Here in Minnesota there is a timeless tradition of going to the “cabin.” During the summer, everyone heads out of the city on the weekend to fish (and during the winter they still fish, but on frozen lakes). I am not originally from around here and have not quite embraced this weekend exodus, but I have a friend who is and she lures me to her cabin, not with the prospect of fishing, but with her banana bread.
She always bakes the loaf in the early morning while I am sleeping; I wake to the fabulous smell of the bread and fresh coffee. It is sweet and cakey, much lighter than this fruity bread has the reputation for. After 17 years in Minnesota, I still don’t have a cabin. But I am grateful for the 5-hour drive to my friend’s, just to have her banana bread.
I also keep a stash of overly ripe bananas in my freezer, so I can make the bread at home. The flavor of this recipe depends on the sweetness of the fruit. Those black spotted bananas your kids don’t want to eat in their lunch are perfect. If you don’t have any overly ripe ones on hand, you can roast the fruit to bring out the sweetness. Just throw your yellow bananas (the green ones won’t work) on to a cookie sheet, peels and all. Pierce the skins and bake them at 350°F for about 45 minutes. Let the bananas cool and then peel and mash.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch loaf pan, set aside.
- In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each. Mix in the vanilla and heavy cream.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the mashed bananas in 3 batches, mixing just enough to combine them. Add the nuts and mix just to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for about 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. If the top is over browning after 45 minutes, gently drape the top with foil.
Zoë François, author of "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day", studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world -- Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants, and she maintains her baking blog, zoebakes.com. Her third book comes out in October, "Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day."