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June 11, 2007

Banana Bread and the Triumph of Mashable Goo


When one hears the words banana and bread in a sentence, one is prone to think of Elvis, eating fried sandwiches and creating a hip-induced stir on stage. Yet, we’re a healthier lot today, having realized that the rich blend of peanut butter and mashed bananas are as decadent to our bodies as bourgeoius capitalists were to the Bolsheviks.


In order to prevent the widespread exploding of hearts, we have taken the relationship down a different path today, preferring to bake the two together rather than fry them in butter. It is highly symbolic that even with this, the two begin down different paths, only to be brought together at the last minute before heat is applied.


Into one bowl you will mix baking soda and all-purpose flour and the base of the bread. Whisk them together to get an even blend.


Into the other bowl, crack an egg, and add a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract, a stick of butter and four overripe bananas.


All of your ingredients must be a consistency that can be described as mashable. The firmness you begin with is less important than your final consistency, which should be that everything is more or less combined into a thick goo.


Among your ingredients, this applies most fervently to your bananas and butter. For your bananas, unless you have taken them out of the freezer, this is less likely to be a problem. When it comes to mashing, the banana is an agreeable food. It understands a small secret of food . . . if it is to be consumed, it will have to lose its original shape and appearance.


Butter, not nearly as amenable, insists that you cajole it to at least room temperature before it allows itself to be mashed.


This raises an interesting question: Why put up with the idiosyncrasies of butter and not just nuke it until melted? The answer is that you don’t want the butter to melt until it is in the middle of the baking process. Unmelted butter helps thicken the goo of brown sugar, beaten egg, bananas and butter. Far better to trick it into believing that it won’t be melted.


Stir together until to an even consistency. If you don’t, once this comes out of the oven, there will be places of powerful banana flavor, and places that taste nothing like banana. Perhaps you enjoy a mystery in each bite. If this is you, be forewarned – people have been locked up for far less.


Now comes an act of symmetry. You have achieved consistency once. You must now achieve it again. Pour your banana mixture into the bowl with your flour and baking soda. Once again, stir these until all is nice and even. Again, your personal taste might run down a different path; and once again, you should be warned that people have been locked up for far less.


It might strike you here to get fancy. The name banana bread sounds wholly unsophisticated to you and you wish to jazz it up with another ingredient, perhaps create a banana-raisin bread, or a banana walnut bread. This would be the time to add those additional ingredients. Feel free, as always, to experiment and go nuts, stopping before you have exceeded generally accepted limits like broken glass or thumbtacks, which have no place in quickly baked bread products.


If you have a greased bread pan available, pour everything you’ve now mixed into it. The batter will be sticky, because – for reasons that none have yet discerned – bread batter always seeks a last moment escape from the oven.


Put down this unrest by spooning as much batter into your pan as possible, which sends a message to any ingredients watching that there is no hope for escape, and place the pan in the oven.


Leave it there for about an hour, after which time you check it by sticking your loaf with a toothpick. If you can pull it out without any batter clinging to it, then you know you have put down the revolt and your bread has finished cooking.


Let sit on the stovetop for about 10 minutes, after which you should turn it out onto a wire cooling rack for maybe a quarter hour (or, if there are no hippies or hobos lurking about, onto your windowsill). Slice and serve, keeping in mind that banana bread is not considered complete until it is frosted with a smear of butter.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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