My husband and I have been home for a few days from our visit to Maui. It was a last-minute vacation that had us hopping on a plane just a few days after booking our tickets. The trip was Plan B to a grand winter getaway to some never-been exotic places that will have to remain on the must-visit list for the time being. We couldn’t finalize an itinerary; flight and accommodation options thinned each day we failed to decide. Our very good friends invited us to join them on a trip to Morocco, too, and we didn’t manage that either. So Maui it was.
But Maui is no consolation prize of a destination. My husband and I love to visit the island and often fantasize about living there part of the year. We’ve taken this trip many times before so I know the flights to reserve, the hotel to book and the car to rent. The same clothes get packed each time and, having visited on two previous occasions over the past six months, this third one took no effort to plan.
While we eat in half the time we’re in Maui we do venture out often enough for me to find inspiration in restaurant menus. I had planned on sharing a few island-inspired dishes upon my return. I also improvised on a one-skillet dish one night and I was so happy with it that I wanted to share it, too. But when I prepared it at home two days ago I didn’t realize until later that I had forgotten to include one of the key ingredients, so back it went to the queue.
Luckily, I also threw together this banana bread. After being greeted by a cluster of black-skinned bananas on the kitchen counter I had the perfect reason to bake something, one of my favorite welcome-back-home activities.
I made some changes to my favorite banana bread recipe with no intention of ending up with something different enough from the original that it would warrant a new recipe post but here we are. I’ve taken to using a cast iron skillet when baking simple cakes and quick breads just because my husband and I are partial to the crispy end bits and with a skillet you get more of those sought-after pieces. My addition of spelt flour is nothing new anymore–I incorporate it whenever I can in baked goods for its nutrients and the sweet, nutty quality it lends to bread.
What’s new in this recipe is that I used olive oil in place of butter and I added corn meal to the mix. I love olive-oil based cakes (I’ve also used coconut oil for my Vegan Banana Coconut Bread) but I’d always had mild concerns about a clashing of olive oil and banana flavors. It turned out not to be a factor at all.
What was an afterthought turned out to be my favorite spin on this recipe. The small amount of corn meal I added went well with the spelt flour and it gave the bread the slightly gritty texture I love so much in cornbread. I couldn’t stop myself from sneaking a taste here and there while I prepared dinner, approving the changes each time. After dinner my husband declared that he could eat the entire pan–clearly it won us both over. When I realized the next day that the recipe was worth sharing here I noticed that we had consumed a good portion of the bread the night before so I had to get creative with the pictures with the odd amount we had left.
Nothing else marks a return to everyday life quite like banana bread coming out of the oven. I’m happy for the simple changes that breathed new life to an old recipe. And whether you bake yours in a loaf pan or in a skillet like I do, banana bread smells like home and that’s always a good thing to return to no matter where you’ve traveled from.
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole spelt flour
- ¼ cup medium-ground corn meal
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about three large bananas)
- Scant ½ cup plain yogurt (I use low fat but whole milk would work)
- 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
- ⅓ cup olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Turbinado sugar
- Baking spray
- Preheat your oven to 350º F. Spray a 10-inch cast iron skillet with baking spray and set aside. (See Note)
- In a large bowl whisk all the dry ingredients together from the flours to the kosher salt.
- In another bowl stir together all the wet ingredients from the mashed bananas to the vanilla extract. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the skillet and sprinkle a light layer of turbinado sugar on top of the batter. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. In my convection oven I preheat the oven to 350ºF and lower the temperature to 325ºF to finish baking in 40 minutes. I would bake for 25 minutes, rotating the skillet at this time and checking for doneness after another 15 minutes. It might take a little longer in a standard oven. Allow the bread to cool for a few minutes then enjoy!