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12 October 2011

How to Make Banana Bread



Banana Bread, a set on Flickr.
From Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads Revised and Expanded.

Hana Banana-Nut Loaf
(One Medium Loaf)

Hana, on the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands, is at the other end of an incredibly tortuous 52.5 mile road--crossing 57 narrow bridges--built in 1910 for horse-drawn wagons. (A T-shirt--"I Survived the Road to Hana"--celebrates the drive.) Much of it is less than 2 lanes wide. It is the last remote place in Hawaii where one can go to get away from hordes of tourists and yet arrive at an outstanding hotel, the Hana-Maui, hedged on one side by the Pacific and the other by a 15,000-acre cattle ranch.

The road is through rain forests, across volcanic slopes, over open range, and along beaches of black and gold sand and lava cliffs glistening with ocean spray.

Four hours later, at the end of the road, I found April Sue Noelani Tanaka Burns, whose marvelous smile was an Aloha warmer than the word. Noelani, which means "heavenly mist," was twenty-five when she took over from her mother as head baker at the Hana-Maui in 1984. Her banana-nut bread has become famous with hotel guests, who carry home as gifts as many loaves as they eat while in residence. Noelani's recipe calls for the expensive Hawaiian nut, the macadamia, but I have used almonds with equal success. (Jimmy's note:  walnuts also work.) Also, I have added (as an option) shredded coconut because I like the flavor it gives and it reminds me of the stately palms along the Hana coast.

INGREDIENTS                6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
                                     1/3 cup sugar
                                     2 eggs, room temperature
                                     1-1/2 cups mashed bananas
                                    1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Jimmy:  you can use up to 1/2 c whole-wheat)
                                    1 teaspoon baking soda
                                    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
                                    1/4 teaspoon each salt and vanilla extract
                                    1 cup coarsely broken macadamia nuts
                                    1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)

BAKING PAN          1 medium (8"-x-4") baking pan, greased or Teflon, sides and bottom lined with                                     buttered wax paper  (Jimmy:  or use banana leaves if you have them;                                               heat both sides first over a flame.)

PREHEAT                  Preheat the oven to 350°.


12 mins.

In a mixing or mixer bowl cream the butter and sugar together and add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the banana purée. This can be done by hand or with a mixer flat beater. Stir in 1 cup flour and add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla extract. Stir to blend and add the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Add the broken nuts and coconut, if desired.

Stir only to blend the ingredients thoroughly and moisten the flour. Don't overstir or the loaf will be tough.


8 mins.

Attach the steel blade.

The sequence for preparing the ingredients differs from above.

Put the nuts in the work bowl; pulse only twice. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pulse to blend. Remove and reserve the mixture.

Put the eggs and sugar in the work bowl and process to mix, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and pulse several times to mix thoroughly with the eggs and sugar. Add the bananas and vanilla extract. Pulse to mix. Add the flour-nut mixture, drop in the coconut, and pulse only until the dry ingredients disappear. Don't overmix.

3 mins.

Pour and spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Level with the spatula.


1 hour

Place the pan on the middle shelf of the moderate oven and bake for about 1 hour, or until dark brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

(If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50°.)


Gently lay the loaf on its side on a metal cooling rack and tug at the ends of the wax paper to slip the loaf from the pan. Allow the bread to cool before cutting.

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