This year's Winter Flavor special issue is now on the streets of St. Louis. To get recipes from two dozen top St. Louis chefs, please look for your copy wherever the RFT is available. We'll also be sharing a few selected recipes online in coming days, including this one from Nancy Boehm.
PHOTO BY MABEL SUEN
Nancy Boehm of Pint Size Bakery
Co-owner, Pint Size Bakery
I first encountered this banana bread recipe while working as an intern at the Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire. I had made banana bread before, but I had never made a recipe that called for 32 pounds of bananas and more than 100 eggs. We mixed it in our biggest mixer and made 25 huge loaves from each batch. They served it at breakfast, lunch and even in the bread basket at dinner. As the aroma of roasting bananas mingled with vanilla and brown sugar made its way through the hotel, workers flocked to the bakery hoping for a slice.
By the time I moved to North Carolina, I knew the recipe by heart. At my new job I was handed a binder of recipes that I was supposed to follow to the letter. And I did, for the most part. I’m not sure if they knew I had changed the recipe or if they just thought I was a really great baker, but with a sprinkling of candied pecans folded into the batter, my banana bread was a hit. They even used it occasionally to make the richest French toast you can imagine.
When I moved back to St. Louis, I was looking for something a bit more sophisticated. That’s when I added swirls of salted caramel to the batter. While the banana bread retains its warm familiar flavor, the slight bitterness and saltiness of the caramel contrasts amazingly with the moist, dense sweetness of this tender quick bread. This caramel recipe is also great drizzled over ice cream or stirred into your coffee. I would recommend making the caramel sauce the day before so that it can chill in the refrigerator overnight.
These days, I make many versions including walnut streusel-topped “lil loafies” at Pint Size. Feel free to fold in what you like. Perhaps a handful of chocolate chips and a swirl of peanut butter. Right now I’m hooked on the salted caramel version. No matter how many times I make this recipe, the smell is always intoxicating and I can never wait for it to cool completely before devouring a warm slice.
Salted Caramel Banana Bread
- 4 very ripe bananas
- 2 ¼ cups brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 5 oz milk
- Caramel sauce, made one day before (see recipe below)
- 2 tsp flake sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 x 5x 3-inch loaf pans with pan spray and dust with flour. In a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment to combine the bananas, brown sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. A few small lumps of banana are okay. Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Continue to mix on medium speed until well combined.
Sift together the all-purpose flour and baking soda. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients in three additions and milk in two additions, alternating between the two.
Pour one-fourth of the batter into each loaf pan. Drizzle the batter with caramel and swirl gently with a knife. Sprinkle the caramel with sea salt. Split the remaining batter between the two pans. Drizzle the tops with caramel and swirl gently with a knife. Sprinkle the top with the remaining sea salt.
Bake for 50-65 minutes or until the bread springs back when pressed gently on the top. Leave in the pans for ten minutes, then turn loaves out and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 5 oz heavy cream
Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and let sugar cook to a deep amber. Toward the end of the cooking time, turn the heat very low to avoid burning the sugar or getting it too dark. Remove from heat.
Add the butter and stir to melt. Add cream slowly to caramelized sugar and butter. Be very careful; the mixture is extremely hot and may bubble up. The sauce will look very thin, but it will thicken as it cools. Transfer caramel sauce to a heat-proof container to cool completely. Refrigerate overnight before adding to the banana bread.
See also: Natasha Kwan's Jalapeno Soup Will Keep You Warm This Winter