bitter to me.  I’m all set with ingredients.

I started to read the directions. What could make this bread different from the others?The ingredients were very similar. Not far into the recipe, the secret was revealed. It’s the process. You beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes. FIVE! The mixture is light and fluffy and has great volume. Genius. You fold in the dry ingredients. Brilliant. It’s so simple, but successful in producing a light, moist, delicious loaf of bread.  Let’s get baking!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 very ripe bananas mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan. I like to cut a strip of parchment paper, so it releases easily and in one piece. Turn over the pan, and cut the parchment to fit the bottom, before you grease the pan. Duh. Let the parchment over hang a little. If you have metal clips, you can clip them to the parchment and the pan, to avoid the parchment from turning into the baking bread. Or not. I’m not patient. The parchment paper helps me lift it out of the pan in one piece after cooling for about 30 minutes.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. You can tap it through a mesh strainer instead.  I’ve made it without sifting and it was still scrumptious. Don’t fret.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes. If you use a hand mixer, beat it a little longer. I like the stand mixer, since I’m alway multitasking. The mixture should be light and fluffy.

On low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Another process that makes a difference. Don’t dump in the oil. It should take about one minute to pour the oil into the batter. Using this process, it incorporates into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you just beat into the batter. Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Continue to mix on low speed just until it’s combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture just until combined. You don’t want any streaks of flour in the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 – 1 1/4 hours. You want the loaf to be golden brown on top. If the center springs back, it’s done. I sometimes use a toothpick. Old school, riiiiightttt? This bread fills up the pan, because of all the air in the batter. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. The pop it out of the pan to cool completely on the rack. The bread in the above picture could have used a couple of more minutes. It was still yummy and cooked through. It’s almost gone.

The banana bread can be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature. I prefer my quick breads to chill in the fridge. I think it enhances the flavor. It can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Now that’s funny. No baked goods last two weeks in this house. Unless I hide them in the vegetable drawer.

Enjoy!

Note: If you have over ripe bananas, but don’t have time to make banana bread, freeze the bananas. I mush them in a zip lock plastic bag and label it. One banana, two banana, three banana, four…….When you have time to bake, the bananas just need to be defrosted. Perfect.

 

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Panera Copycat)

It’s well documented that I love soup. It’s always soup season in my house. When I saw this posted by Heather Webber I hit “print” immediately. Let’s not pretend this soup is healthy. I compensate by adding more carrots and chicken. That’s all I got. I suggest you make it one day and serve it the next. This soup tastes good the day you make it, but it is soooooo much better the second. It becomes thick, yet smooth. It’s great for lunches, too. Transports well. It won’t slosh all over the place. Thin soups are difficult to eat without spilling. I need an adult bib. Or a Tide stain stick remover.

The original recipe calls for coconut oil. I prefer a good olive oil. It also lists a red onion as an ingredient. I never remember to buy one. A regular old yellow onion works great. I always add more onion to soups than called for.  I love to sauté onions. My theory is the more, the merrier. For this recipe I dice up my carrots on the small side. I like them to fit right into spoon. I use large chunks of chicken. It just seems right to have the chicken hanging off the spoon. I rarely have enough leftover chicken for this soup and resort to buying a roaster chicken. Anything to speed up the cooking process, right? Do yourself a favor and buy a cooked roaster chicken. They make great sandwiches for lunch, or in addition to the soup.

Let’s make soup. You will love this some dark, snowy night when you don’t feel like cooking. Warm soup, warm heart…..or something like that. For the vegetable counters out there, serve with a salad. Alright?

1 tsp. olive oil

1 large yellow onion

1 cup diced (small) carrots

1 tsp. dried marjoram

2 tablespoon flour

1 package Near East Long Grain & Wild Rice with Flavor Packet

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 milk

1 generous cup of cooked and shredded chicken

salt to taste

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Ad the onions and carrots and cook until softened. There should be a candle with this scent. Eau de l’oignon. Oui?

Add dried marjoram, flour, and seasoning packet from the rice. Stir to combine. The flour will help thicken the soup. At this point you will ask yourself, “I’m going to eat this?” Not just yet.

Add rice, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Cover, and lower to a simmer. Let this potion cook for 15 minutes.

I pour the milk and cream into a glass Pyrex measuring cup and microwave it to take off the chill. The original recipe calls to heat in a pan. I’d rather just place that measuring cup in the dishwasher than wash a pan. Just me? I’ve even done it without warming the dairy liquids. No one died.

Stir in the shredded chicken. Cook about 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Stir occasionally. Simmer on a low heat. You want to avoid this bubbling over onto your stove. Advice from my “friend”.

Season with salt and pepper. I think the seasoning packet has enough salt in it eventhough it makes a lot of soup! I like to  have a hunk of french bread or baguette to dip in my soup. Sit back and enjoy. Make a cup of tea and grab a book, Your night is winding down!

Enjoy!

If you’re interested in finding a new author, please check out Heather’s books