Do you have any over-ripe and mushy bananas on your kitchen counter or already frozen solid in your freezer in the hope of using them one day soon ? Do you also have other tropical ingredients like pineapple, coconut, ginger, lime, cardamom and vanilla ? Perhaps it’s time to make a very tropical banana bread. And even though people like to call it a bread (to convince themselves that it’s healthier) and even though it’s most often prepared in a loaf form, this is closer to a cake, not a birthday cake nor a fancy dessert but let’s just say it’s a fruity breakfast cake and put an end to the illusion right here !
I never post a recipe on Sunday but I only got back home yesterday afternoon because was called last weekend, in a panic, for a 2-day assignment this week, that turned into a 5-day assignment, to lend a helping hand or rather 2 helping hands connected to 2 arms and 2 legs, all connected to a functioning brain, a caring heart and a network of steel-clad nerves, to rapidly review, reorganize, re-orient, perhaps improve some conditions and provide assistance for the arrival and visit of a delegation of 24 journalists from almost just as many countries from the African continent, for the new edition of the Africa-France Summit, that was going to be held in the south of France, in the beautiful city of Montpellier on Friday, right by the Mediterranean sea, with a few pre-summit meetings organized in Paris a few days before travelling south. What a long sentence … I know.
The French President (with no other heads of State present) wished to gather together younger and non-governmental and non-institutional actors and key-players, from both French and African civil society, to freely discuss about the future (and past) of our relations and exchanges and cooperation efforts and to look into what could be done to improve them on both sides exploring 6 major themes : citizen engagement and democracy, entrepreneurship and innovation, higher education and research, culture and heritage, creative and cultural industries, sports as well as development.
It was exciting, chaotic, euphoric and exhausting. I got back home yesterday afternoon, while still working during the train ride and from home and here I am, the day after, typing up a tropical recipe on a Sunday, as I reminisce about the 5 days spent with my newer and older African guests and friends, some of which I consider to be brothers and sisters too, who have already left or will be flying back to their homes soon.
Let’s get back to baking.
Seeing that we were spending so much time at home these past 18 pandemic months with its confinements and lockdowns and restrictions and that we needed a morning snack every day, with little chance or desire to head out to a bakery to pick up a fresh ‘croissant’ and ‘pain au chocolat’ or other baked flaky pastry goods or ‘viennoiserie’ every morning, I decided to start making this tropical banana loaf or bread or cake at least once every 3 weeks. This implies that I’ve made this at least 24 times, with little changes here and there each time because it’s a versatile and non-fussy recipe and I use what I already have and replace what I’m missing with something else that could work.
I had never attempted or even bothered with a banana bread (before the pandemic crisis) because I imagined it was just like its name implied, just a bread made with some old bananas, which many people do already make and that often resembles a rather healthy, slightly dry, not too sweet nor moist loaf to replace bread on the morning breakfast table, often overpowered by cinnamon and nutmeg and other stronger spices.
From the start, I opted for a “fresher” and “brighter” and “lighter” tasting version with pineapple, lime, cardamom and ginger as accent flavors and no strong yet appreciable spices like cinnamon.
I decided to experiment with my version, using a ½ cup measurement system for most of the main ingredients to make it easier to remember. It’s true that there is a long list of ingredients but I often freeze whole over-ripe and brown bananas and I also freeze leftover ½ cup portions of crushed pineapple (that I blended up in a food processor because we can only buy fresh pineapples or canned slices here) and I freeze leftover ½ cup portions of coconut milk or cream too, as well as little frozen cubes of grated fresh ginger. It’s easier to assemble and prepare the bread the 2nd time since many of the leftover ingredients are already in pre-measured portions, waiting in the freezer, to be used, the next time.
The ingredients do not need to be precisely measured and if you’re missing some pineapple or coconut or banana, just replace it with a little more of another of those same main flavoring ingredients, like pineapple, coconut and banana. Get it ?
To make it, get 3 bowls and mix up the dry ingredients for the batter in one bowl, the sugars that are dissolved with the eggs and oils or butter for the batter in another bowl, and another bowl for all the mashed and blended fruits and flavorings, then combine all three and transfer to your baking tins or molds.
You can prepare a fancy topping (or filling) of whole bananas that you slice (if you have one or two fresher and firmer bananas on your counter) that will remain partly on top of the banana bread or sink in deeper, if you push them in slightly, for a more impressive looking preparation. If you don’t have any fresh bananas, you can forget about the banana topping and just make a glaze with icing sugar and lime juice as a replacement, and even add more grated coconut on top.
I call it a banana bread when it’s a loaf but I sometimes change the shape. I can make 2 larger loaves with 3 cups of prepared batter for each, sometimes I make 3 skinnier longer loaves with 2 cups of batter for each, sometimes I make 4 medium cubes with 1 ½ cups of batter for each or 12 muffin-sized portions with ½ cup of batter for each or 16 smaller cupcakes with 1/3 cup of batter for each. Whether long and thin or square or round, it’s all up to you. They’re all good, just be careful to adjust the baking time for smaller portions (around 25-30 minutes) and larger portions or loaves (approximately 45-50 minutes). Keep your eye on them so they don’t become over-baked and drier.
Anyways, I’m really tired now and need another nap since I’ve barely been back home for 24 hours so that’s the end of my banana-bread-loaf-cake-muffin-cupcake-story.
Have an excellent Sunday … :)