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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banana Bread + Stewed Prunes w/ Citrus & Cinnamon inspired by A Homemade Life

Growing up, my family had banana bread.  Sure, we had other things as well, but our banana bread was where it was at.  I don't remember the first time I ate it.  I don't remember the first time I made it.  It's as if it just always was.  I know the recipe comes from at least as far back as my maternal great grandma.  She passed before I was even born, but it was carried on through my grandma and her gaggle of sisters.  From there, it was passed on to my mom...and surely countless cousins.  Somewhere down the line, she passed it on to me.

Our banana bread smells like home...tastes like home.  It's something I've always been able to make, no matter my station in life because there is no mixer required.  No.  Scratch that.  There is no mixer allowed.  It's always been mixed by hand, using a fork.  Hand-written instructions explicitly detail the fact that it must be done by hand, using a fork.  So we do.  It originated in a time before electric mixers were even invented.  I think.   We've also always lined the pan with foil, as opposed to greasing or buttering (or oleo-ing) it.  As far back as I can remember our banana bread, I can remember it wrapped in the long layer of foil it was cooked in.  I still love peeling back the foil and slicing off a big, thick, moist slice.  I think it's perfect for breakfast.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that I've never tried to make this in a mixer.  Or in a pan that wasn't lined with foil.  Of course I have.  But it never turns out quite the same when I do.  The one exception is the mashing of the bananas.  I've come to like using my old baby food processor to mash up the banana all nice and smooth.  It eliminates chunks of banana throughout the bread.  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing...I just prefer it.  As far as the foil goes, I like to take off a sheet that is at least double the size of the loaf pan.  This allows me to wrap the banana bread inside of it and let it sit on the counter.  We're a family divided on nuts.  Usually the adults are pro-nuts and the kids are firmly against them.  I've always liked it either way.  I mean...sometimes you feel like a nut...  I've also used chocolate chips or dried fruits and ginger instead of or in addition to the nuts.  I don't think this makes much of a difference- add your favorite or leave it plain.

I mentioned that I love a warm slice for breakfast, right?  Well, I decided that after hearing Molly Wizenberg's description of one of her family traditions passed down from her father, that I needed to make a batch of luscious stewed prunes to eat with my banana bread.  Molly says she likes them best cold.  I found that I did enjoy them cold with some thick and tangy Greek yogurt, but I love them even more warm alongside some warm banana bread and coffee...or meltingly swirled into hot oatmeal or grits.
Our Favorite Banana Bread
from the kitchen of girlichef
yield: 1 loaf

4 oz. butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 Tbs. sour milk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
pinch sea salt
2-3 very ripe (we're talkin' brown) bananas (to make ~1 c. purée)
½ c. chopped pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips, or other add-ins, optional
Preheat oven to 325° F.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy by hand, using a fork.  Dissolve the baking soda in the sour milk.  I usually measure the milk and pour it into a tiny bowl or measuring cup, then add soda and stir.  Add this to the bowl and stir to mix.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Add flour and salt, and mix gently until just combined.  Mash up the banana as well as you can.  I often break the "rules" here and do it in my mini-processor...the one I used for making baby food so many years ago...  Gently stir the banana into the mixture and then fold in any add-ins, if using.

Line a loaf pan with foil, pressing it against the bottom and sides until flat, and then scoop the thick batter into the lined tin and smooth out the surface a bit.  Slide into the preheated oven and bake for ~50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick slides in and out cleanly.
Stewed Prunes w/ Citrus & Cinnamon
slightly adapted from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
yield: ~6-8 svgs.

1 clementine
½ lemon (cut lengthwise)
~9 oz. best-quality pitted prunes
1 cinnamon stick
Cut the clementine in half from step to tip, and then slice it and the lemon very thinly (peel & all).  Pop out any seeds you run across.  Place the slices in a saucepan with the cinnamon stick and prunes, then cover with enough water to just cover.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn the heat down so that the liquid just "barely trembles" (<--- I love that term), for ~30-40 minutes, or until prunes are tender and the citrus is soft.  The liquid in the pan should look a bit syrupy, as well.  Serve warm, or let them cool to room temperature and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.  

As with many things, the flavors improve with rest.
Our current Cook the Books selection is A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg (Orangette).  This is my post inspired by the book.  Dare I voice the fact that I always thought, when I wrote a book, it would be in this same style.  Wizenberg writes in thoughts and memories.  There are no sections, rather a collection of short pieces brilliantly written to conjure up her memories and how they relate to food.  It reminds me of Nora Ephron's writing, which was what made me think this would be the perfect way for me to write a book.  I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, specifically.  I think it's a lot like writing a's a collection.  And it's brilliant.
I am also sharing this post with:
weekend cooking

Would you like to comment?

