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Drunk in love with banana bread

Overripe bananas and bourbon make the perfect banana bread. (BRITTANY VOLK, Times)
Overripe bananas and bourbon make the perfect banana bread. (BRITTANY VOLK, Times)
Published Apr. 20, 2018

I have a thing about bananas. They have to be perfectly yellow, with a light hint of green. And they absolutely cannot have a spot of brown on them. At all. Brown bananas make me gag.

My window of tasty opportunity is small, so I love to bake with overripe bananas. I've found the best banana chocolate chip cookie courtesy of Martha Stewart (recipe also listed below), but I've been struggling to find the perfect banana bread recipe. Until last week.

Everyone probably has one they learned from Grandma, a family recipe passed down for generations. But I was looking to take this yellow fruit to the next level. I've plopped a scoop of peanut butter into the batter; dropped chocolate chips into the mix; and once I even swirled in some strawberries. (And no, nuts are never allowed, if you're wondering.)

All those moist mounds were tasty, but they weren't that impressive. The bananas seemed to vanish; there were just too many flavors.

Well, of course. Liquor was the secret.

Blogger and cookbook author Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen (smittenkitchen.com) has also scoured around for banana bread recipes. She posted a picture of a beautiful loaf on Instagram recently, and the word "bourbon" captured my eye. Genius! However, Deb loves a spotty banana, but hey, we all have our faults.

What I love most about this recipe is not only does it have my favorite liquor, but it's also extremely easy. You don't have to use your mixer. An ol' wooden spoon, your mom's vintage Pyrex mixing bowl and some measuring cups and spoons are all you need. Maybe get out your floral apron and turn on some Dolly Parton.

So when your bananas are gross and brown, it's time to mash and mix 'em with bourbon and spices. Bananas pair well with lots of ingredients. But there's no need to get fancy here. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are nestled into the batter for a comforting flavor. It's a nostalgic bite of home.

But, oh wait, is that ... alcohol I taste?

I used a tablespoon from my bottle of 1792, the brand I fell in love with at a bourbon and music festival I attended last fall. This brown liquor enhances both the sweet and spice in the loaf. And the banana is definitely not lost. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. Bourbon and banana seem like natural soulmates.

I have high expectations for my banana bread. Turns out I was just trying too hard.

Contact Brittany Volk at bvolk@tampabay.com. Follow @bevolk.