My roommate crinkled her nose at some browning bananas on our counter top and commented that they were too ripe and should be thrown out. Not so fast! I had visions of banana bread dancing in my head, and quickly took ownership of them. As you may remember, I’ve tried baking here before with limited success. But really, I can only go so long without a mixing bowl in my hand and some flour on my shirt (and everywhere else).
The last attempt I made was over Christmas, when we baked cookies for our carpool… an amusing but ultimately successful ordeal in the kitchen. This came on the tail of a wild Thanksgiving meal in which we re-plucked a turkey and shared a massive potluck with fellow auxiliares. Our oven is a good one, and apparently better than most (see: people with no oven who rely on an oversized toaster). But the heating elements are strange and you have to set up camp in the kitchen to keep an eye on what you’re making if you want it to turn out right. Batches of cookies can’t be whipped in and out of the oven and left for their standard 8 minutes while you go file your nails. The oven gets too hot and the broiler bears down on the poor things like the Andalucian sun. So! Bread? Great idea.
A new friend here in Spain, also an auxiliar and fellow baker commiserated with me about baking hazards last month when I visited her in Galicia. She also makes bread back at home, so she beats my cookie craving! (It’s something I hope to try once I get back to the States … add it to the list). So Natalie, this one is for you!
I used a simple recipe that only presented a few challenges: 1) Vanilla extract, as I have lamented before, is only in sugar form here. 2) Butter – I had to whip out the converter because my block of butter was not in the neat little packages from home with the measurement on the wrapper. 3) Sour cream. In Spain? yeah right! Substitute plain yogurt. 4) A loaf pan. Not included in our arsenal of pots and pans that came with our apartment, so I went to … you guessed it, the Chinos. I ended up with some interesting aluminum pans that honestly look like takeout containers with the sides folded up to hold it together. Whatever, it was €1.20 and beggars can’t be choosers.
I didn’t have access to my grandmother’s recipe, so I used this one from my friend Martha Stewart with a few of my own edits.*
Due to the super mega hot oven, I had to tent some foil over the top after the first 20 minutes to keep it from burning but other than that it was pretty low maintenance. However, in my eagerness to see how it turned out .. I flipped it out of the pan too soon and lost some of the bottom. But in the end, it tastes amazing and I saved two bananas from a trashy end. Everyone wins!
* I added 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and skipped the nuts.