Saturday, April 17, 2010

Favorite Whole Wheat Banan Bread with Grand Marnier

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For some people, it's the chocolate chip cookie, for others it's mac and cheese. Those things we try out, over and over again, each time a little differently, until we've found the version that we will make our signature. Around here, we seem to keep going back to banana bread. We've made classic versions, and coconut versions, lower-fat versions, and whole wheat with chocolate chips, and now whole wheat with Grand Marnier. And I think I'm ready to declare a couple of winners. But first.

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This recipe comes from a small little spiral-bound book from one of Aspen, Colorado's most famous old restaurants, now closed. The Copper Kettle was started by a group of friends in Aspen, recently returned from tours of duty in the Foreign Service during World War Two. Each had spent considerable time abroad, some in North Africa, Italy and Germany, others in Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and Central America. They traveled in the Near East, in Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and on their return, decided to open a restaurant in the middle of the Colorado Rockies. Each day, they featured one menu, with no choices, based on the cuisine of a different country or region. Beginning with the food of France; then the "Latin countries"; Eastern Europe and the Balkans; the middle, near and far east, central Europe and finally Scandinavia.

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Anyway, funny thing to find a banana bread recipe here. But at the Copper Kettle, a basket of bread related to the country or region of the night would be delivered to the table, and during the dinners from the Latin Countries, this bread from El Salvador made its appearance. And so very ahead of its time, really. 100% whole wheat, a thick banana flavor, and a splash of Grand Marnier for depth. So here's my pronouncement: this bread wins for best whole wheat, hands down, and this one, from Mark Bitman wins for white. I think I can finally stop searching.

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Oh, by the way, Yea for Spring!

Banana Bread from El Salvador
Adopted from In a Copper Kettle

1 cup sugar (you can adjust this a bit if you'd like a slightly less sweet bread, but it is 100% whole wheat, so I wouldn't call it overly cloying or anything)
1/4 pound butter (1 stick), softened
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease your loaf pan. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs and continue to beat. Blend in 3 mashed bananas, then the Grand Marnier, the salt and the baking powder, and finally beat in the whole wheat flour.

Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth. Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 1:10-1:30. The time really depends on your oven, but start checking at about 1:10.

10 comments:

Jenné said...

Oh my goodness, this sounds good. I work at Peacefood Cafe, a vegan restaurant on the UWS, and our Banana Bread is incredible; though I'm not vegan, I wonder how this recipe would be veganized.
Also, I love the story of the Copper Kettle. Now I want the cookbook!

Jennifer said...

Beautiful photos!!! The grand marnier is genius in this already wonderful bread!

Angela said...

Fascinating story (is that restaurant still there?) and wonderful recipe! The hubby and I were just talking about making banana bread this morning and this looks perfect. I wonder how Grand Marnier got to el Salvador and into the hands of the bakers during the war. What a time that was -- so many mysteries, so many stories. Thanks for this delightful post!

Anonymous said...

This cookbook was first printed in 1958 and through the Sixteenth Printing in February 1979 by Golden Bell Press in Denver,CO.

Andrea said...

Jenné, I think it would be very easy, just sub in margarine. Or just add Grand Marnier to your version!

Angela, unfortunately the Copper Kettle closed when I was a kid, but it was an institution in Aspen and people still remember it. It was pretty ahead of its time, really, offering international cuisines (although they 'nationalized' them for American tastes) during the 50s. I'm going to make a few more things from this book.

Thanks Jennifer! :-)

Shannon said...

Mmm, banana bread! I really love the stuff, but haven't ever tried making it. Perhaps because I don't have the right tin for it... you've inspired me! (p.s. thanks for your comments on the "kinder" post!)

smilinggreenmom said...

Yummy! I love this and will have to try it using Kamut Khorasan Wheat for sure, thanks!

Kathleen said...

I just made some banana bread today, from Sara Lewis' book, The bread book. Her recipe adds apricots and glace cherries. I like having different versions of banana bread to try (we seem to have bananas ready to use for it quite frequently!), and yours is going on my list. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Bordeaux said...

I always love the food you make, it's invariably beautiful and delicious and accompanied by awesome pictures. With great bits of fabric in the background. Envy!

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Copper Kettle the summer of '81. It was a formative period of my life, which I remember fondly. If anyone knows how to contact the chefs who owned it then, I'd appreciate reconnecting with them.