Butter and banana bread
Baking is a passion of mine, and I find the entire process therapeutic. It's one of the few activities in which I am able to completely focus on the task at hand without my never-ending to-do list running through my mind.
I love to bake for my family, but I don't eat much of my goodies. One exception is a recipe I've been making since I was a little girl. In fact, I made this family favorite so often that my mother eventually dubbed it "Sarah's Banana Bread."
This recipe has been in my family for at least 60 years, when my grandmother found it featured on a package of C&H sugar. My mother kept her copy on a recipe card, which she had laminated for me years ago to preserve my written endorsement at the end: "Try it, it's great."
Nearly everyone I know enjoys banana bread, and this versatile, quick bread has many variations. Our banana bread is dense with a light, crumbly texture, but others I've enjoyed can be thick and gooey. I usually make my banana bread plain and serve it warm with good butter, but it's also great with toasted nuts, any type of dried fruit or chunks of good chocolate. Chocolate chips work well, too.
Bananas so quickly brown, and this bread is a great way to make sure they're not wasted. If you have overripe bananas but aren't ready to use them just yet, they freeze well for several months in a plastic storage bag.
This is another straightforward recipe that is ideal for making with children, and we encourage you to make them part of the process. Bringing kids into the action, even little kids, exposes them to food in a new and different way, and often makes them more willing to try new foods.
For this recipe, I use three very ripe bananas. The first step is to cream the butter and sugar, and this step is responsible for creating the wonderful texture of this banana bread.
Creaming butter and sugar is not hard, but many people underestimate the length of time required to do it properly. I used to be guilty of this myself -- I would mix the butter, often cold, together with the sugar until they appeared well combined, usually about a minute or so. But to do it right, use room temperature, unsalted butter, and mix it on medium speed for about five to seven minutes until it becomes very pale in color and light and fluffy in texture.
The amount of salt in salted butter can vary greatly by brand, so using unsalted butter and adding the salt separately will ensure consistent results.
Tony enjoys my banana bread with his morning coffee; my parents love it toasted; and my son Gio usually eats his plain.
Whether you make this version or your own, it's hard to beat the universal appeal of banana bread.
Sarah's Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (one stick), room temperature and cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating hard after adding each. Stir in the mashed bananas and lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together and then add to the banana mixture. Mix on medium speed until well combined.
Pour into one large, greased bread pan or two smaller loaf pans. Bake at 375 for one hour, or until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan.
• Take time to properly cream the sugar and butter, as this will allow enough air to be incorporated in the batter, resulting in a lovely, dense texture.
• Add other ingredients like toasted nuts, dried fruit or chocolate. I prefer to chop up a bar of good, dark chocolate, but chocolate chips will work well, too.
-- Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple own Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and live in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.