This is for my little sister, Qiao, who turns 11 tomorrow.
In the last year or so, I've been tasked with teaching Qiao how to cook and bake. My hope is that she'll get over her pickiness and be able to appreciate a wide array of foods other than fruit, rice, pasta with orange sauce, and sweets. If anything, I hope she has fun; even if she isn't all that enthused with the end result. On my part, I need to learn how to let her do more steps on her own and assume the role of actual instructor versus exasperated older sister who takes over halfway through.
My mom likes that she doesn't have to fight with Qiao about what to eat for a few days. I'd want a break from that too as it's slightly painful to watch her eat. First, she serves herself rather reluctantly; picking through the food and holding up the line. Then, she'll sit and eat for sometimes up to an hour. Often times, it's more sitting and moving food around than actual eating. I can't imagine what being a picky eater feels like. According to my family, I'd be the last one at the table because I was still eating more food. One of our many opposing traits.
I only get to see her a few times a year and we end up tackling a few dishes. Last Christmas it was homemade ravioli, spinach and artichoke dip, and crepes. In July, we were amazed at how easy it was to make Spanish rice, discovered the effects of high altitude baking on pancakes in Colorado, made crepes again, and let the humidity and heat in Hawaii do it's thing and brown some bananas for banana bread.
Banana bread is like a special treat, even more so than annual birthday ice cream cakes and homemade bread. My mom makes faces and wrinkles her nose at bananas so she would never go to any lengths to make banana bread. Since Qiao and I failed miserably at our last banana bread, I figured it was time I tackled it again in honor of her 11th birthday. It's not a sticky chocolate cake with green frosting, or an owl but I think this would suffice. Especially with the addition of caramel and chocolate swirled on top.
I appreciate that banana bread is a quick bread where the batter can come together in less than half an hour and then all you have to do is let it bake, cool, and eat! I also appreciate banana breads that don't require extra ingredients, extra steps, or extra equipment. In my banana bread, I want to see those weird brown/black fibers and chocolate chips of course. I know walnuts are more traditional but I'm not really one for nuts in baked goods.
I wasn't even going to fight and try something new because that's what messed us up last time. Even though I was in the process of moving and my apartment was in complete disarray, I unpacked the few ingredients I needed to make this banana bread for my last photo shoot in my old apartment. Don't worry, I'll adapt to my new one.
Naturally, I went back to Mary's Bread Basket and Soup Kettle. I mean, with only 7 ingredients in the batter it's difficult to mess up.
We start with lining a 9x5x3" loaf pan with parchment paper and cooking spray. We don't want the banana to stick again! Then, sift the dry ingredients together; flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
For the wet ingredients, cream together butter and sugar. No need for an electric mixer, just some good ol' biceps. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then, add the mashed bananas and the dry ingredients. To the mixed batter, fold in the chocolate chips.
Finally, swirl in chocolate sauce and caramel sauce. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. It'll be tempting but be sure to wait or the banana bread will squish when cut.
So, Happy 11th Birthday Qiao! If Mom or Kristen let you read this, you're probably making faces or saying "hey" all defiantly because I talked about you. We'll make this when I see you next.
My mouth is watering because this bread smelled really, really delicious.
Be the monkey that you are.
Caramel Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread
Slightly Adapted from the Banana Bread in Mary's Bread Basket and Soup Kettle
Yields: 1 9x5x3" loaf // Active Time: 20 minutes // Inactive Time: 1 hour
Banana bread can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and kept out for 3 days. Alternatively, store the wrapped bread in a plastic bag in the freezer for several months.
A mixer isn't required to cream the butter and sugar together. Just let the butter soften a little more than usual (but not melted) and use a whisk to incorporate the two ingredients.
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup caramel sauce or chocolate sauce (optional but always welcome)
Line the loaf pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the edges. Clothespins or butterfly paper clamps can be used to hold the paper in place. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325ºF. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the mashed bananas and whisk until incorporated.
Stir in the flour until the flour is almost all the way incorporated. With a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter in the greased pan. Alternate spooning the chocolate and caramel sauce on top of the batter. Using a knife, cut through the batter and the sauces to swirl everything together. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes clean.
Cool completely, cut and serve.