Saturday, April 17, 2010
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.
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.
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.
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
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.