This tender, moist banana bread is just what I'd been looking for all my life, after trying many different versions. It's got the right balance of banana and sweetness, with a lovely moist crumb and complex flavour from some Jamaican additions.
It sat there so lonely and forsaken
Clinging to memories of bygone days.
Sadness around it was like a grey haze,
Its life had been abused and mistaken.
Inside was a musty old apple core,
One clasp was loose and hanging forlornly.
Its walls were carved and scratched up quite badly
Large dents and cracks showed that life had been sore.
The once shiny tin, now old and rusty;
The once gleaming metal, now dull and lifeless.
Dank smells around it were rancid and musty.
Oh, what a mess, what a mess, what a mess!
His future was a lonely prospect;
bleak and bare,
As he slumped in the cobwebs on the shelf
way up there.
by Margaret Bose
Grade 8, age 14.
During my teenage years I fancied myself as some kind of tragically romantic poet, writing heartfelt poems about the despair of the human condition and the unimaginable anguish of ordinary life. Oh, what is life - to treat one so? Why is life - to be so cruel? (Yeah, that was from another emotional, epic lament written at about age 15.) You'd think I'd suffered much in my young life, that I'd seen things that had left me deeply scarred and broken.
But no, I had a very happy childhood. Simple, and full of the normal ups and downs of a teenager from a strict but loving home. Maybe it was all the books I read. Maybe it was my vivid imagination. Probably it was both (coupled with the hormonal vagaries of puberty). I felt every little emotion acutely and my tender soul suffered the anguish and angst of unrequited love, imagined slights, or world crises on a daily basis. Do you remember those years? Did you go through that, too? Did you have wild mood swings that took you from sheer elation to deepest despair?
I remember how jubilant I'd feel when just a little compliment or smile from one of the 'popular girls' came my way. When going through my teen keepsakes I found a crumpled note from Wanda, the prettiest girl in our small country school in southern Alberta; she'd written that she liked my outfit that day. I still remember the outfit so clearly - a red fortrel skirt and matching short jacket with red and white striped short puffed sleeves that my mom had sewn. That day I'd clipped red and white plastic barrettes into my straight brown hair in a striped pattern. I felt so cool. And the fact that I kept that note and remember my outfit tells you what an impact her small kindness had on me.
I also remember the awful lows; the dreadful feeling of being picked last for any school sport activities, ahead of only Sharon, the cross-eyed girl in our class (I'm so sorry now, Sharon, I can only imagine how you felt). That feeling of wishing the world would swallow you up when the popular/mean boy in the grade ahead of me asked if I'd been running behind the cows, referring to the acne on my teenage face looking like cow manure had splattered me, or the embarrassment of being called a rooster because of the tassel that stuck straight up from the pointed hood of my winter coat which was about two sizes too large for me (bought by my parents in an effort to be thrifty and have a coat last a few winters).
So I turned to my books. I read everything I could get my hands on, from the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, to novels by Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, to the cardboard boxes full of Harlequin romances my Aunt Lydia would pass on to me when she was finished with them. They all provided another world to slip into when I needed to escape.
And I wrote poetry; reams of long, tortured poems examining the meaning of life, simpler poems documenting our life on the farm, and little pieces like the poem about the old lunch box above. I recently found a copy of some bits of my poetry, and I have to admit I cringed reading a few of the long tragic epistles. I'll spare you those. I did share the one about the lunchbox, because it made me think of lunch, and lunch made me think of this most delectable banana bread.
This is the Banana Bread I'd Been Looking For
For years I've been looking for just the right banana bread recipe, trying many different ones. I found a few that were okay, some that were sweet and heavy, some that had so many add-ins they weren't even banana bread anymore, and one pretty decent one from James Beard's Bread book, but it wasn't til I tasted this version in a little cookbook I picked up on our trip to Jamaica a year and a half ago, that I knew I'd found a keeper. Jamaica is famous for its banana bread, and you'll find it everywhere: at the resort buffets, gas stations, street markets, and corner stores.
I think it's the magical mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla that makes this such a stand-out recipe. You can't taste any of those spices, but they boost the banana flavour to give you a rich, complex loaf that's decadently moist but firm enough to handle. Just a few raisins add sweet punctuation marks. The only change I've made to the original recipe is to replace the flour with my gluten-free blend (see the notes below) and to decrease the sugar slightly and replace it with coconut sugar, which adds a lovely caramel note to the loaf.
Slather it with a smear of salted butter for a spot of banana bread heaven.
And don't forget to pack a thick slab in your lunch box. (It won't feel lonely anymore.)
* * * * *
Best Ever Banana Bread Recipe
- ½ cup (115gms) soft butter or dairy-free substitute
- ¾ cup (130gms) coconut sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3 large very ripe bananas 1½ cups (350gms) of mashed banana
- 2 cups (250gms) gluten free flour blend (or regular flour for non-gluten-free)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (120ml) milk (dairy or non-dairy)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (40gms) raisins
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a large loaf pan - one that is 9 x 5 inches (23x13cm) or 10 x 4 inches (25x10cm) in size. Line it with a parchment paper sling that sticks up a bit on each side; make sure the ends of the pan are well greased.
- Cream the butter and coconut sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and beat until it is well incorporated.
- Mash the banana (a potato masher makes easy work of this) and add it to the batter, beating well.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix well. Then add the milk and vanilla and beat until it is incorporated. Add the raisins and beat on low speed to stir them in.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then lift the loaf up using the sling, onto a cake rack to cool completely before slicing.
- Makes 1 large loaf.
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