Monday, April 29, 2013

Pecan Pienana Bread

Pecan Pienana Bread
 I just finished reading a magical and delightful book (A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty), that left me craving banana bread, pecan pie, and assorted cakes.  Please note that I have never been a fan of pecan pie either (that is, until I met the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie at Petsi Pies, but that's a story for another day, amigos).  But that Jaclyn Moriarty, mistress of words, chuckles, and quirky books turned into a tastebud tease! It seemed like half the book took place in some sort of bakery, and the other half involved meals and snacks.  Something was always in the oven and  I couldn't stop thinking about all the treats I was reading about!  

Unfortunately, as you're probably aware, my beloved hometown Boston had a rough last week.  We're a tough sort, us Massholes, and we made it through a very sad, scary Patriots Day and Boston Marathon, in addition to a really crazy, confusing, high stress multi-city lockdown with the same pluck, verve, and charm that has been beguiling New York sports teams into defeat for like, a century now.  Unfortunately, however, the bananas I left on my desk at work on Thursday to eat on Friday morning did not weather the lockdown and consequential 3 day weekend well.  But friends, when life gives you mostly rotting bananas, we Bostonians make lemonade.  Errrr, banana bread.  And because I'd been thinking about nothing else but the goodies in A Corner of White, I decided to combine the two to create a hot mess of an experimental yet magical dessert/coffee cake/hybrid that I'm calling Pecan Pienana Bread.  

I have to admit, I had no idea how this would turn out.  I've made banana bread a gajillion times, but I've never really gone in for making Pecan Pie, on account of not really liking it.  Shocking, I know.  I was hoping the topping would be a little runnier or have more of a solid crust across the top, but in the end it was more like a coffee cake. There are probably ways to alter it to really make it like a pecan pie filling sitting on top of banana bread, like waiting until the topping has entirely cooled to add the banana bread, or using some corn syrup, upping the butter, pecans, sugars, maybe even adding some rum, etc., but I like that pouring the banana bread in when it was still a little warm meant that it kind of created a crust down the sides and a ring on the top, avec un cake du cafe.  I don't have one, but imagine that it'll be easier to get the cake out (less fear of burns from hot caramelized things!) if you use a springform pan.  I often choose to use some whole wheat flour in many of my recipes because I like that it makes cakes and breads a bit more hearty, and almost lends a very light flavor of nuttiness.  That said, this will be more cake-like and a little lighter if you exclusively use all-purpose flour.  Don't worry too much about having perfectly mashed bananas, or little dark brown sugar balls; it adds some nice texture within the cake, especially as the topping and bread kind of bind together.  In a final note, I was rather distracted by the dread scourge of laundry, and overcooked my bread just a smidge.  Make sure it is a nice golden brown.  Not Tan Mom bronze, because that, friends, is hard to cut (but still tastes great!).  Anyways, enjoy this cake outside, on a lovely spring day, with a nice cup of tea and a copy of A Corner of White

Recipe below:

Pecan Pienana Bread
Pecan Pienana Bread

Banana Bread
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 ripe mashed bananas
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup oil

Pecan Pie Topping
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pecans
1 banana, sliced


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x2 1/2 round pan with a light spray of oil, and a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. 
2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt. 
3.  In a large bowl, mix together eggs, sugars, cinnamon, bananas, oil, and yogurt.
4.  When combined, work in three batches to pour in the flour mixture, stirring to combine thoroughly.  Set aside. 
5.    In a medium or large frying or saute pan, melt the butter over medium.
Pecans and bananas in a buttery sugary boiling hot bath!
6.  Add in both kinds of sugar, and stir to combine, turning down the heat to a medium/medium-low setting.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning (this is why you keep the heat low).
7.  When the sugars have begun to liquify and lightly bubble (2-4 minutes later), add the pecans, banana, and cinnamon.  The topping will continue to bubble and stay liquid.  Cook for 2-4 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the toppings are evenly combined and incorporated into the liquid.
8.  Remove pan from heat and carefully pour the mixture into the prepared round pan.  Let it cool for approximately 3-4 minutes (enough time to wash some pans!), before pouring the banana bread mix carefully and evenlly into the center of  the pan. 
9.  Place the pan on top of the lined baking sheet (to protect against bubbling over), and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the bread mixture is golden brown and firm to the touch.  
10.  Let cool for 2-10 minutes (depending on your burn confidence levels here), before flipping it onto a serving platter.  Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt or ice cream, or just devour it! 

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