Of all the family stories, the one most fascinating* to me is that of my great-grandpa. My mom can tell this story better than I, but it involves the Great Depression, hitching rides on trains from West Virginia out to the promise of the West, singing gospel songs on the radio along the way, and eventually, happenstance-ly, meeting the brother of the woman who would eventually become my great-grandma. Maybe we can get Mom to tell the story in its entirety.
I was very young when those great-grandparents passed away, but I still have two solid memories of my great-grandpa:
1) Whenever my mom and I visited, he would have fresh, summer-ripe peaches for me to eat, but insisted that they be peeled by dropping them in a pot of boiling water to slip the skin off. This, of course, took time – time for the pot of water to boil, time to allow the peaches to cool before slurping them up, and time wasted (in my 3- or 4-year-old mind, at least) that could have been spent slurping up more peaches.
2) He made the best banana bread. Without doubt. No banana bread could ever rival his banana bread. As such, I’ve long given up the dream of ever having delicious banana bread again. (I had very sophisticated tastes at 3 or 4 years old, believe you me.)
Sometimes, though, a memory wants to be more than just remembered – it wants to be recreated, tried again, honored, even.
So here we are. Luisa sums this recipe up quite perfectly:
“What sets it apart from other banana breads is the huge amount of brown sugar in the batter. It entirely replaces the usual white sugar and adds not only to the appealing dampness of the final product, but it also gives the banana bread a depth of caramel flavor and a warmth that I wasn’t expecting. It’s not overpowering – molasses doesn’t waft up from the crumb – but it’s more nuanced and delicious. Also, you don’t purée the bananas – you mash them with a fork, leaving little lumps and bumps in the batter that give each finished slice tenderness and cozy banana flavor.”
With a description like that, how could I not try to make banana bread that even my 3- or 4-year-old self would love?
…except when I started to mix the ingredients together, I came to a realization that, hopefully, a 3 or 4 year old wouldn’t come to: What goes quite, quite well with brown sugar, ripe bananas, vanilla, and chocolate? Rum – just a dash – a taste – a hint – of rum.
The bread/cake comes from Nigel Slater, and it is absolutely a-ma-zing. Don’t wait 20-something years to make this banana bread, ok?
Banana chocolate rum bread
adapted from The Wednesday Chef/Nigel Slater
A note about measurements: In my “I just graduated from college! I need to have a decently stocked kitchen! I need a digital scale!” phase, I purchased a digital scale. I believe it was this one. It’s super convenient and accurate and has all those nifty weight options. What I’m saying is, I left the below measurements in grams. Sorry if that makes this recipe difficult to convert, but maybe this is life’s hint that it’s time for you start your “I found a delicious-sounding recipe! I need a digital scale!” phase.
- 250 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 125 grams softened butter
- 235 grams muscovado or dark brown sugar or turbinado sugar
- 4 to 5 ripe bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon rum (I used Mt. Gay Eclipse Black rum)
- 2 large eggs
- 100 grams dark chocolate, chopped (mine happened to be of the salted-nutty variety, and it was splendid)
1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease/butter a loaf pan if you recently ran out of parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and beat until combined and slightly fluffy.
3. Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork in a medium bowl. You want the bananas to be a little lumpy and not completely pureed. Stir the vanilla extract and rum into the bananas.
4. Fold the chocolate and mashed banana mixture into the butter/sugar/egg bowl. Gently mix the flour and baking powder into the banana batter.
5. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 50 – 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the bread is browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Remove the bread from the oven and let sit on a rack for 15 minutes, then gently plop the bread out of the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack.
Luisa says the bread will keep for a week or more – we’re on day three and it’s more than halfway gone, so I doubt we will have the chance to test its longevity. Also, this bread is quite good toasted, with a pad of butter. Or, nutella. Surprised?
In other news, I have about five (5!!!) other recipes I neeeeeed to tell you all about. Omg, you guys, they’re great.
*Ok there is actually another story about a different great (or maybe great great) grandpa who may or may not have been a dear, close friend of Pancho Villa and fled Mexico after that all went down, but that story is more family legend than fact. Maybe.