Monday, November 29, 2010

Bourbon banana bread

I've been looking for a decent bourbon banana bread recipe for some time, and to no avail. They all bombed. I'm not sure why I wanted to make bourbon banana bread, it just kind of resonated with me somehow. Well, yesterday I had these bananas that were about to go mushy, and some bourbon in the cupboard (go figure), so I decided to get this monkey off my back and sort this puppy out once and for all!

Part of the inspiration for this recipe came from a local restaurant called Petit Bill's. They make this Screech Cake there that is basically a pound cake drowned in a bottle of Screech. (And yes, it's every bit as awesome as it sounds -- a perfect follow-up to a plate of their lobster poutine, oh yeah!) I wasn't sure if this would work with a banana bread, but guess what -- it does! YES!! And this booze soak solved the main problem I had with other failed attempts at this recipe -- namely, none of them had any bourbon taste at all (this has it in spades). The problem as far as I can tell is that bourbon just boils off when you put it in the oven, so soaking the loaf post-bake avoids any of this nasty evaporation. And it makes me smile!

I started with the banana bread recipe from Joy of Cooking. You'll need 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix those dry things together.

If you're inclined to go over the top (and I hope you are) you can soak a handful of raisins in some bourbon for adding later (just for flavour of course).

Then dig out your mixer and combine 2/3 cup of sugar, 3/4 stick of softened butter, and 3/4 teaspoon of lemon zest (I used more like a tablespoon -- see below for why!) until nice and fluffy.

I finally broke down and bought one of those microplane zesters from Lee Valley. Holy awesome! I got about 6 cups of zest off of one lemon! (Ok, maybe this is a slight exaggeration, but not much.) There's no going back to regular zesters now -- except for a dose of nostalgia, of course, when I want to use my granny's old zester thingy.

Blend 2 mashed bananas (the recipe says 2-3, but I wanted this a little drier because you know what we're going to do later!) and 2 eggs into the fluffy butter and sugar. Once that's all mixed up, dump your dry ingredients in a cup at a time until each addition is combined.

Fold in about 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (I used almonds), your soaked raisins (leave the bourbon in the bowl for later), and a handful of currants too if you like.

Ease all this into a greased loaf pan and fire it in the oven at 350 for an hour. (Note that this is one of the first times EVER that a banana bread actually finished baking in the time required by the recipe -- I guess cookbooks that have been around for almost 80 years have earned their stripes!)

Once the loaf is baked, take it out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 20 mins.

Then poke the loaf all over with a wooden kebab skewer (try and line up your poke holes so that you can cut slices between them later -- if you go all higgly-piggly, your slices will fall apart later when you cut them). Then remove the loaf from the pan (a pie server is useful for scootching down the sides of the pan to loosen any stuck spots).

Add enough bourbon to your raisin-soaking dreggs to make about 1/4 cup, and gradually spoon this over the loaf. (It's a good idea to have something underneath to collect any spills, but it's an even better idea to do this super slowly and to not spill anyting.) Let it cool completely, and then get ready to smile! Have some tea or coffee too -- maybe with Bailey's? Who knows?

This yields a loaf with a pretty decent punch (fun to take to work for a snack!). You could use a little less booze, or try rum, or add a bit of sugar to temper the fire, or wait a day and let it mellow. Up to you, just make sure you try it!

Bye for now!

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