Between you and me, I’m not all that upset about the end of summer. Sure, I enjoy a string of very hot days every now and then but, generally, I find Toronto’s heat and humidity really strength-sapping. The simplest everyday activities–cooking, walking, shopping–leave me obviously, embarrassingly sweaty and, until this week, my office has been completely without air conditioning. I’m telling you this not to beg for sympathy, but so that you can see (I hope) that I’m not being a hater for no reason. I just haven’t had much relief from the heat and, as such, I’m more than happy to see the other side of summer.
I understand that not everyone feels the same way I do about the summer, though. Some of you, I hear, love the summer. You look forward to it every year with great anticipation and, apparently, feel sad knowing that cooler weather is just around the corner. Well…. it’s my turn now, summer lovers! Maybe this will go without saying, but I’m a big fan of the fall. For me, few things are better than the crisp air, the vibrant, changing leaves, the food, the sunsets, and the warm layers it feels okay to start wearing again (this is my first fall as a knitter, by the way, and I plan to make the most of this by cloaking myself in beautiful woolen goodies). Despite my excitement about the changing seasons, though, I am sympathetic to the plight of all of you summer lovers out there. (I’m not a jerk, after all.) So, in the spirit of goodwill between lovers of any and all seasons, I come with a peace offering: a mild antidepressant in the form of a beautiful, date-studded banana bread.
Okay, okay, I know that the internet doesn’t really need another version of banana bread. Everyone has their favorite and they’re no less deserving of your attention than mine is. But, here’s what: this is a really, really good cake. For one thing, there are far more bananas in this cake than there is flour, sugar and butter. Not only does this serve to put the banana front-and-centre, it also creates an incredibly moist cake, one that remains fresh for days and whose flavour most definitely improves with age. The dates scattered throughout the batter are like little brown sugar bombs, just sweet and substantial enough to lend a sort of caramelized note to the cake without being cloying. In fact, there is so much fruit in this cake that, with the right sort of imagination, you might be able to convince yourself that this cake is *actually* a piece of fruit and not a cake after all. Plus, the internet tells me that bananas are mood elevators, an honest-to-goodness and extremely tasty antidepressant! If that’s not reason enough to make this cake, I don’t know what is.
So, dear readers, join me in embracing the start of fall. Whatever it lacks in heat is more than made up in being able to turn the oven back on to bake this amazing cake!
Banana-Date Tea Cake
Adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
Yield: 1 large loaf
Note: if you plan to use frozen bananas, make sure to bring them to room temperature. If the bananas are even a little bit cold, they will stiffen the butter and the texture of the cake will not be right.
155 g All-purpose flour
2 tbsp Corn starch
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
3 Very ripe bananas, about 285 g
2 Large eggs
1.5 tsp Vanilla extract
1.5 tsp Salt
85g Unsalted butter at room temperature
90 g White sugar
60 g Brown sugar
115 g Lightly toasted walnuts (I omitted these)
225 g Pitted dates, coarsely chopped
1 Banana, sliced lengthwise in 4 pieces
2 Tbsp Brown sugar
1. Preheat your oven to 325˙F. Lightly grease a loaf pan and line with greaseproof paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (except the sugar and salt) and mix well. Set aside. In a second bowl, peel and mash 3 bananas to a chunky puree. Add the eggs, vanilla and salt and stir until well combined. Set aside.
3. In a third mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about two minutes. Slowly add the sugars and continue to beat until the mixture becomes fluffy. Slowly add the banana mixture and continue to beat until incorporated. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Then, fold in the dates and nuts, if using.
4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface. Top the cake with the sliced banana and brown sugar. Bake in your preheated oven for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack at room temperature. Serve with butter and enjoy the start of fall.