This is the first recipe anyone hesitant about baking should try: it’s fabulously easy and fills the kitchen with that aromatic fog which is the natural atmospheric setting for the domestic goddess. There are countless recipes for banana bread: this one is adapted from one of my favorite books, the one I read lying on the sofa to recover from yet another long, modern, stressed-out day, Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood. If you’re thinking about giving this cake to children, don’t worry, the alcohol doesn’t pervade: you just end up with stickily, aromatically swollen fruit.
- Scant ½ cup golden raisins
- 6 tablespoons or 3 ounces bourbon or dark rum
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, buttered and floured or with a paper insert
Put the golden raisins and rum or bourbon in a smallish saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave for an hour if you can, or until the raisins have absorbed most of the liquid, then drain.
Preheat the oven to 325°F and get started on the rest. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts, drained raisins, and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit. Scrape into the loaf pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1¼ hours. When it’s ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the pan on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.
I haven’t done a tremendous amount of fiddling with this recipe, but I did once make it, for friends who are more chocolate-crazed than I am, by replacing 2 tablespoons of the flour with good cocoa powder and adding 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, cut up into smallish chunks. And you could just as easily use the chocolate chips sold in the baking aisle of supermarkets.
The recipe serves 10, and uses a paper insert.