Here in Minnesota there is a timeless tradition of going to the “cabin.” During the summer everyone heads out of the city on the weekend to fish, and during the winter they still fish, but on frozen lakes. I am not originally from around here and have not quite embraced this weekend exodus, but I have a friend who is and she lures me to her cabin, not with the prospect of fishing, but with her banana bread. She always bakes the loaf in the early morning while I am sleeping; I wake to the fabulous smell of the bread and fresh coffee. It is sweet and cakey, much lighter than this fruity bread has the reputation for. After 17 years in Minnesota I still don’t have a cabin, but I am grateful for the 5-hour drive to my friend’s, just to have her banana bread.
I also keep a stash of overly ripe bananas in my freezer, so I can make it at home. The flavor of this recipe depends on the sweetness of the fruit. Those black spotted bananas your kids don’t want to eat in their lunch are perfect. If you don’t have any overly ripe ones on hand, you can roast the fruit to bring out the sweetness. Just throw your yellow bananas; the green ones won’t work, on to a cookie sheet, peels and all. Pierce the skins and bake them at 350°F for about 45 minutes. Let the bananas cool and then peel and mash.
2 cups (about 4 medium sized or 1 pound) very ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (scoop and sweep)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (4 ounces) vegetable oil
¾ cup pecan pieces (optional)
To make the banana bread:
Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Butter two 8.5 x 4.5 Inch loaf pans, set aside.
In a bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar, brown sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 4 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and slowly drizzle in the oil while the beater is on medium low speed.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the mashed bananas in 3 batches, mixing just enough to combine them. Add the nuts and mix just to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth out the top. Bake for about 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. If the top is over browning after 45 minutes, gently drape the top with foil.