Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spiced Bourbon Banana Bread

I think banana bread might be the most underrated and under-appreciated baked good I can think of. It has all of the hallmarks of the perfect dessert: it's easy to make, portable, adaptable, and delicious. Easy to make is important, especially for new bakers. If you're a novice, I'd highly recommend you start with anything one-bowl and low-fuss, like banana bread (beer bread is also an excellent choice, may I add...). Banana bread comes together quickly and with only a bowl, a fork, and some elbow grease. It's also very forgiving: the only way I have ever messed up banana bread is by way under or overcooking it (solution: immediately put it back into the oven, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). You can't stir too much or mash the bananas too little. Banana bread is the hippie of the baked goods world: it just goes with the flow.  

I also love banana bread for its sturdiness. It is a tender and fluffy baked good, but is protected by a hearty crust, so it travels very well, whether you're carrying it across the street or shipping it across the country. And it's always a crowd pleaser, especially if it contains booze (and/or chocolate, which is optional, but hardly necessary, here).

Oh, and it uses up old bananas. Talk about turning trash into treasure.

Speaking of booze, banana bread on its own is fairly neutral-tasting, since it's not too sweet, and banana is a great  foundational flavor for enhancing a lot of others. Why should you care, you ask? Well, simply because that means you can add almost anything to banana bread and it will taste good. Of course, by "anything", I mean within reason - think of add-ins you would enjoy in a cookie: dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, swirls of nutella, peanut butter, or cinnamon sugar....the sky is (almost) the limit. The original recipe here didn't call for any add-ins, but of course I couldn't resist throwing in some walnuts for texture. You could use pecans instead, and I've also made this with chocolate chips before and it's pretty incredible. 

But what I love most about this recipe is the addition of bourbon. It doesn't taste boozy - and all the alcohol will burn off in the cooking process - but the bourbon adds and deep and sophisticated flavor that rounds out  the sweetness very well. The recipe also calls for an array of spices that, combined with the bourbon, make this taste like a very "adult" dessert, like a bread version of bananas flambee (just add ice cream). It's very sophisticated comfort food, full of unexpectedly complex flavors and just the right amount of spicy heartiness to perfectly straddle summer and fall.

Did I mention you could also add chocolate? Try a 1/2 cup of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips if you wish. 

Everyone who has tried this banana bread raves about it, and it is nearly un-screw-uppable, so what are you waiting for? Give it a try. 

Spiced Bourbon Banana Bread
Adapted, barely, from Smitten Kitchen

3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed (I had large bananas so used 3)
1/3 cup melted butter (salted is preferred but unsalted is fine)
3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoons raw (turbino) sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup pecan or walnut halves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 4"x8" loaf pan with nonstick spray or butter and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together the bananas and butter. Add the sugar, egg, vanilla, and bourbon and mix until combined. Then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and salt. Mix to thoroughly incorporate. Add the flour and, when almost incorporated, add the nuts and (if using) chocolate chips, mixing until flour has disappeared into the batter and add-ins are evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle sugar over the top, then garnish with the extra nut  halves. Bake for 40 minutes. Then, tent (cover lightly) with a piece of tinfoil to prevent the top from over-browning or burning. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes one loaf. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days, or freeze for three months.


Psst: I know I haven't done this in awhile, but it's worth noting that this is a great recipe for beginning bakers. See all of my recipes for beginners here.


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  1. I love the way you put it: "Banana bread is the hippie of the baked goods world: it just goes with the flow." Touche! Banana bread is so good...especially with Nutella haha (:

  2. Haha, thanks Monica! I have always felt that way about banana bread - it is so versatile! It would be amazing with Nutella! That's high on my list of things to make soon :)

  3. You are so right--banana bread is totally one of the most underrated baked goods ever. It is totally my go-to baked good. Never can go wrong with it. If it didn't take so long to bake, I would probably be tempted to make it every day, haha (maybe that's a good thing?)

    Love your version with bourbon!!! Such a great idea.

  4. Don't you just love how you can use brown bananas to make the most delicious baked goods with? It always amazes me. Your banana looks delicious, perfect for breakfast!

  5. Banana bread deserves so much love, and I ADORE this recipe from Smitten! You picked a great one for inspiration. Have you tried her Crackly Banana Bread yet? It's my current reigning fave, but I might have to spike it after seeing yours ;-)

  6. Oh my goodness, I SO need to make this. I was planning on making banana bread this weekend to use up some ripe bananas...and I was hoping to make a different, more unique recipe. This is totally it! The hubs loves bourbon, so this is perfect. :) Thanks!

  7. Ashley - Baker by NatureOctober 11, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Bananas and bourbon are like... soul mates! My soul mates ;)

  8. Ha! I think you're right. Every time I go to make it I am so deterred by how long it takes to bake, and that keeps me from making it probably half of the time. It's like self control is built into the recipe :)

  9. Yes! It's so awesome to transform the ugly bananas into something outrageously good. It does make an excellent breakfast, or late-night snack for that matter!

  10. Thanks! I have not tried that one, but I'm going to google it right now. If it's Deb's recipe, you know it has to be great.

  11. You're welcome Colleen! I'll be curious to know what you think of it!

  12. This is awesome! I thought that I have made every banana bread under the sky, but apparently not! This looks fantastic!

  13. I've fallen completely in love just from your vivid description! Sounds positively dreamy!

  14. Thanks, Reeni! The pictures just can't do this bread justice, so hopefully the description does!

  15. Chocolate shavingsOctober 17, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I can never say no to a good banana bread! www.chocolateshavings.ca

  16. TheNutritiousKitchenJanuary 13, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    BEST banana bread ever!! This is going to be my new go-to recipe I can not get over how delicious it is! :)

  17. Haha, thanks, though it's more credit to Deb/Smitten Kitchen's genius than mine!! I'm so glad you liked those muffins!!


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