Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Banana Republic Bread

We must always take time from our vigilant war against Fascism to remind ourselves of what it is we are fighting for. "Banana Bread?" you say. "The demonic culinary legacy of United Fruit????" Well, one important way to combat the American Malaise is discerning the Good from the Bad; and recognizing that sometimes, there is Good within the Bad, and Bad within the Good. Good = Initially, United Fruit salaries and working conditions represented a significant step up for Central Americans who were fortunate enough to find employment with it, and bananas are an excellent addition to the produce section of our grocer's. Bad = Continuous, many times violent, meddling in various governments, and our own government's conflation of the National Interest with the interests of United Fruit - something that has resulted in the continued (and well-founded) suspicion with which we are regarded by our neighbors to the south. Some day, hopefully, the lovely folks who allegedy represent our interests in Washington will re-think the notion that our Government and Armed Forces are a kind of Chamber of Commerce on steroids, to be deployed any time our multi-national masters deem it desirable.

In the meantime, banana bread is delicious, satisfying and not-too-difficult to make - especially if you have a stand mixer. After decades of immersion mixers (many times one in each hand) I finally broke down and bought a Kitchenaid stand mixer, which, while it is expensive, is made here, in Ohio and is on the UAW's "do buy" list. It's heavy as a late-model Buick - almost as big, and should last me a really long time.

While I would love to take credit for this recipe, it is actually from the Epicurious.com website. Was originally printed in Gourmet Magazine and is credited to a bakeshop called Flour, in Boston. The only change I've made is that I use sour cream instead of creme fraiche, because well, you try and get creme fraiche in near-East L.A. But whatever kind of fermented dairy product you choose, this banana bread kicks ass, and it does so twice, as it renders two loaves. Guaranteed to be a hit at your next subversive get-together, except with that one person who can always be counted on to take you to task for everything from your ingredients to the fact that the electricity to bake your bread came from a coal-fired electricity plant.

But then, we all have blood on our hands, don't we?


3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/4 cup crème fraîche
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 oz), toasted and chopped

Special equipment: a standing electric mixer


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Cooks' note:
• Banana bread keeps, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature 2 days or frozen 1 month.

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