Yes, we have ripe bananas

On my last trip to the grocery store I picked up a lovely bunch of bananas, sunny yellow with no brown spots, just perfect for eating. I guess I forgot that I’d be away all weekend and by the time I glimpsed those bananas again they were covered with age spots and on the verge of over-ripeness. Not so perfect for eating anymore, but great for baking.

That’s one of the wonders of bananas. They’re the only fruit I know that never needs thrown away upon reaching the expiration date. Those ultra-ripe bananas make the moistest, most delicious quick breads and cakes.

And here’s a handy tip: if there’s no time to bake when the bananas are ready, simply wrap the bananas in foil, peel and all, and freeze for future use. Just thaw and add to your favorite recipes.

Banana Crunch Cake

1/2 cup flour

1 cup coconut

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sliced ripe bananas (2 large)

1/2 cup sour cream

4 eggs

1 package yellow cake mix with pudding

Directions: Grease and flour 10-inch tube or Bundt pan. In bowl combine flour, coconut, rolled oats, brown sugar and pecans. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly, set aside. In another bowl combine bananas, sour cream and eggs. Blend until smooth. Add cake mix and beat 2 minutes at high speed.

Spread 1/3 batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 of coconut mixture. Repeat layers twice using remaining batter and coconut mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool upright in pan 15 minutes then turn out on serving dish. Serves 16.

Banana Caramel Bars

Crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup butter, cubed

1 large egg, beaten

Filling:

2 extra-ripe bananas, peeled

1/2 cup caramel topping

Directions: To make crust combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly stir in egg, mixing with a fork until crumbly. Pat half of mixture in a 13×9-inch pan to form crust.

To make filling, mash bananas (1 cup). