Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Banana bread and a fall walk

The temperature has dropped precipitously these past few days and all I'm seeing on food blogs is pumpkin everything. It must be fall!

But I'm boycotting pumpkin (because I'm not the biggest fan and the obsession other's have with pumpkin makes me want it even less) and giving you banana bread instead. It's a great excuse to turn on your oven and make your place smell amazing during these colder days.

Sliced bananas on top transform regular banana bread into something magical.
Incredible idea from my friend Stacey.
But before we get to the banana bread, I wanted to share some fall photos I recently took while touring  Graceland Cemetery with the boy. I know it sounds odd to share cemetery photos with you, but Graceland is an historical cemetery built in 1860, with incredible architecture and some of the most prominent figures of Chicago buried there. It's also incredibly spacious and green, and makes you completely forget you live in a big city.

Below are some of my favorite photos; details can be found in the caption underneath each picture.

Gorgeous leaf spotting on our way to the cemetery.

Pops of color around the meandering paths.

The bridge to Burnham island (view from the island).
One of the most influential Chicago architects had the most humble of headstones.
Not too surprising since Daniel Burnham advocated for expansive parks and nature in the city.

Gorgeous headsontes; this statue was about 1/3 the height of the entire thing.

Not your typical cemetery.

Side window of the Ghetty tomb. I had no idea it was so famous when I snapped this photo,
I just loved the architecture. According to Wikipedia: "The Getty Tomb has been said to be the most
significant piece of architecture in Graceland cemetery and the beginning of Sullivan's
involvement in the architectural style known as the Chicago School."

The variety of mausoleums and headstones was endless.

More fall gorgeousness...

I just couldn't stop taking pictures of the trees.

Stonework

Another famous ChicagoanPotter Palmer and family (yes, the Palmers of The Palmer House Hotel).
If Daniel Burnham had the most modest grave site, then Potter Palmer had the most extravagant.

Rain showers that had passed just an hour before and overcast skies really set the mood.

Such unique architecture throughout the entire cemetery.

All my University of Chicago peeps will recognize the name of Ida Noyes.

If you live in Chicago I'd highly recommend talking a stroll through the cemetery. We covered a lot of ground in an hour, and the fall trees really provide some gorgeous scenery!

And for those of you not in Chicago, how about some banana bread?


Tender but not greasy. Hearty but not dense. Sweet but not overly so. Perfection.
Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

The Best Banana Bread, adapted from Cooks Illustrated and my friend Stacey

Makes one 9-inch loaf

Note from CI: Greasing and flouring only the bottom of a regular loaf pan causes the bread to cling to the sides and rise higher. If using a nonstick loaf pan, on which the sides are very slick, grease and flour sides as well as the bottom. 

Note from Jackie: Whenever I have bananas that are starting to get too ripe, I peel them and place them in a bag and store in the freezer. Once I've saved up a few bananas I make bread! But just know that thawed frozen bananas are A LOT more liquidy than fresh bananas. I used 3 pretty liquidy ones and didn't have any issues here, so I think this recipe is fairly forgiving. Feel free to use all fresh bananas, all frozen bananas, or a combination (which is what my friend Stacey does; 1 frozen banana and 2 fresh). 

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts (toasted walnuts or pecans work well), optional
3 very ripe bananas, soft, darkly speckled, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups; see note above)
1 medium ripe banana, lightly speckled, sliced ~1/4" thick (this is for the topping) 
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom only of regular loaf pan, or grease and flour bottom and sides of nonstick 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. 
  2. Combine first five ingredients together in large bowl; set aside. 
  3. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in medium bowl. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. 
  4. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and top with sliced bananas. Bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. 
  5. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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