Food & Drink

N.C. chef’s clever take on banana bread is a sweet success

A Bananas Foster take on banana bread can be a dessert or a really nice breakfast.
A Bananas Foster take on banana bread can be a dessert or a really nice breakfast. Peter Frank Edwards

When “Foster’s Market Favorites” (Brown Books Publishing Group) landed on my desk, I was in heaven. Exquisite photography coupled with time-tested comfort dishes are highlighted from Sara Foster’s amazing market in Chapel Hill. The introduction, written by her husband, tells her story, from her roots in Tennessee to finally settling in North Carolina where her market has become a culinary institution.

This book is a collection of Foster’s recipes from areas of her past, including chicken salad from SoHo Charcuterie in New York, Say’s bread pudding from her early market days and Southern dishes like Pecan sweet potato sticky buns. I couldn’t get enough of the photos, which truly made me hungry. Kudos to photographer Peter Frank Edwards.

I settled on testing this recipe after looking at the picture. One word for you: YUM. Easy to put together, this recipe has made it into my fallback recipe file. I tweaked the recipe a bit by slicing the caramelized banana rather than keeping it halved. I also used rum instead of bourbon to switch it up. It was hard to let the bread cool, because I wanted to dive into it as it rested on a rack. Serve it for dessert with vanilla ice cream and the next day as a coffee cake.

Either way, this clever take on bananas foster from New Orleans will leave guests asking for more.

Foster’s Caramelized Bananas Foster Bread

1/2 cup light brown sugar

5 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons bourbon or rum

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

Spread the brown sugar evenly on the bottom of a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Peel and slice one of the bananas into 1/2-inch slices and place on the sugar. Sprinkle the bourbon (or rum) over the top and cook, shaking the pan occasionally until the sugar melts and the banana begins to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Turn the slices over and continue cooking and caramelizing, about 2 to 3 more minutes, or until all slices are nicely caramelized. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and salt in a large bowl and stir to mix.

In a separate bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Slice and add the four remaining bananas, the pecans and the vanilla, mixing to break up the bananas and combine.

By hand, stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture just until the dry ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to over-mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place on a rimmed baking sheet (this makes it easier to handle in and out of the oven).

Arrange the caramelized banana slices evenly on top of the loaf and drizzle any remaining caramel on top. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the bread rises and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center.

Remove from the oven and cool about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack and continue to cool about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Yield: 1 loaf.