This banana bread happened by chance. I was hungry for comfort. I had gone to the market to make roast chicken and ended up with a bunch of bananas in my bag that did not belong to me. I believe in things like that. I took it to mean that I desperately needed banana-related baked goods in my immediate future.
As a general rule, I’m not good at anticipating banana bread. You have to buy bananas and then get comfortable with them sitting quietly, turning into what look like intensely spotted yellow and brown giraffe necks. I just can’t get relaxed about that sort of thing. But I can get relaxed about eating banana bread. So I let them ripen. And then got to work.
This bread has since been slathered with warm memories. I made it for a trip I took with some friends to the Adirondack Mountains. On Saturday morning, we stood around the camp kitchen island and sliced off bits while we chatted and the coffee pot worked overtime. As we reduced the bread to a mere nub, my mother flipped enough pumpkin pancakes to feed a forest of lumberjacks.
We laughed a lot that weekend. We tasted wine from a local winery called Montezuma, tried on fur hats, talked about hot cinnamon-sugared donuts, and visited quite possibly the most quintessential general store on the East Coast.
We also enjoyed our fair share of banana bread. And so I’ve begun think of this recipe as living in the company of warm friends and brisk mornings. It’s spiced with cardamom, ginger, and allspice and the crunchy cinnamon sugar crust just begs to be paired with a good cup of coffee and a companion or two. It’s a fairly new recipe to me, but it already feels seasoned. It’s just that kind of bread. The kind that makes you thankful for good friends and overripe bananas.
Spiced Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg from Orangette
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
(Plus butter and additional flour for the loaf pan)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2.5 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the banana, eggs, oil, honey, and water. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir until combined. Pour the batter into the buttered and floured loaf pan.
In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients; sprinkle the topping on top of the batter. Bake for about an hour or until a toothpick or cake tester comes about clean. Cool the bread in its pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes and then remove the bread from the pan. (Run a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen it; it may take some gentle coaxing and slight side tilting to remove the loaf, but you should be able to do it without losing much of the crumb topping.)
Yield: 1 loaf
-The cardamom really comes through in this loaf. It's a nice change of pace from a standard banana bread and goes well with the crunchy cinnamon topping, but feel free to leave it off if you aren't keen on the spice.
-You may be inclined to forgo the topping, but it really makes the bread and moves it one step closer to coffee cake. And this is a very, very good thing.
-This is a version of a version. Molly Wizenberg attributes this recipe to Bakesale Betty and Bon Appétit.