Saturday, 19 June 2010

Bread-masked Cake

Bananas and I have, in the past, had a tumultuous relationship.

In younger years, I liked them tangy and slightly green. Preferably just past the totally unripe, palate puckering phase, but before the full-on cloying sweetness of standard ripeness.

This may be due to the fact that as a child, I was convinced that banana slugs (quite common, out here in the woods) were nothing less than excessively ripe bananas. The slug's shape, sliminess, and black-spottedness all led me down the line of thought that a banana, left on the counter, in the compost, or anywhere in between, would make the slow progression towards slughood as it ripened, the final stage of ripeness resulting in a magical transformation to life and (slow) movement.

Considering this, it only makes sense that I would choose to eat bananas as far from their slug phase of life as possible. In retrospect, what really intrigues me is that I was willing to eat them at all.

Richard's banana bread changed all of this. It started with one bite - oozing chocolate and gooey banana tucked into something that barely passed as bread. I asked for (demanded?) the recipe, and what followed later in my inbox was a short simple recipe title "Sarah's Banana Bread."

Thank you Sarah. Thank you Richard. I've now learned to appreciate a darkening bunch of bananas, not as a biological wonder, but rather as culinary opportunity.

Because once I tasted a great banana bread, even thoughts of slimy creatures could not turn my eyes from bananas so ripe their skins had turned the color of charcoal. What was passed on to me was a short list of ingredients, with directions to stir and bake. Quickly I baked it up, and quickly I realized that success was not hard won with this recipe.

This cake/bread won me friends in college. This cake/bread survived a trip to Scotland. This cake/bread can heal wounds a many.

The base of the cake/bread is moist and light, allowing plenty of room for personalized tweakign with additions. Sarah added nuts. Richard added chocolate. I took away the nuts, and added coconut instead.

The addition of coconut was when things really got dangerous. I baked a "loaf" the day my mother and sister were supposed to arrive home from a month long trip to Colorado. I had a recent heart wound, and Laila had just had knee surgery, so the cake was to be healing in more ways that one. Exiting the oven, the warm cake (the chocolate pieces melting, the banana pieces like warm custard, the cake tender with heat) was impossible to resist. A half a cake later, they arrived in the dusty Volvo station wagon. The remnants of the cake, though cooled, were eaten quickly.

I'm convinced that, though perhaps it was no miracle cure, it at least got things kick-started. The healing (heart and knee) had begun.

Banana cake/bread

1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp basking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with butter. Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl.

1 cup mashed banana (I like to leave some chunks about the size of a nickle)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 dried unsweetened coconut

Do not overmix.

Smooth into the loaf pan, and bake 45-50 minutes. Let cool if you can.