Banana Bread

The last few weeks have been quite busy over at the Humiston house. Between work busy-ness, Shaun's school work and apartment hunting, there's been less cooking and more dining out. Which also means the sad near-demise of some foods that I purchased while grocery shopping last week that were unfortunately on the verge of going bad (a major no-no in our kitchen since we like to devour just about everything that we purchase). So when I came across a free Saturday afternoon and two overly ripe bananas, browning by the minute on my countertop, I decided that perhaps these wouldn't have to visit the graveyard of uneaten produce. Instead, I thought that a quick banana bread was in order.

So I consulted the big guns. I pulled out my copy of The Joy of Cooking - an admittedly seldom used cookbook in my collection (though after this winning treat combined with the ease of use and instructions, I'll certainly be consulting it more frequently) - and searched for Banana Bread. Hoping that I'd just so happen to have the remaining ingredients for the bread, I came across a recipe for Banana Bread Cockaigne. And wouldn't you know pantry actually housed the necessary ingredients. One hour and fifteen minutes later, a moist, crumbly, fall apart in your hands banana bread was born.

Banana Bread Cockaigne
*Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C sugar
1/3 C vegetable shortening*
3/4 tsp lemon zest, grated
2 large eggs
1 C ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 bananas)
1/2 C chopped walnuts
brown sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the slour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (which was my preferred method), beat sugar, shortening and lemon zest until creamy. Then, beat in eggs and bananas, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure that all gets incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Once all combined, remove from mixer and fold in walnuts with a rubber spatula. Don't overmix at this point, or you will have tough bread. Put mixture into generously greased bread pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, as desired. Bake about 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (Note: I baked mine for 60 minutes and the outside was slightly more brown than I had wanted). Cool slightly, then unmold. Cool completely, slice and serve with a bit of butter.

The result? A moist, delicious banana bread with just the right hint of walnut and brown sugary goodness. And there you have it. A super easy banana bread that's perfect for aging bananas. What do you think? How do you use aging fruit or other foods?

*If the thought of shortening scares you, you can use 6 tbsp of unsalted butter at room temperature. Since I'm of the instant-gratification generation, I just couldn't wait hours for butter to soften. I needed my baked bread and I needed it now. I did remember that long ago I had purchased Crisco for a Whoopie Pie recipe that I made two Christmases ago and hadn't used it since. So I pulled out my little baking box and voila...two untouched packages of vegetable shortening (that coincidentally weren't set to 'go bad' until this July...hurrah for the long shelf life of shortening!). I then ditched the plan for room temperature butter and went with the Crisco instead. My Grandma Mary would be so proud. And since the bread was such a success, I'm writing the recipe with vegetable shortening...though I supposed you could use butter instead, but I feel like it just wouldn't be as decadent.