What a summer its been thus far! I've officially lived in Chicago for just over a month now and am still in disbelief that I'm actually here. Its a strange feeling moving back to your home city after so many years away, but if the past four weeks are any reflection on what's to come, I'm a pretty happy camper.
Although the move itself couldn't have come at a better time, transition is still tough and brings with it its own set of challenges. Like apartment hunting. Having a real commute to work. New job training. Navigating public transit. And, dealing with a seemingly never-ending streak of flash flood warnings and torrential downpour (why does anything weather-related here still surprise me?)
In the midst of all the crazy, I've found solace in dessert. More specifically, banana bread. This recipe is one of my mom's famous dishes, who originally unearthed it from one of Martha Stewart's first cookbooks, Entertaining (see photo above). As I've enjoyed this particular variation for close to fifteen years now, it has set the gold standard for me as to what perfect banana bread looks like and brings with it a sense of comfort unmatched by any other food in my life.
The only real distinguishing factors in this particular recipe are the addition of sour cream to the batter, which gives the cake extra moisture, and a heaping cup of pecans, which adds great texture and toastiness (the original recipe only calls for a 1/2 cup of nuts, but I found that to be insufficient for my liking). I also sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar over the top of the loaf before it bakes for some sparkle and crunch, a trick I picked up from my favorite Chicago bakery.
Be sure to find some people you love to share this with. Or, take my approach, and keep it covered on the counter to nosh on incrementally throughout the week.
Adapted from Entertaining by Martha Stewart
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup chopped pecans/walnuts, toasted
Granulated sugar, to top
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Liberally butter a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. (I like to line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper just to be sure the cake comes out easily).
Cream the butter, sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the dry ingredients together and combine with the butter mixture. Blend until just combined. You don't want to overbeat the batter. Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Blend until just combined. Fold the nuts in by hand and pour into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle a light dusting of granulated sugar over the top of the cake. Bake for 1 hour 10 min until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake sit for 10 min and then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Serve still slightly warm or at room temperature.
Yield: Makes 1 loaf