I just finished my one and only exam today! Unfortunately, I still have some papers to finish, but I’m not going to worry about that just yet. I went back into the kitchen and cooked and baked up a storm. I made some banana bread as a treat for myself for finishing off the semester, and also to keep a couple of friends sane over the next few days while they study for their next exam.
I’ve been making banana bread for several years, and it’s my mom’s recipe. She has been making it for as long as I can remember, and it’s one of my favourite things to bake. Just make sure your bananas are actually ready to be used for baking; I once got very impatient and used bananas that were not quite ripe yet, and the bread did not taste good. Your bananas should be quite brown and soft, almost on the verge of rotting. This will ensure your bread is moist and sweet.
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup shortening (I use Crisco vegetable shortening)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup mashed bananas (3-4 medium-sized bananas)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (optional, but I add them when I have them around. I think it’s tastier with them.)
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, place shortening and sugar together, and work with a spoon until soft. Add 2 eggs and beat. Add flour mixture and mix. Add bananas and walnuts, if using.
Bake in a loaf pan for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I would recommend greasing the pan. It’s not necessary, but it just makes clean up easier.
Hope everyone is surviving exams! Good luck for those who are still writing exams or papers!
After a couple emails with Jeremy, here are some further explanations as to why certain steps are taken in the process of making bread.
The first preheat for 3 minutes is so that when you stick the bread in to rise a second time for 20 minutes, it speeds up the process.
Gluten helps dough to rise by trapping the gas of the active yeast. It is optional however, I believe gluten is formed anyway with the ingredients in the bread dough (don’t quote me on this, I only did a little research via wiki to get this answer). Via Jeremy: gluten prevents the bread from crumbling and makes the dough more elastic and flexible. If you leave it out you will see a difference-put too much in and you’ll apparently get dough with the consistency of a car tire.
Also remember, if your dough is too sticky when you are making it, add a bit of flour. If it’s too crumbly, add a bit of water. Play around with it.
And the bread mold I was talking about that Jeremy uses is called a French bread pan. It looks like this:
Also note, check the expiry of your yeast. My friend followed this recipe exactly and it failed her twice. I could not for the life of me figure out why, because I too had made the bread twice, and it worked perfectly each time. Her yeast was from 2007: evidently, yeast isn’t that great after three years.
So, as promised, I got a lesson from Jeremy in making bread, and it was a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. He taught me his very specific way of making white bread and I took detailed notes. So let’s start with a couple of points. Jeremy bakes bread with a wire rack mold specifically for baking bread, which he sets on top of a pizza stone (I forgot to take a photo of this). However, it is unnecessary to get all this equipment; you can bake bread using a regular cooking sheet. All instructions that follow are Jeremy’s unless otherwise noted: he has developed a specific way of doing this and it works well, trust me.
-5 cups all-purpose flour
-1/8 cup oil (I used canola)
-1/8 cup white vinegar
-1 tbsp sea salt
-a little less than 1/4 tsp sugar
-1 3/4 cups HOT water (just let the tap run until you get it steaming)
optional: egg mixture-take one egg and beat with a splash of milk
-1 tbsp active dry yeast
-1 tsp gluten
Before beginning, you can set the oven to 400 F and start to pre-heat for three minutes. Then turn the oven off. Why? I dunno, but Jeremy does it.
First, take about 1 cup of the water and in a small container with lid, add the yeast. You’ll see that this activates it and bubbles will form. Give it a good shake until it “dissolves” (for lack of a better word). In a big mixing bowl, combine everything, including this activated yeast mix. Mix all ingredients together until you get a solid lump of dough. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment. If you don’t, just use your hands until it comes together. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough stand for 30 minutes. Dough will almost double in size.
Mix dough again for five seconds. Put the dough on a floured surface and knead a few times. Shape it into a loaf form. Using a knife, cut slits into the dough, about 3 cm in depth, like this:
Stretch out the log a bit and sprinkle some flour on top. Leave to sit for another 20 minutes in the oven. You can then brush the top of the bread with the egg mixture: this gives the bread a nice shiny finish when done-it’s optional. Then, turn the oven on for 400 F and bake for 55 minutes: there is no need to pre-heat, just set the oven and bake the bread.
Once done, let cool for at least 5 minutes on a wire rack before slicing. You will get a beautiful loaf of bread that looks like this:
See the shiny finish? That’s from the egg mixture. Now, Jeremy has a mixer that he uses, and I don’t (yet). Several days after he taught me how to make bread, I did it myself and just mixed the dough by hand. It just takes a bit of time to do so. Also, I baked my loaf of bread on a cookie sheet. Here’s how it turned out:
I was quite pleased; I baked this loaf of bread for Sunday brunch and I felt as though it redeemed my failed attempt at a chocolate tart from the night before (more about that later). I was also pleased with the way this photo turned out.