banana bread with rum and almonds and turbinado sugar topping

banana bread

On a whim, I added rum to this recipe. This is my favorite recipe for banana bread that originally came from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook. Over the years I’ve tinkered with it and it has stood up remarkably well to the indignities to which it was subjected by an inexperienced baker.  For example, I once reduced the amount of sugar in it by one-third. That was a bad idea because the result was not as tender nor as sweet. One early departure from the original recipe was to use a slightly smaller loaf pan size than the 9-inch pan in the original recipe. I like a taller loaf. Encouraged, I kept experimenting with the recipe. I have used brown sugar when I ran out of white, which was great. The bread simply was a darker color because of the substitution.   I’ve thrown raisins in but I prefer it with dried cranberries, which are slightly tart instead of super-sweet, and bake up plump and moist. This time I’ve splashed rum into the batter, and I added a topping of sugar and almonds. The result of this latest experimentation baked up wonderfully moist with a fine crumb and a crunchy caramelized topping.

Banana Bread with Rum and Almonds and Turbinado Sugar Topping

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup superfine sugar
2 eggs well beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries, optional
3 tablespoons dark rum, optional

Topping:
1/4 cup turbinado or brown sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350˚F and grease one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pan or four two 7×4 inch mini-loaf pans. Spray with cooking spray to cut down on calories.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, reduce the heat to 325˚F

Sift together the dry ingredients: flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Cream the shortening, adding sugar gradually. Cream until light and fluffy. Add the rum, if using. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. If using raisins or cranberries, add to the bananas. Add the flour, mixing until just blended, alternating with half the bananas-raisin/cranberry mixture. Mix in half the remaining flour then add the rest of the bananas-raisin/cranberry mixture. Finally, add the rest of the flour. Do not over mix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to mix the topping and lightly press it into the top of the batter. Bake 50 minutes or until done. [40 minutes in a convection oven]

Cake Baker’s Note: If the pan has a dark non-stick finish, test the bread after 45 minutes. If the tester comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven.

banana bread

Advertisements

night of the spiderman

Spiderman the musical. What a concept. With Gotham City’s tilted perspectives, conflicted mutant superhero and super-evil villain, and great acrobatics mimicking computer generated special effects, this Spidey even got angst. Unlike another Gotham superhero, this one also got the girl.  There was never any doubt that the good guy would vanquish evil. It was great escapist fantasy for a couple of hours!

After we got back to the apartment I decided to make a post-show treat. Bulla! In Jamaica, a common shout on the playground was “yu get bulla!” meaning, zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. I got this recipe from Peter and Karen’s copy of Traditional Jamaican Cookery by Norma Benghiat (pronounced ben-gate). Besides a playground taunt, bulla is a quick bread made from flour and spices. It is always baked as a round loaf. I’ve begun to wonder if “bulla” is derived from the French boule which means “ball” and is a round loaf of bread.  It reminded me of an Irish soda bread and I wondered if this might be another ancestor of the bulla. Its etymology notwithstanding, this bulla came out dense, slightly sweet and delicately spicy.

3 cups flour plus extra for rolling and dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 /2 cup sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup water (originally 1:1)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Melt a tablespoon of butter and add 1/2 tablespoon of flour. Use a pastry brush to apply the butter mixture to the bottom and sides of a 9″ round pan. If using a pan with a dark nonstick finish, reduce the heat to 350 and remove the bulla from the oven 5 minutes before cooking time is up.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice. Mix in ginger and  melted butter. Gradually add the sugar water to make a firm dough.

Knead the dough until the sides of the bowl are clean and the ball of dough not sticky. Roll out dough on lightly floured board until it is 1/2 inch thick. Roll the dough into a 9” circle. Dust both sides lightly with flour. Put the dough in the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Eat the bulla warm with butter and jam.

coconut bread

I tried this recipe in the Land of Coconuts earlier in the year, but could not get it right. This recipe uses dried unsweetened coconut, which was not available in the supermarkets although I could get fresh young coconuts, tins of coconut milk, and cartons of coconut juice. Apparently the Thai do not bake with dessicated coconut, or if they must, they prepare it from scratch.  I wanted something simpler! I had to go back to New York to get dessicated coconut for this recipe in Chinatown. This recipe for coconut bread comes from Bill Granger in Australia. It is a quick bread so it is simple to assemble the ingredients, mix them, and bake them.

Coconut Bread

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups (300ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup caster sugar or superfine sugar (U.S.)
1 1/2 cups (150g or 5.29 ounces) dried unsweetened shredded coconut
6 tablespoons (75g or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (180 degrees Celsius) and grease and flour one 9”x5” loaf tin (or 9 inch square baking dish). Melt butter in a glass one-cup measure in the microwave and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl and add the cinnamon, sugar and coconut. Stir to combine and make a well in the center.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together and pour into the flour mixture and mix until just combined before adding the melted butter.  Stir until the mixture is smooth, being careful not to over mix.
  4. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and up to an additional 10 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Leave loaf in the pan to cool for 5 minutes before removing and placing onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Half Loaf

The bread turned out to have a moist texture and a fine crumb with a delicate coconut flavor. Up close you could see little white specks of grated coconut. The crust was hard and brown because the oven I’m using is being temperamental (It needs calibrating, Hugo says.) and browns the outside before cooking the inside. Lorraine and Hugo said it was good that way, like a crusty French bread.