Snowing on May 11, really? Just when you thought Spring had finally sprung here comes the frenetic rush to protect the rose bushes and the irises from the impending onslaught of freezing temperatures. Not much fun and I certainly hope we’ve seen the last of snow for a long while, but even so, when it snows and gets cold I’m conditioned to crank up the oven and bake something. I’m sure it comes from some childhood memories of how wonderful the house felt and smelled when the weather was cold and something was baking in the oven. So it’s ingrained in me whether it be December or May.
As the temperature dropped I decided to bake something but I wanted it to be easy while making the house smell divine. I found my answer on, you guessed it, Pinterest. Double bonus, I had all the ingredients already in the house so I didn’t even have to venture out in the cold. And once again I put my “self-proclaimed Pinterest recipe critic” hat on and started to make cinnamon crumb banana bread from a recipe I found on a website called littlebitsof.com.
Recipe Rating: A+++++ I recognize that unless stated recipes are not written to the specific needs of high altitude baking so I made some adjustments and it turned out beautifully. If I had to rate the recipe overall on how it was written I would not have given it as high of a mark and I’ll explain that in my lessons learned.
Lesson Learned 1: WRITING A RECIPE – As a non-intuitive cook I need to have things spelled out for me, at least for the first time I try a recipe. Once I get an initial “try” under my belt and am successful, then the rest is up to me. This recipe left out one very specific and important element that being the size of the pan to use. Loaf pans come in two traditional sizes, a 9 x 5 inch or an 8 x 4 inch. When using a recipe designed for a 9 x 5 inch pan in an 8 x 4 inch pan you can obviously encounter some potential differences – the two most typical being the loaf rising and spilling over the sides of the pan or the cooking time needing to be adjusted for the denser amount in the smaller pan. I will tell you up front, this recipe as written is probably for an 9 x 5 inch pan. I used an 8 x 4. I was lucky. The cake rose quite high but did not spill over but it took 15 minutes longer than what the recipe called for to bake. Please recipe writers, when writing your recipes be as specific as you can. How can you leave out the size of the pan in a recipe? I definitely was not happy about that. That being said, I thought the cake turned out pretty well, but had I been a cook just starting out I might not have been so lucky.
Also I’m not a big fan of recipes that don’t tell you how to do things systematically. For example, in my mind a recipe should indicate if an oven needs to be preheated right at the very beginning. I know it sounds picky but telling me at the very end that the loaf needs to go into a preheated 350 degree oven doesn’t cut it. If an oven needs to be ready once the batter is made, indicate that up front and not at the end.
Lesson Learned 2: THE CRUMB TOPPING – this is perhaps the best crumb topping I have made on loafs to date. It was easy to make, combined into crumbs well and looked as good as it tasted. This is definitely a crumb topping to use on a wide variety of sweet breads.
Lesson Learned 3: THE LOAF PAN – before I start I have to give a disclaimer that I work for Crate and Barrel. But even so, I would not sing the praises of a piece of equipment just because Crate and Barrel carries it. So I am not kidding when I say that the Pro-Line cooking and baking line carried by the store is, in my estimation, second to none. I have both the loaf pan and the baking sheet and I can tell you unequivocally that they are superior products worth the investment. These pans are commercial grade with a texture weave technology that bakes things beautifully while being totally non-stick. At first I didn’t even believe it myself, but when you can pour cake batter into a pan without pretreating it in any way and the cake comes out of the pan without any trouble and is evenly baked you know you have a good kitchen utensil. From the pictures you can see how nicely browned the loaf is and after it cooled for 15 minutes it came out of the pan with no trouble. These are great products and worth the investment, just saying.
Lesson Learned 4: NUTS – I would add nuts to this recipe, maybe a half cup chopped pecans or walnuts, whatever you have on hand. I think it would compliment this recipe well.
My husband is usually my best critic for my recipe attempts and lately he has created a unique way of sampling my baked goods. Once I tell him that I’m satisfied with the pictures I’ve taken for the blog he meticulously cuts out a corner of the cake for his taste testing. He never does a slice, just a hallowed out corner. I can tell if a recipe is really good when he goes for more. He very quickly went for more on this one so I highly recommend it to you.
The recipe below reflects elements of how it was originally written with notes about adjustments for high altitude. Enjoy this one – it’s a keeper!
Cinnamon Crumb Banana Bread…
1 extra large egg
1 cup sugar (make it a “light” cup for high altitude leaving an 1/8 inch visible at the rim)
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla (2 tsp. for high altitude)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large overripe bananas, mashed
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (1/8 for high altitude)
1 tsp. baking powder (1/4 for high altitude)
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 TBS. unsalted butter melted
1/2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the 4 TBS. of butter and combine with the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt until it forms a course crumble. Set aside.
In a stand mixer using a paddle attachment beat sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the butter and beat until smooth and the butter is completely incorporated. Add the buttermilk and bananas and beat to combine.
Put the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a separate bowl and whisk together. Slowly add these dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and pour in the batter. Crumble the crumb topping on top of the batter.
Bake for 45-50 minutes (high altitude may take as much as 65 minutes) or until a toothpick put in the center comes out clean.