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Saturday, February 24, 2018

For National Banana Bread Day


For National Banana Bread Day.

I recently had an inquiry of “have you ever been to  Hawaii?” My response was just one island, Maui. My very gracious brother-in-law (Glen Richards) has hosted us a couple of times in his condo at Kihei so we have seen much of this island, my biggest regret however, I had to go home.
Maui is a very fascinating island, with beaches, fishing, diving, whale watching and so very much more a week spent here is just way too short. You most likely will fly into Kahului the main city, the commercial and industrial center of the island. Under a banyan tree a city block in size is Lahaina's Front Street, which has been ranked one of the "Top Ten Greatest Streets". Lahaina is an old whaling town that has become the tourist center of Maui. Great shops, wonderful restaurants, like Cheeseburger in Paradise where you’ll find a really great hamburger. Sitting right on the ocean so the views are just incredible.

There is morning sunrise parties from the top of Haleakala, the volcano on Maui, although there has no volcanic activity in hundreds of years, scientists still monitor Haleakala for potential eruption activity. So much to do, so little time.

One of things, the must do things, people will tell you to do, is, set a day aside and take the road to Hana.  The “highway” from Kahului to Hana is just 51.1 miles, so why on earth would anyone need an entire day to drive what should be less than hour down a “highway”? The actual drive will take 2 hours and 6 minutes, so “they” say, but who are “they”? Most likely those who have never driven the road to Hana. So why do want to take the journey? The journey takes you through Maui’s rain forest, past waterfalls, across 50 or more one lane bridges, and along tall ocean side cliffs. You’ll experience breathtaking views and dazzling sites along every one of the road’s 600 turns. The stop and go allowing others to pass you, waiting for others to clear the one lane bridge, waiting for those who stop in the middle of the road for photography instead of pulling over (most of the way you simply cannot pull over).  The drive is very stressful and the driver must pay very close attention to driving and not the spectacular scenes around you. The Hana Highway has earned itself an interesting nickname over the years. It is sometimes referred to as the “divorce highway”. Why? Because it has the probability to cause great anxiety for couples who decide to brave driving it themselves. It is a “white knuckle” drive for the driver, while the rider will be given to uttering death threats as they pass by 1200 foot drops. But your driving through a rain forest, the Earth's oldest living ecosystems.
Plumeria, Bird of Paradise, ‘Awapuhi Ginger, Heliconia, Hibiscus, and Protea are some of the flowers you will see along your way. 

Another interesting sight are the vendors of banana bread you find along the road to Hana. Usually made with the local apple bananas that are plentifully in Maui’s because of the tropical weather and generous rainfall, you’ll find some made with fruit, such as mango and pineapple, chocolate chips, coconut or macadamia nuts. Who makes the best, stop at as many as you can find and you decide. Then of course when you get home and that longing for the island returns go ahead and bake a Chef K loaf, or try my Banana Nut Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls, just close your eyes, bite into a slice or  a roll and wish upon a shooting starfish.

Banana, Well Sort of, Bread, or Cake, or, Well Something

Here are some useful tips to make a really great banana bread and or banana cake, Use overly ripe, black bananas (I freeze mine, frozen are great) for moist bread and plenty of banana flavor. Don’t have black bananas, blacken your own, bake unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet in a 250°F oven until soft and black, 15-20 minutes.

Choose oil  for the bread, but butter for cake. Oil emulsifies and coats the flour, preventing it from absorbing too much water, which results in dry banana bread.
If using nuts, walnuts are the nut of choice for banana bread, as their slightly bitter taste complements the sweetness of the bread.

Liquefy the bananas, (very important for cake) here the flavor will burst through, add the moistness, and of course is part of the liquid needed to form the batter. Besides just mashed bananas often result in small slimy pieces within the loaf or cake.

Bananas should be very ripe. Don't use fermented bananas or those with split peels, which could contain harmful bacteria.

Test banana bread with a toothpick for doneness in three places: left, center and right side.
Wrap banana bread in plastic wrap while slightly warm to keep it from drying out overnight. This is how those peddling the bread on the road to Hana keep their’s nice and moist.

Most recipes call for 3 bananas, I find four works much better both for flavor and moistness.
Layering nuts, raisins or even chocolate chips (when using) instead mixing them into the batter ensures even distribution throughout the loaf or cake.

If like a more caramel flavor to your banana bread substitute the white sugar for dark brown sugar.

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1 cup raisins or Walnuts (optional)
Crumb Filling and topping
1 cup cold butter, cubed
2 cups light brown sugar
2 cups flour

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 350°
Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. set aside.
In a large bowl, mash bananas until they become liquid.
Mix in butter until combined and then stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until mixed well.
Stir in milk and flour until combined.

Crumb Filling/Topping

Prepare crumb filling/topping by combining all the ingredients together cutting them together with a fork or pastry cutter until a coarse crumb forms.
Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with raisins or nuts if using. Top with 1/3 of the crumb mixture. Cover the filling with the remaining batter and top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake for 50-55 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes.

Mix the powdered sugar and milk together and drizzle on top.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Banana Cranberry Nut Cinnamon Rolls
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 packets of yeast
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup banana puree
2 large eggs
6.5 cups flour

½ cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans
2 banana’s, thinly sliced
½ cup sun-dried cranberries

Caramel frosting:
½ cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the 1⁄2 cup of milk and the 2 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar has disintegrated. Transfer to a small bowl. When the milk cools to 110°, sprinkle in the yeast. Set aside for about 20 minutes, for the yeast to get foamy.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 1 cup sugar, salt and 1⁄2 cup milk, butter and salt. Cook, stirring until everything is melted and well combined, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the banana and mix until well incorporated. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add in the yeast mixture.

With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour, 1 cup at a time. After you have added all the flour, increase the speed to medium and keep mixing until you have a smooth dough, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Grease a large mixing bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and put the bowl somewhere warm. Let the dough rise for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 1⁄4 inch thick. Rub the butter over the surface of the dough.

Sprinkle with the 2 cups of brown sugar, the cinnamon and the pecan pieces. Spread the bananas evenly over the dough, sprinkle with the cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Carefully Roll the dough into a huge round log. Slice into desired size. Put them on a sheet pan and let them rise while the oven heats up about 15-20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, cream and salt. Cook over medium heat until melted. Stir together and cook until simmering for about 3 minutes.
Pull the pan off the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar.

Pour the sauce over a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan, sprinkle with the pecans. P{lace the rolls evenly over the nuts, allow to continue to rise an additional 10 minutes.

Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until barely golden on top and baked through.

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