Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This Bread is BANANAS! B.A.N.A.N.A.S.!

Gosh, I really don't like that song. But it IS funny, right?  Anyways..... Here at The Chef Next Door, we just got to updating our 4-month Calendar and stood back to realize that every single dad-gum weekend between now and the middle of JULY is spoken for.  Kindof jarring to see each weekend with some writing in it, most of which are catering events! Phew, we are blessed!  So we have decided to take full advantage of a not-so-packed April and hit the lake as much as possible.  No catering event on the weekend? You can bet we will be at the lake from Thursday morning through Sunday night or Monday morning. Ah, the joys of being self-employed.  So last weekend, the weather was wretched.  Completely wretched.  Thought we were going to blow away and possibly lose power on Friday, it was frigidly cold all day Saturday.....   And when the sky gets even the tiniest bit cloudy, good ole DirecTV stops working.  Cable, Internet, the whole nine. SO- with no TV, no Internet, and no lake fun, Chef Margaret got pretty bored.  And when Chef Margaret gets bored, she gets to cooking.

We normally like to just grab our stuff and head to the lake, without a lot of thought put into taking food for meals and what not.  We grab what's in our produce bowl, maybe whatever protein is in the fridge at the moment, and hit the road.  This time, we had way-too-ripe bananas.  So as the storm is rumbling outside, as is my tummy inside, I stared at the totally brown bananas and thought to myself: "Am I REALLY bored enough to BAKE???"  (If you know me, I'm not a huge fan of baking. I don't like to measure, and I hate the floury mess!)

Turns out, I was indeed THAT bored.  I did a quick google-search of "Banana Bread" (Thank you, AT&T 3G Service!) to make sure I had all the ingredients.  Check! Grabbed my camera and so it went......

You will need:  

  • 1 stick of SALTED Butter, melted and cooled at room temperature while you gather the rest of your ingredients
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of Flour
  • 3/4 cup of Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg
  • 1 cup of Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of light Sour Cream
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon of Lemon Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon of Grand Marnier or other Orange Liqueur (yum!)
  • 1 cup of mashed, ripe Banana (about 3 large bananas)
Here they are. Not so scary, huh?

Start by combining all of your "dry" ingredients in a mixing bowl.  First goes the Flour...
...then the sugar.....
 ....Baking Powder and Baking Soda.....
 ...then the Cinnamon and Nutmeg....
 ....then Chocolate Chips!
 Stir them all together.  It looks like this.  
Riveting stuff, eh?

Now start mixing the "wet" ingredients together in a separate bowl.  This would be the Eggs, Sour Cream, Melted Butter, Vanilla Extract, Lemon Extract, and Grand Marnier.  Tee hee....
 Look how cute.  The "dry" and the "wet" are waiting to get married, but the "wet" ingredients aren't quite ready for the big day.  They need some Banana.
 Peel three SUPER RIPE Bananas (meaning: so mushy, you wouldn't want to eat them as they are) and mash them in a third bowl.  Hey, nobody said baking isn't messy!
 I started with a fork, and ended up doing it with a whisk! Was much easier. 
It ends up looking like Baby Food.
 Now whip that mashed Banana into your "wet" ingredients.  They will be so happy to meet eachother!
 Finally, the wedding day is here! Time to bring the "wet" and "dry" ingredients together.  Pour the "wet" into the "dry", and fold them together.  Don't stir them too hard or their marriage will be hard as a rock. 
Just mix them until they are evenly incorporated.
 Perfect. :)
 Try not to eat whole spoonfuls of this beautiful batter, so as quickly as you can, pour it into a 9x5" loaf pan.  Make sure to grease it up real nice, so your bread comes out easily! Don't trust a "non-stick loaf pan" like I did.......   

Put him in a 350 degree oven, and set your timer for a long, miserable, torturous 55 minutes.

 To distract yourself from the heavenly aroma coming from your oven, make a glaze.  And you spent a bunch of dough on that Grand Marnier, so you may as well use it again!

Pour the remaining Chocolate Chips in a glass or metal bowl, add half a can of Sweetened Condensed Milk, a teaspoon of Vanilla Extract, and a good healthy splash of Grand Marnier.  Maybe 1/4 cup, give or take.  Glazes aren't finicky like the baked goods they cover, so don't fuss with the measurements too much.  Set this bowl over a saucepot that has just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot.  Bring this to a boil so it makes steam!  The steam will gently melt the chocolate, instead of scorching it= nasty!
It will look really scary and funky for a bit.....
 ...until it looks smooth and beautiful like THIS!
 Now, the glaze-making process won't take you anywhere near 55 minutes to make, so you'll just have to suffer through the remaining time on your own.

...............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

 DING! It will be the happiest sound you've ever heard.  You must do the "toothpick" test to make certain your bread is cooked through, but it should be.  If your toothpick has some batter on it, put your bread back in the oven for another miserable 10 minutes.  Don't hate me!

Finally, it will look like this.  Practically bursting out of its pan, begging you to eat it.
 Now YOU will have used an awesome non-stick spray to grease your pan.  But I didn't listen to my inner voice, and I put way too much faith in our ancient "non-stick loaf pan."  My bread broke a little when coming out, but yours wont.
 Nothing a little Chocolate Grand Marnier Glaze can't fix!!
 I dare you not to eat the whole thing in one sitting.  Seriously. I dare you.
 Cut yo'self a slice, sit in yo' comfy chair, 
and go to town on this thang!

Going........
 .....going.......
 .....gone!

This Banana Bread is just about as good as it gets.  Moist, tender, sweet but not too sweet, Chocolatey but not too Chocolatey, rich but not too rich....it is just perfection.  You could wrap the bread in Saran Wrap, tie it up with a bow, put the Glaze in a glass jar, and give it as the perfect Easter/Mother's Day Gift. Or just destroy the whole thing for Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Dessert on your own. :)  Either way, it is a DYNAMITE treat, and definitely brightened a very gloomy day at the lake.  Maybe baking isn't so bad after all.......

Cheers,

The Chef Next Door

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