banana bread

The year I finished school—for good, with no more plans for extra degrees anywhere near on the horizon—my brother and I celebrated with a trip to Boston over Labor Day weekend. It was the first of three such vacations, as we’d later go to California and then D.C. (and maybe Montreal this August!), and neither of us had ever been to New England, unless you count New York City or that high school trip I took to Baltimore by way of a week in Philadelphia.

So it’s hard to say if the newness of it all—traveling as an adult no longer a student, traveling on credit card rewards points that pay for your hotels and airfare, traveling on borrowed time from work because, after all, you’re employed full-time now—deserves most credit, but, whatever the reason, we loved Boston.

banana bread

The public transportation was cleaner than I was used to. The streets were more historic—filled with brick buildings and interesting architecture and a long winding Freedom Trail that we walked one hot afternoon. We spent a day in Cambridge, visiting Harvard and watching new students wander around tree-lined streets. We bought souvenirs from a random artist peddling drawings of the Boston scenery.

And, also, there was the food.

banana bread

I may not have had a food blog where I could post photos back then, but I still took them: of the bakery cases (and the bakery cases), of gelato at Faneuil Hall, of a box of Mike’s Pastries, tied up with string. One night, hungry and facing long waits at the restaurants in the North End, we ended up eating thin, chewy pizza from a small café-style place where we’d seen it on someone else’s table. If I tried to find that place now I couldn’t, but the pizza I will never forget.

On the day we were to fly home, we rode to the airport, checked our bags and found ourselves with several hours of wait time. That’s when we made one of the best decisions of the trip: we pulled out our weekend Charlie tickets and beelined for Flour Bakery + Café in Fort Point Channel, on Farnsworth Street. Adam got a brioche, I think; I ordered a macaroon. We ate them just before heading back to Logan International, where I wouldn’t want to eat another thing, lest I lose that sweet, sweet, satisfying taste in my mouth.

slice of bread

So when Monday, going through old food magazines on my day off work, I found Joanne Chang, pastry chef/owner of Flour, featured in Gourmet, I knew what I had to do. Tearing her banana bread recipe out of the glossy folds, I pulled three saved bananas out of the freezer and headed to the store for three more.

The golden, hearty loaves that resulted were the perfect snack that afternoon (and breakfast the past few mornings), moist and sweet. You could say they are the definition of comfort, at once familiar and yet unique, easy to love—just like the bakery, and the city, that they came from.

Banana Bread
Adapted from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Cafe, as seen in Gourmet, August 2003

To her basic recipe, I made only a few small alterations, doing without walnuts and subbing sour cream/heavy cream for the crème fraiche that my store was out of. After a bit of stirring, pouring and baking, what resulted was two hearty golden loaves, slightly cracked on top and with a crust made for holding in your hand. I made one with chocolate chips and one without, and my taste testers varied on which was preferred.

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/8 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess. (I actually used one metal and one glass, and the glass pan was a touch smaller; it all still worked out.)

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing; then mix in bananas, sour cream, heavy cream and vanilla. Take bowl away from mixer and fold in flour mixture, gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Adrienne

    Oooh, I work right across the bridge from Flour – if you ever make it back you HAVE to try their hummus sandwich. It’s amazing. Also, heads up – those bakery photo links aren’t working…

  2. Lan

    i definitely don’t consider Baltimore as part of New England. we are below the mason dixon, we’re more mid atlantic. :) i wholeheartedly agree with you that Boston’s public system is fantastic, clean and efficient.

    i’m loving the idea of adding chocolate chips to the bread, it’s the only way to start the morning off correctly.

  3. Shannalee

    Adrienne – So. Jealous. I hope I make it back again because I am so down for the humus sandwich. (Thanks about the heads up re: the links, btw! Fixing them now.)

    Lan – It was a very quick trip and all I remember was being near boats and walking to a section called Little Italy where I bought a cannoli. I actually don’t even know why we were there – maybe a layover? So Boston was my first New England, it’s official. Thanks!

  4. Adam

    To give credit where it is due…

    the amazing pizza we had in Boston was from Cafe Pompei at 278 Hanover St.!

  5. Shannalee

    How in the world did you remember that!? And thanks!

  6. Jen

    Ah yes, Cafe Pompei still serves tasty pies and is the staple spot for late night eats. I lived in the North End for almost five years and that’s when I really learned to cook :-). I haven’t been to Flour yet, and will keep it in mind now. Thanks for the bakery tip and recipe!

  7. The Duo Dishes

    We love chocolate shavings and nuts in our ‘nana bread. What a great find. And surely it brought back nice memories of B-town.

  8. Sarah L

    Flour Bakery was one of my top favorite spots in Boston! Their cinnamon rolls are truly to die for (and you might… there’s soooo much butter in every bite!). I’m excited that you have a recipe for banana bread from Joanne Chang!

  9. Whitney

    I haven’t been to Boston since I was real little but I would love to go back!

  10. Shannalee

    Jen – In the North End for almost five years! Was it as wonderful as I imagine? All that good food! So many pretty buildings!

    DD – By all means, try this with walnuts, like Joanne recommends!

    Sarah – Now I need to go back for three reasons: to have another macaroon, to try the hummus sandwich AND to grab a to-die-for cinnamon roll. My mouth is watering!

    Whitney – It’s such a wonderful, wonderful city. I hope I can go back soon.

  11. kickpleat

    Hooray for no more school! We were tempted to go to Boston this August, but we will be in Montreal before we scoot it to the maritimes (New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia) and maybe Maine!

  12. Alicia

    No matter what time I read your blog or when the last time I ate was, it always makes me hungry. YUM.

    Maybe we should run a 5k in the historic streets of Boston… :)

  13. Shannalee

    Kickpleat: Your itinerary sounds perfect – I hope you’ll be taking lots of photos and sharing them on your site. Let me travel vicariously through you!

    Alicia: A 5K in Boston!? YES!

  14. SDG

    I’m obsessed with Banana Bread. It looks wonderful. I’ll have to try this one.

  15. Leigh

    Yes, chocolate chips. In my world, no banana bread goes without. So wish I could come to your block party. And congrats on your blog anniversary!

  16. Shannalee

    Oh, Leigh, I wish you could come, too!

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