I have a very love/hate relationship with baking. I love the endless delicious baked goods you can create with baking, but I hate how the recipes call for specific proportions and are affected by tons of different factors, kind of like a science experiment. I am by no means a perfectionist, and I wouldn’t really call myself “detail-oriented”. Sure, I took chemistry lab four hours a week for an entire year of college, but I was not very good at it. My measurements were never precise and I found accounting for all the variables quite tedious and time-consuming. Truth be told, I’m not too comfortable with baking, and while I’d like to learn how to bake like a pro, I still find it quite intimidating.
Likewise, I have a very love/hate relationship with bananas. There are times when I’m craving a healthy, filling snack and a banana seems to nicely fit the bill. They go well in cereal, pancakes and are a key ingredient in the perfect breakfast smoothie. However, what annoys me about bananas is the incredibly small time frame with which I find them appetizing before they go from hard and tart to mushy and overly sweet. I never really know how many to buy at the store because in any given week I could crave a banana every day, or I could be turned off to the idea of eating a banana at all.
Today on my day off, with time on my hands and a much overdue blog entry to get done, I felt up for a challenge. When I looked in the pantry and found two overly ripe bananas, the challenge became clear: it was a banana bread-making kind of day. But most people, I figure, have made and/or know how to make a basic banana bread. Thus, I opted to incorporate a few other ingredients that I picked up at the market yesterday and improvise a bit. This is what I came up with:
- 1 large or 2 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced into small chunks
- Half a cup of apple cider
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- zest of half a lemon
- juice of half a lemon
For banana bread:
- 2 overripe bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup of melted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat flour for this recipe, but have used white flour in the past and it turned out moister than with the whole wheat flour)
For streusel topping:
- 2 tbsp. butter, softened
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. water
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
For apple filling, throw apple chunks into a saucepan with apple cider, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add all other ingredients and allow to simmer for at least half an hour, or until the chunks are soft and a deep yellow color.
For the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl until combined evenly and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter for batter preparation and combine with the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar eggs and vanilla extract and combine evenly. Add baking soda and salt, then the flour last and stir until all ingredients are mixed evenly throughout the batter. Once the apple mixture has cooled, fold apples into the batter evenly. Pour batter into a loaf pan and then once spread evenly use your hands to spread streusel topping over the batter.
Bake for approx. an hour (I had to bake for over an hour because of the high altitude. The best way to tell if the bread is done is to stick a knife into the center of the batter and pull it out. If any of the batter is stuck to the knife then your banana bread is not ready and you must cook for longer. After five minutes, check again). Remove from oven when baked thoroughly, allow to cool for five minutes.
Serve warm with a delicious cup of coffee and a newspaper on a leisurely Sunday morning.