I am a good cook. My chili and my soups are delicious. My red clam sauce is my persnickety husband’s favorite dish EVER. My savory chicken ring is so good that I have had folks fake an illness just so I’d make one for them (Really, Meg? Legionnaires' disease? I thought you were on your death bed. ) And my chicken quesadillas have been known to make a grown man cry. That being said…I am a very, very bad baker. My affliction with the inability the produce an edible pone of cornbread is a disgrace to my Southern heritage. I don’t do pies. I don’t do cakes. I can MANAGE to put together Toll House chocolate chip cookies if I carefully follow the instructions on the back of the chocolate chip bag. But honestly, I’d just as soon buy the roll of cookie dough and cut out messing up measuring spoons.
I don’t really know what moved me to attempt to bake banana nut bread except to say it was a slow Sunday afternoon, I had a bunch of over-ripe bananas, and had just run across an up-opened bag of walnut pieces in the pantry. The walnuts had been purchased some time ago for the kiddo (she IS a fantastic baker…she bakes things all of the time…I guess the pastry-challenged gene skips generations) for something she had intended to bake and then never got around to and were getting close to their “best by” date.
Now, I don’t even particularly LIKE banana nut bread. I’m not much into ANYTHING banana flavored: banana pudding, banana pie, banana popsicles etc. (I happen to believe the hideous banana-flavored Laffy Taffy is the work of the Devil himself.) I think the only thing that should taste like a banana is a banana. But the hubs and the kid sometimes whip up a batch of the banana muffins and seem to enjoy them…so I figured I’d put the otherwise wasted bananas and walnuts to a good use. I’m a giver like that.
I Googled a simple banana nut bread recipe: bananas, toasted walnuts, butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, baking soda and a pinch of salt. You would think this would be hard to screw up. You would be wrong. The first thing I did was burn the walnuts. Twice. I got a sheet of aluminum foil, put about half the walnuts on it, popped it in the oven set on “toast.” I didn’t get turned around good when the timer went off and I pulled the walnuts out to find them all just beginning to turn black. I tossed those out, spread the remaining walnuts on aluminum and set the “toast” timer back from the default 4 minutes down to 2. Went to start pulling my mixing bowls out, the timer goes off…I pull out another sheet of blackened walnuts. Fine. The banana nut bread just became plain ole banana bread. I know when my Granny baked banana bread or pumpkin bread or zuchinni bread, she’d always make some with/without nuts. I did not see it being an issue.
I mashed my bananas in one bowl. I sifted my flour/baking soda/salt into another. I gently whisked the eggs and the vanilla into a third. I put the butter and sugar into the FOURTH bowl (this is one of the reasons why I don’t bake) and put it under the stand mixer. I mixed until it was “fluffy”. I gradually added the egg mixture. Removed from mixer and stirred in the bananas, then gently, gradually folded in the flour mixture. I poured the whole thing into a loaf pan, popped it into my pre-heated oven and set the timer to 55 minutes.
It smelled pretty good baking…but then again, most things with vanilla and sugar in them do. It certainly got Jeff’s attention. He was right there when I pulled it out of the oven, practically salivating. As soon looked at my banana bread, though, I knew something was wrong. I remember my Granny’s specimens rising up to the top of the loaf pan. Mine was MAYBE an inch and a half thick. I waited the five minutes I was supposed to before flipping it over and out of the pan.
“Hmmm,” said Jeff, “sort of looks like upside down cake, except with bananas.” And he was right. It looked like all of my banana mush had settled to the bottom (now top). He shrugged, sliced himself three pieces and headed into the living room. “How is it?” I asked. “Tasty enough…but um, sort of really dense.”
Oh well, I wrapped the rest of it up in aluminum foil, figuring I’d take it to work. They’ll eat anything you put out on the break room table. I was shocked when, after lunch, it was still there. I could tell the foil had been opened and closed several times…I opened it to see if anyone had eaten any of it. It looked like this:
See…the day before, fresh out of the oven, the bananas were still yellow/golden-ish. After a day’s exposure to air, the whole loaf was the color and texture of zombie flesh. I assume. Completely unappetizing. I took it back and showed it to Jeff who was completely repulsed…
“I can see why no one would touch that.”
“I can see why no one would touch that.”
“I can’t. I made them a litter-box cake a few years ago and they ate that.”
“They ATE that? I thought it was a joke.”
“It was, but it still tasted good, so it got eaten.”
Coming up next…the story of the litter-box cake. But to let you know, it looked like this:
Update: Meg assures me that she was NOT faking and had a mutual friend/doctor who could vouch for her. You can't blame me for wondering though. When I dropped off the chicken ring, Meg had JUST returned from the VIP section of the races looking adorable in heeled leather boots and jacket and looking every bit like a runway model (okay, a petite runway model)