When I was a kid I wouldn’t eat nuts. I liked the taste, especially if they were salted and roasted, but little bits of them would stick under my braces and I’d have to spend what I thought was hours manipulating floss and a water pick to get those awful gritty bits out of my teeth. So I stopped eating nuts. My grandmother’s trick to put those nuts into her best-ever banana bread without me picking it apart and making faces was rather ingenious. She ground them up, using enough to impart a subtle nutty flavor to the bread but not so much that we could ever prove they were there.
This is, as well as I can remember, my grandmother’s recipe. She used to turn walnuts into crumbs with a pastry cutter. I use my food processor because frankly I could never chop walnuts as finely as she could by hand.
Banana bread is probably my all-time favorite food. I almost never make it though, because it requires me to keep bananas in the apartment until they are spotty and delicious and somehow not eat them. I love bananas too much not to eat them. Especially when they start to get spotty and brown. That’s just nature’s way of telling me that they are perfect for devouring, right? Nevertheless, on rare occasion I remember that I want to make banana bread, buy three million bananas so that there will be three left by the time they are spotty, and wait patiently for the bananas to turn from bright green to tasty brown-and-yellow.
This recipe is a little more involved than most banana bread recipes, but I maintain that it’s the best banana bread recipe ever and therefore worth it. Obviously normal people don’t grate their own spices, so feel free to use pre-ground ones in this. I like to do it by hand because the flavor is a bit stronger and I feel like I should do a little extra for my favorite thing.
Ingredients (makes 1 9×5 inch loaf)
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup to 1 cup walnuts
1 stick (8 T) butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 T vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t anise (or allspice)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×5 inch loaf pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
Cut up the bananas into a bowl.
Mash the bananas with a fork and set them aside.
Pour the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse until they are very finely ground. Set them aside, too.
Put the sour cream and butter in a large bowl.
Mix them very well.
Add the sugars and mix them in, too.
Add the eggs and vanilla. Smiley face optional (and unintentional, but cute.)
Sift in the flour, ground walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Now it’s spice time. If you’re using pre-ground bottled spices (like a sane person), just sift them in with the flour mixture. If not, grate some nutmeg over the pile of dry ingredients.
Then grate some cinnamon.
Don’t forget the anise; in small amounts that flavor is really amazing, not like licorice at all.
Now you have a pile of spices over the dry ingredients.
Mix the dry ingredients and spices into the batter.
Add the bananas! My mom forgot the bananas one time, just left the bowl on the counter and baked the bread without. I have to admit it wasn’t bad, but I’m still never going to let her live it down. Sorry, mom!
Mix the bananas in, too.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle the top with a bit of sugar in the raw.
Bake the banana bread for an hour and 15 minutes.
Let the banana bread cool completely before serving. One of the best things about quick breads with sour cream in them is that they get better after sitting on the counter for a few days as the flavor ripens and becomes more complex. A slice of this is very rich and dense, so I tend to have a slab for breakfast and it’ll tide me over until lunch time. The flavor of the nuts is very subtle but all those background flavors are what really make this recipe shine.