~ Macadamia-Mango, Coconut-Rum Banana-Bread ~
From the day I got married, I began celebrating two Easter holidays. One for Joe's loud, Italian-Catholic family and one for my quiet Russian, Eastern Orthodox family. While the theme for both is the same, the foodie traditions are very different. To make a long story as short as possible, they fall on different dates because the Orthodox religion follows the Julian calendar (the calendar of Julius Caesar that was introduced in 46 B.C.), and, the Catholic church follows the Gregorian calendar (instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582). The Pope's reformed calendar was slow to catch on in religions that do not recognize papal authority, but, by the 1700's it was internationally accepted by everyone -- except the Orthodox. Because Christ's entombment and resurrection occurred during Jewish Passover, we do not celebrate until their Passover ends.
Nothing, except: it is a sweet treat that everyone in both families happens to love: toasted and buttered on Easter morning. Just like my Russian tea cakes and Italian biscotti in their cookie tins at Christmas, they'd be disappointed if there wasn't a mini-loaf or two of my banana bread in their Easter baskets -- it's earned its spot in the mix of traditional Eastern European and Italian ethnic favorites -- it's become our newest tradition. As the family baker, this easy-to-make quick bread kicks off my Easter bake-fest because I can make and freeze them 1-2 weeks in advance.
A bit about quick bread: "Quick bread" is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time. It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high. Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast. Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately double-acting baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda. In the case of baking powder, it is called "double acting" because the rising process starts the moment it makes contact with the liquids, and, gives a second burst of rising power when the bread enters the hot oven. Typically, quick breads contain eggs, flour, salt and fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil) and leavening. That said, they can be sweet or savory and contain sugar, fruits, fruit puree, vegetables, vegetable puree and various liquids (milk, buttermilk, fruit juice or stock). The wet and dry ingredients are mixed separately, in two different bowls, then briefly stirred together just prior to baking. Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, soda bread and waffles all fall into the quick-bread category too!
7 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4-5 cups mashed bananas, from 11-12 large, over-ripe bananas (Note: When I know I'm going to be baking banana bread, I buy my bananas a week ahead of time. The bananas pictured here took a full 7-8 days to get to the perfect banana-bread ripeness. Over-ripe bananas, are incredibly fragrant, sweet and flavorful -- a lot more than the pretty yellow ones.)
2 tablespoons butter-rum or rum extract
1 teaspoon each: banana, coconut and vanilla extract
For the wet ingredients:
1 1/3 cups butter-flavored vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
8 large eggs, at room temperature
For the dried fruit and nuts:
2 cups coarsely-chopped dry-roasted macadamia nuts
1 cup finely-diced dried mango
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
For preparing the pans:
no-stick cooking spray (for nonstick pans), or, butter and flour (for conventional pans)
~ Step 1. Coarsely chop the macadamias as directed, placing them in a shallow baking pan as you work. Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until lightly-toasted and fragrant, about 12-15 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Do not turn the oven off.
~ Step 2. Dice the dried mango as directed and set aside. Measure the coconut and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder and salt.
On medium-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat the bananas until well combined, yet smashed and still lumpy, about 45-60 seconds. Set aside.
~ Step 6. In three parts (1/3, 1/3 & 1/3) add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, beating the batter after each addition until smooth, while using the rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Note: After pans have been filled with batter, I place each one on a kitchen scale. Using an ordinary tablespoon, I adjust the amount in each pan to insure even baking and even-sized loaves. Today, each pan weighs 14 ounces.
Additionally, while I bake all 12 loaves on the center rack of a preheated oven at the same time, I place and bake 10 of them on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan. This allows for a quick and easy transfer in and out of the hot oven, as well as prevents heat loss caused by keeping the door open too long.
~ Step 9. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester (or toothpick) when inserted into their centers comes out clean. Loaves will have risen, tops will be golden brown and sides will be separating from sides of pans. Remove from oven and cool, in pans, about 8 minutes, prior to inverting loaves out of pans and transferring to a cooling rack.
Special Equipment List: 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; whisk; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 12, 5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" (2-cup size) mini-loaf pans; soup ladle; kitchen scale (optional); 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; cake tester or toothpick; cooling rack
Cook's Note: At Easter, I also make a savory "quick bread" that my husband's family also loves toasted for breakfast. Technically, it's not quick bread because it's yeast risen, but, I call it one because it gets mixed together quickly in the food processor, and has the same dense texture. You can find my recipe for ~ Italian Easter: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia ~ in Categories 5, 11, 12 or 22!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)