Flavors easing into one another, gently releasing their separation…
In mathematics, the first of Euclid’s five general axioms is: “Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” Chocolate and strawberries and chocolate and bananas and, heaven knows, strawberries and bananas have affinity relationships with one another. So, in a somewhat Euclidian way I hoped that there was a flavor triad among the three.
The strategy also centered around quickly ripening bananas and my personal commitment to minimize waste to every extent possible when I cook for myself and as pastry chef at Nicoletta’s Table. Restaurants have a great responsibility to reduce waste. For inspiration, I began with a banana bread recipe from Massimo Bottura‘s book, Bread is Gold.
The second goal was to create the greatest intensity of flavor. I’m a huge proponent of roasting, smoking and dehydrating fruit to maximize flavor. Using techniques that enhance the singularity of individual flavors is a core practice. Throughout last season’s fruit harvest, I slow-roasted local fruit for Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Jam, Rustic Apricot Jam, Dark Sweet Cherry Compote and Elberta Peach Jam.
Euclid’s 5th general axiom is, “The whole is greater than the part.” Reading and researching flavor affinities is an important tool in professional cooking. Confident creativity arises from research and experimentation. And, it’s fun.
Roasting bananas removes some of the moisture present in the fruit, intensifying flavor and allowing an increase in the quantity of bananas from 3 to 5. Using brown, clarified butter and brown sugar also benefit the overall flavor profile.
BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD
1 3/4 C (8 3/4 oz) all-purpose (AP) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
5 very ripe bananas, peeled
8 T ( 4 oz) brown clarified butter
2 large eggs
3/4 C packed (5 1/4 oz) light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (VE)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice peeled bananas; place on parchment-paper lined sheet pan. Roast for 15 min or until soft and liquid separates from the bananas; strain the liquid. Cool to room temperature. Spray a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with vegetable oil spray.
In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. In mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light. Add VE; add eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth. Add banana puree. Add dry ingredients all at once. Reduce speed to low; mix just until dry ingredients disappear. Scrape into prepared pan.
Bake on parchment-lined sheet pan until skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.
A simple strawberry-banana compote is a great accompaniment; garnish with chocolate gelato and banana chips.
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ slices
1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
3 T unsalted butter
2 T light brown sugar
1 T lemon juice
1/4 C bourbon
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; add bananas, strawberries and brown sugar. Cook until sugar has fully dissolved. Add bourbon; continue to simmer until the alcohol has cooked off, 7-10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.