  1. This could be my favourite banana bread too! The stewed prunes looks great too.

  2. I really liked the book & it's nice to see the recipes come to life!

  3. Those prunes look so plump and luscious!

  4. Our great minds again... ;-) I made banana bread too--well banana bread muffins anyway. ;-) I love your stewed prunes--what a lovely breakfast to enjoy on a summer day. Wonderful post and review for CTB--thanks for joining in.

  5. I'd have to say that my family does not have a "thing". My mom never ingerited the cooking gene, and we lived so far from family in England. But it is nice to have a "thing".

  6. I love the recipe and its history. My mother never used a mixer, either. i can remember thinking she had such strong arms because she would beat everything so vigorously. She always said the texture would be better without the mixer. I think you're right, though, it must have been an old prejudice passed on from before there was electricity. Interesting!

  7. Banana bread is my mother's thing too ... she has passed it to all her children and we, too, have it for breakfast- thick slices lightly toasted and slathered with sweet butter. Alongside a hot cup of coffee or glass of milk, it is heaven.

    I agree with your review of A Homemade Life ... when I read the book I found her vignette approach a perfect way to address her food memories and her father memories ... I ended up making her gingered scones ... yum!

  8. Haven't made banana bread in years; thanks for the reminder. I just have to get prunes and make this recipe;love it.

  9. My husband likes to make fun of my affection for prunes, lol.
    I have never tried them stewed, though...I do eat alot of greek yogurt, and I would like to try your suggestion of pairing the yogurt with the prunes.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  10. I love this post and your descriptions of banana bread and family and memories. Wow. Love it. I haven't made banana bread in ages but now you've got me thinking about it.

    My mother always made stewed prunes. I really love them. Generally I eat them cold as is. We use lemons only (no clementines) and usually stew dried apricots along with the prunes. Soooo yummy.

  11. Love prunes and this bana bread look delicious!! gloria

  12. Algún día tengo que hacer el pan de banana. Que delicia.


  13. I think I just found my new favorite banana bread!

  14. Love banana bread, will have to give this one a try! Haven't had stewed prunes in ages, my grandma used to make them for us. They look so good.

  15. Any writer mentioned in the same breath with Nora Ephron is worth looking into in my book! That is just the kind of writing I like, too. Do you read Sarah Vowell?
    I love the banana bread memories. Someone is smiling down at you from the great beyond that you care so much.
    I have heard of stewed prunes but never tasted them.

  16. My book club read A Homemade Life last year and then all made a recipe for a potluck dinner... one of our best meetings ever! Molly's banana bread made an appearance but, sadly, no stewed prunes. I made Doron's Meatballs. They were wonderful, and i've used the recipe several times since.

  17. Love your heritage recipe! I had a banana bread recipe passed down from my grandma and made it a few times, but it was always really dry. Which might be why I never recall her actually making it! I think I just really liked the idea of banana bread as an heirloom recipe. Maybe I'll borrow yours and pretend it came from my family!

  18. I think I might actually be able to make this (the banana bread, anyway)! I love the Nora Ephron book - I have it in audio and it's SO funny.

  19. I love that you have a banana bread recipe that's been passed down like that...super cool. It sounds delicious with that stewed fruit!

  20. Super post Heather. You have a great culinary heritage. No wonder you are such an excellent food/book blogger. I read/reviewed Molly's book last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I still make various recipes from it. I also like her blog.

  21. Loved this post - the photos, the memories.

    Banana Bread is one of my favourite things to make. Not so sure about the stewed prunes.

  22. I am so curious about banana bread. I have seen it around a couple of times, but never had it myself. I will bookmark this to try! Thanks!

    Here is my weekend cooking post:

  23. I love banana bread (and banana cake lets face it) too. What wonderful family memories you have associated with it.

  24. I have always mashed my bananas with a fork. No nuts please, but yes to eating it for breakfast with a big smear of honey.

  25. Lovely to have an ‘heirloom’ recipe like this. My children loved banana bread when they were young. Great for family picnics.

  26. I bookmarked the stewed prune recipe in A Homemade life. It stood out to me as something I know I'd love. I haven't made it yet, though, and the though of pairing it with a much-loved banana bread recipe is giving me new resolve to make both soon!

  27. Count me in as another Rachel who bookmarked that stewed prunes recipe too! Sounds so fragrant. Great post for Cook the Books!

  28. I love heirloom recipes, written by hand, like your family's banana bread recipe! Talk about comfort food. Great CTB post.

  29. I'm not a huge fan of prunes, but banana bread on the other hand... That, I love!! I'll try this recipe soon.

  30. Lovely post and photos and recipes. I particularly like the photo of the prunes before they are stewed.

  31. Love the stewed prunes and was happy to see someone made them :) they were a staple in my house growing up as both my grandmother and my father love prunes!!! That recipe in the book gave me many lovely memories.

  32. Mmm. Does the cinnamon stick lend enough flavor, though? I like a lot of cinnamon, but I wouldn't want to overpower it or anything.