03 July 2010

You wanna piece of this? Hunh? HUNH? You wanna piece? of THIS?

I was always taught that it is good and right to show people you love and respect them by feeding them. I think, had Moses been Italian-American, he'd have scribbled that down somewhere in the Ten Commandments. But I digress. This is not a freedom of religion post-- it's a "bad-ass" post (grrr!). My friend has a group of buddies with whom he plays Texas Hold 'Em and watches the UFC fights. I'm not so much into the poker (I have a wretched poker face, so it's easier for me just to give my money away directly to a charity), but I am definitely into the UFC (particularly Georges Rush St. Pierre: rowr!) So any chance to hang out with good company and watch very athletic men kick, punch, and grapple the snot out of each other-- heck yeah, I'm absolutely there. With food!

Now football may have its chili. Baseball may have its hotdogs and popcorn. (What does basketball have? Hmm...) But something about the UFC just screams "banana chocolate chip bread" to me. That something could just be that I have three over-ripe bananas in a basket in my kitchen who seem to be starting to attract fruit flies, or I could wax poetic and say something about how the banana grapples with the chocolate chips in this bread to produce a championship flavour that is ultimately dominated by the little kick of cinnamon. Anyhow, this is what I've baked to help share my love and respect for a really awesome guy-- a Gulf War veteran (remember Kuwait? Did you know there's an IKEA in Kuwait?), Harley rider, cool-headed boss, devoted husband and dad, and a man who knows how to laugh at himself.
Now, enough of the warm, fuzzy stuff: here's hoping Brock Lesnar gets a huge piece of humble pie handed to him, preferably hard enough that it puts him to sleep in the Octagon!

"Never interrupt me when I'm eating a banana." - Ryan Stiles

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread
source: adapted by me! from James Beard, "Beard on Bread"
Yield: 1 loaf

Original recipe:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour is best)
1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 cup butter or other shortening (I used butter)1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (usually 2-3 bananas)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup chopped nuts

My changes/additions:
I substituted 1/3 cup buttermilk for the milk and lemon juice/vinegar
I substituted 1 cup chocolate chips for the 1/2 cup chopped nuts
I added 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon oil
I added 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
I sprinkled raw sugar (brown, large crystals) on the top of the bread

Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar. Mix well. Add the eggs and bananas and blend thoroughly. Add the cinnamon oil and almond extract. Combine the milk and lemon juice, which will curdle a bit. Or just use the buttermilk, like I did. Slowly and alternately, fold in the flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition. Stir in the nuts (or chocolate chips!), then pour the batter into a lavishly buttered 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour, or until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center.

Serve however you like it! (My friend Sheryl likes it with peanut butter. Me, I prefer cream cheese...)

Some items of note in making this bread:
1. It is always best to sift the flour when baking, especially cakes. And with this bread, it is so easy to get a dense, thick, heavy bread. If that's what you want, however, by all means-- don't sift the flour. It's America and you can do what you want! Me? I wanted a light bread. So I sifted.

2. I used a glass pan, and only as I watched this bread rise and rise (and rise and rise) in the oven, did I begin to think I should have used my deeper-cornered, non-slanting walled silicone bread pan. Also, I should have decreased the temperature of the oven by about 25 degrees to compensate for the glass instead of baking it for only 55 minutes. So this is what happened to my bread:
At 25 minutes in: looking good! Hope it doesn't rise any higher, though!At 35 minutes in, I think it's time to take that top rack out-- "just in case."At 45 minutes in: yup! Time for the aluminum foil tent to keep the top from burning!

Now that, actually, doesn't look too bad! Phew!

Ooo! Sparkly top! So purdy!

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