As a kid, I was a sucker for platitudes. Especially this one, which I heard at EPCOT: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
Things don’t change that much, I suppose: this weekend I had a dream and I decided that I could do it. The dream was Bananas Foster Bread. I wanted the concentrated banana flavor of Bannas Foster integrated into a bread. I didn’t really know how to do this, but I used my intuition. I started by making Bananas Foster and then separated the bananas from the sauce, using those bananas as the bananas in the bread. Inspired? Insane? Something in between?
Before we get to the cooking, I just have to say that whenever I hear the words “Bananas Foster” I think of the movie “The Opposite of Sex” with Christina Ricci. That movie has a funny scene where Ricci’s trashy character goes out to a restaurant and demands Bananas Foster and when they don’t have it she says: “It’s impossible to find Bananas Foster” and then asks if they have the sauce in the kitchen and the waiter says: “You think they just have Bananas Foster sauce lying around in the kitchen but they don’t put it on the menu?”
As for my Bananas Foster, I followed a recipe from Gale Gand’s “Brunch” book (only I doubled it.)
I sliced four bananas:
[I forgot to mention that the reason I made this bread too was that my bananas were beyond ripe, so I had to use 'em fast.]
In a pan, I melted 1 stick of butter and added 1 cup sugar.
I stirred it with a wooden spoon and skipped the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick you can also add (I didn’t have them). I cooked until it turned a “light amber color” (it takes 2 to 3 minutes) and then stirred in 2 Tbs Cognac (I didn’t have lemon juice, but you’re supposed to add 2 Tbs of that too. Boy I really cut a lot ouf of this recipe!) I stirred until it was caramel smooth, another 2 to 3 minutes:
To that I added the bananas and 1 tsp vanilla extract and cooked in the hot syrup on low heat for 1 minute:
If I’d stopped here, I could’ve served those bananas on vanilla ice cream and been a very happy camper. But I was determined to march forth into the unknown.
For Phase II of this daring adventure, I turned to Pim’s recipe for Banana Bread.
I separated the bananas from the sauce and mashed them the best I could:
To the mashed Bananas Foster I added 1 beaten egg, 1 Tbs sour cream, and 1/2 a stick of butter melted (I tweaked this from Pim’s recipe b/c there was already all that butter in the bananas from Phase I). I stirred that all around and then added 1/2 a cup of sugar (again, less than Pim’s recipe because of all the sugar in the BF from before). I stirred that in and then added 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, stirring until just incorporated:
At this point, I began to think about that Bananas Foster sauce just sitting there (where’s Christina Ricci when you need her?) I figured if I folded some of it loosely into the batter it might create a stripe of caramel in the finished bread. So I did just that:
And into the sprayed baking pan it went:
The oven was preheated to 350 and I baked this for one hour (testing with a cake tester–a piece of spaghetti–which came out clean):
Isn’t that gorgeous? You have to admit, you were dubious, right?
I let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turned it out on to a cooling rack:
Notice the deeper, browner color we have here. I couldn’t resist cutting in to take a taste:
What did it taste like?
It tasted like banana bread only way more interesting; it had a depth to it and a slight bitterness. It certainly didn’t taste “blah,” this was a banana bread that commanded your attention.
Here’s Craig trying a slice for himself:
As that riveting video makes clear, I suspect what gives this bread its “smokiness” (as Craig called it) is the continued caramelization of the caramel in the Bananas Foster. Alas, there was no ribbon of Bananas Foster sauce (sorry Christina Ricci); that caramel somehow became integrated into the bread in an imperceptible way.
If I had to do it again, I’d maybe fish the bananas out of the pan and then add cream to the sauce–making it more saucy, less caramel-y–which I’d then try to fold into the batter once more.
But let’s be honest: this was more a lark in the vein of “It’s Saturday and I’m bored” than something you really need to try at home. It’s a good banana bread but not so good you need to dirty all those dishes. If any of you improve on it, though, please let me know and in the meantime, if you’re sitting around on a Saturday with ripened bananas and some Cognac just remember: if you can dream it, you can do it.
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