Just like homemade butter or ricotta, homemade mozzarella will change how you view this mild, un-aged cheese.
If you've ever had a mozzarella-tomato salad (also known as insalata carprese...
I promise that this recipe will not make you cry. You will not have to put on your big girl face. You will not need to go to the attic to fetch that nearly useless specialty baking pan you bought ten years ago only to find it filled with mouse droppings. And there will be no trips to the grocery store in the freezing cold tonight. Not for this recipe.
This is a recipe you can make in your pajamas. You can make it in a semi-conscious state as you have your first cup of coffee in the morning. You don't have to sift anything (or pretend to sift anything, which is often what I do just in case the pastry gods are watching). In short, this is a recipe for your very real life.
And you will like it. Your kids will like it. Your husband or wife will like it. The people at the neighborhood potluck will like it. The folks at the bake sale will like it. It may be one of the most likeable foods out there, and it is going to come out of your kitchen.
This recipe will make you forget about the fallen pound cake you made for your mother-in-law. It will bury the recollection of the gingerbread men you burned at the stake of your oven. It might even erase the lingering embarrassment you feel over buying frozen pie crust and passing it off as your own.
Banana bread is not a sexy thing. I have seen people try to make it sexy, and while you can indeed put lipstick on a pig (case in point: Miss Piggy), you're not fooling anyone. Besides, save the shenanigans for Valentine's Day. You'll need all the energy you can muster for that one.
This banana bread has been in the Joy of Cooking since 1946, when people were more reasonable and didn't try to turn everything into something it's not. No recipe mashups. No fusion cuisine. Just really delicious banana bread which you absolutely must spread thickly with salted butter.
So, here's the thing about making banana bread--you need very ripe bananas. Some argue over just how ripe you need them--mottled with brown spots or black and unappetizingly slug-like. But I will free you from the tyranny of banana ripeness once and for all. Buy bananas. Preferably not green, but yellow tinged with a little green is fine. Then roast them in their skins until they turn black.
That's right, you actually don't have to start a fruit fly farm in order to make banana bread.
Of course, if you have very ripe bananas or are able to get them at your grocery store for a reduced price, skip the roasting step. I am merely providing an avenue to banana bread no matter what stage your bananas are at. Consider yourselves liberated.
Even better, roasting intensifies the flavor of the bananas and makes them much easier to mash.
I also include some fancy options for you in this recipe. In JOY, you can add optional nuts and dried apricots. I love the apricots, but I also love candied ginger, so I add some of both. You can add both, either, or none, although I highly recommend at least adding dried apricots. Same goes for the nuts--they're optional, but stirring some toasted walnuts or pecans into the batter isn't going to hurt a thing.
Note: Because the size of bananas differs dramatically, you may have extra banana puree. The solution to this is simple--whether roasted or not, just eat the extra.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8½ × 4½-inch loaf pan.
If your bananas are not quite ripe or you just want a more intense banana flavor, roast in the skins on a baking sheet until black, 20 to 30 minutes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat in a large bowl at medium speed until creamy:
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened
Grated zest of one lemon
1 to 2 large eggs, beaten
1 to 1 1/4 cups mashed banana (use the bananas you roasted at the beginning of the recipe or mash 2 to 3 ripe bananas)
Add the dry ingredients, beating until smooth. Fold in, if desired:
(1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts)
(1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots and/or candied ginger)
Scrape the batter into the greased pan. Bake the bread about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly, then unmold.
Cool completely before slicing.