A few months after Cameron proposed to me in far West Texas, we consolidated our belongings and moved into a cozy house in east Austin. Having now lived in Colorado for a year and a half, it’s hard to conjure up the incredible heat and humidity Austin exudes for several months out of the year, but I can clearly recall Cameron and our friend Hutch in a head-to-head wet T-shirt contest from all the sweat they shed during the move. (By the way, thanks, Hutch, for helping us move despite your knee injury, in July, in central Texas.)
Recently I’ve revisited our digital photo albums from our Texas days. Besides being heartened by all the photos of friends made in Austin, I’m blown away by how lush the flora is in a place where warmth and moisture make their home year-round. It wasn’t the tropics. Even so, bamboo and banana trees could grow to substantial heights if left unchecked.
In fact, one of my favorite plant in our yard in Austin was this huge banana plant that seemed to grow an inch or two each day once the spring rains started. It brought back such strong connections to south China and Malaysia where banana plants grew to tree size, and bananas could be snapped off in bunches.
This morning as I glance out my third floor apartment window to the frost-covered roofs and spindly tree branches feathered against a backdrop of the Rockies, Austin seems quite far from me. While our Austin bananas never sweetened enough for us to make tea breads, we still loved how they drew all kinds of beautiful insects, amphibians, and birds thirsting for the starchy sweet nectar from the plant’s gorgeous blossom.
Below you’ll find a recipe for banana bread that includes a splash of brandy. Don’t worry. There’s not enough liquor in the recipe to make you woozy. I enjoyed a slice with a cup of earl grey tea this morning, but if I were sitting on my porch in Austin, I’d probably munch on a slice and sip an icy mojito.
Kickin’ Banana Bread (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 1 loaf
3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer, I always use the smaller amount)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cup of flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix melted butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices.
2. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix until just combined. (The more you mix, the tougher the final bread product.)
3. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. (I used slips of parchment paper to make removal easier.)
4. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes. Remove from pan and slice to serve.