Some food, some drink.
If God had intended we put quickbreads in loaf pans, we wouldn’t have muffin tins.
Three “decayed” bananas (my four-year-old's words, not mine) languishing in my fridge. Time to get out my Grandma's banana bread recipe and see how well I can deviate from directions yet again.
If Grandma was around today, she'd probably flip if she knew her banana bread recipe was out there in the Interwebs for all to see. Likewise, I'm sure she'd have a few things to say if she knew I filmed a video about her recipe too!
I've got a recipe for banana bread inherited from my Grandma's recipe box that I absolutely love to make. Thing is, I can't bring myself to ever follow the directions verbatim. It's such a forgiving recipe, that I can't help but tinker with it. The one constant in my ephemeral interpretations of this recipe is to kick the loaf pan to the curb. I just don't get good results. Perfectly brown outside = raw core. Conversely, completely done means over-done on the outside; even if you're using a Pyrex pan (which you probably should if you must). So I say to hell with it.
Short of measuring the weight & sugar content of each banana (which are always the largest unknowns in a banana quickbread), I think it's just easier to do individual portions, and make muffins. From a sheer desirability standpoint, I think muffins are a better route as well. I'm guessing here, but I bet if you do this recipe as muffin and as loaf in a one-on-one office breakroom showdown, the muffins get eaten first. Everyone gets their own, which satisfies the three-year-old in all of us.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Preheat oven to 350F and prep a muffin pan with cooking spray. In a stand mixer, cream sugar into butter on medium-high speed for two or three minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and beat another 2 minutes. Reduce speed to stir, add bananas (no need to mash; the mixer does it) and buttermilk. When integrated, add salt, baking soda, cardamom and flour. When just mixed, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chocolate and nuts. Dish 1/4 cup (usually enough to just fill the muffin cup) into each well. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let rest in pan about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.
Firstly, for posterity (and to quiet those pangs of guilt), here is my Grandmother's banana bread recipe, unfettered. Nothing real exciting; but at the same time, delicious in its simplicity. Not too sweet, and the banana flavor really sings, especially in the crust. Chances are that if you've got old bananas, you've got everything else to make these as well.
As far as the changes to the original recipe are concerned, let's start with the buttermilk. Grandma used water (or maybe milk), but I make just about all my quickbreads with at least some buttermilk in the liquid role. I love how cultured dairy gives you all that richness without being the 900-pound flavor gorilla. But wait a sec– what did I just hose up? There's a pH change with the addition of acid in that buttermilk to deal with. We want the muffins to rise nicely, so now the baking soda's gotta be tweaked (increased) as well to ensure a copacetic acid-base relationship. With respect to the salt, no one ever seems to put enough in their baked goods. Grandma had a half teaspoon; I doubled it. Everything else is just garnish really. No chocolate? You'll probably be alright (this time). I know cardamom can be pricey too; at least in the boonies. As a spice substitution, equal parts of cinnamon and nutmeg should suffice.
As mentioned before, the banana is a wild card in this recipe. You'll never get the same one twice. If it the batter seems too thick, add a little more buttermilk. That said, your baking time could be better than 10 minutes different than mine. Time it short and then watch to see when your desired level of brownness is reached.
The cardamom is genius really. I wish I could take credit for it (thanks MM). As you bring the muffin up to your nose to take that first bite, your schnoz is greeted by a citrusy floral aroma that is also just a bit savory. The cardamom also plays equally nice with the sweetness of the banana and marries it nicely to the slight bitterness of the 70% chocolate. Although walnuts play second-fiddle here and are quite optional, I like the earthy crunch. Equally satisfying with or without a schmear-o-butter.
Despite my best efforts to yet-again wreck this recipe, I think this is another iteration that would get Grandma's nod of approval (after a bit of eye-rolling and silent swearing).