Ok, so I felt kind of bad on Thursday throwing a salad your way as we were about get served with some serious rain, and by we, I mean those of us in New York and whoever else is dealing with less than June-like weather. A few of you wrote comments about bad weather elsewhere and my sunny thoughts go out to you. For the last few days I felt like I threw something totally ill-timed your way. Suggesting something you clearly cannot enjoy right away, it really isn’t fair, now is it?
Since we’re on the subject of not fair, what also isn’t fair is that for my birthday, which was nearly two months ago, I bought a stunning dress. A dress that made me look past the ridiculous price tag as it whispered sweet nothings into my ear. Oh it was something all right – pretty in an effortless sort of way, which is, as you know, the best kind out there. It was white with beautiful light and dark blue stripes. And I couldn’t wait to wear it. But some sad family news spoiled my party mood so I canceled it, and then, coupled with my grandmother’s passing and now the stress fractures from running, the dress’ outing has been delayed indefinitely (much like my posting of certain recipes!) and now the dress hangs wistfully in my closet awaiting the day when I wear something other than running shoes on my feet. Because you know, party dresses and running shoes are so hot right now.
So, I am posting something I should have posted over a month ago, but as things go around here, I’m very easily distracted. I see a shiny new recipe and whoosh – there goes my attention. Which means, that I hide these recipes from you much longer than I need to. And so I’m sorry, I’m trying to change my ways and do better. And I’m trying to turn our unfair rainy situation around for our own benefit.
I bet there’s not a reader out there who’s not made banana bread. In fact, it’s one of those things that people start out baking. It’s so ubiquitous and sits in every cook’s repertoire, like a little black dress. These quick breads are easy, you need two bowls to mix it and in minutes you have batter. What makes this perfect right about now is that it’s the perfect thing to bake when the weather is not cooperating. In fact, I think it’s the perfect rainy day thing to bake.
Banana bread fills your house with a smell that can only be described as heavenly. I could eat the whole loaf in one sitting, but we’re not going to get into that here. That’s between me and some elastic waist pants. What I want to tell you though is how I managed to make something kind of everyday and pedestrian, albeit comforting, into something rather sophisticated and dare I say, sexy?
I’ve written about adding bourbon to my banana bread before, so that’s nothing new. And I’ve done the cranberry bit, so that’s old too. But I raised it up a notch this time around using maple sugar in place of regular white sugar, and that my friends, flipped my banana bread-baking world upside down. Because the hints of caramel and that earthy aftertaste you have with maple syrup shows up in this banana bread. I can’t quite sum up what maple sugar does to the banana bread, but trust me – it is good. So good, in fact, that I can’t quite put it into words. I can say this much, while it won’t bring back the sunshine and it won’t make everything better, it might make you appreciate staying in and baking, filling your house with a comforting smell. And afterward, you can sit back on your couch, a cup of tea at your side, a slice of banana bread on your plate while rain pours outside. And you know something crazy – you might not even mind it that much.
Some lovely folks from this Canadian company, Brien, sent me a nice sampling of their maple products among which was this bag of granulated maple sugar. Made from maple syrup, I looks like plain sugar granules, but slightly caramel in color and made from maple, duh. As soon as I saw it in the box, I knew exactly what I wanted to make it with. Now, you know I don’t plug products or brands here, but because I’ve never heard of maple sugar and you might be interested on how to get it, I wanted to give you a link to the company. They were lovely in sending me a free box of goodies to check out and I’m thrilled they did – because I would have never known about them otherwise.
Bourbon Banana Bread with Maple Sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup maple sugar
2 large eggs
3 overripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sour cream, or plain yogurt or well-shaken buttermilk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp bourbon
1 cup fresh cranberries (you can buy them in November and freeze and use throughout the year, or Whole Foods sells them year-round in the frozen fruit section)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with vegetable spray or lightly oil.
Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl.
In a separate medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on high speed until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, bananas, sour cream, vanilla and bourbon and stir to mix well.
Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and stir just until the flour is moist and no longer visible. Avoid over-mixing. Gently stir in cranberries to incorporate.
Scoop the batter out into the baking pan and smooth out the top. Bake around 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
Let the bread cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Eat warm, or at room temperature. Personally, I think warm is the way to go, but that’s just me.