There comes a point in your baking experiences where you loosen your tight clutch on a recipe and learn to relax. Maybe even take a slightly-out-of-focus photo (see above).
You begin to experiment a bit. Substitute ingredients. Sometimes it all turns out disastrously wrong. Sometimes you create a pleasant new recipe. Sometimes you decide, on a whim, to bake something and are just too lazy to go to the grocery store to buy all the ingredients a recipe calls for.
Thus it so happened one day my mother wanted to bake some banana bread but, having not baked in years, found her baking supplies much diminished. Thanks to my whirlwind baking visit, we had recently stocked up on basic pantry items, but occasionally had to get creative.
No 9×5 loaf pan? Double the recipe and use a 13×9 pan for a sort of sheet cake loaf.
No plain vanilla yogurt? We do have plenty of this wretched vanilla-flavored Activia that no one wants to eat. (Why, oh why, do we have this?) We’ll, uh, try that and omit the vanilla extract. Why not? You know what they say about necessity, invention, and being the mother thereof, etc.
As long as the core elements of bread are there, as long as you have a general awareness of what important ingredients do in baking, you’re golden.
The end result was still delicious. Soft, moist banana bread with a subtle sweetness and bright pinpoints of raisin and crunchy walnuts. Eat this with your afternoon coffee or spread a little honey butter glaze on top for a delightfully sweet dessert. I made a huge sheet of this bread and it was gone in less than a week.
Banana Nut Bread
Adapted from Joy the Baker
6 oz unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and browned to just over 1/2 cup of butter
2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c honey
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 c plain yogurt or buttermilk
1 1/4 c mashed banana (from about 4 medium bananas)
3/4 c of finely chopped walnuts
3/4 c of golden raisins (optional)
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Butter will begin to foam and crackle as it melts. When the crackling subsides, the butter will begin to brown. Swirl the pan as the butter cooks. When the butter browns and begins to smell nutty, remove the pan from the flame and transfer the butter to a small bowl. Taking the butter out of the hot saucepan will stop the butter from overcooking and burning. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, honey, and yogurt or buttermilk. Whisk in the mashed bananas. When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter.
Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients. Fold together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to reveal any hidden pockets of flour. Fold in the chopped walnuts and raisins. Fold together ingredients, but try not to over stir.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and top with thinly sliced strawberries. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Bread will last 4 days, well wrapped at room temperature. This loaf also freezes well.
Honey Butter glaze
1 part room temperature butter to 1 part raw honey ( i.e. 1 tbs of butter to 1 tbs of honey)
Mix butter and honey together, spread thinly on banana nut bread slice.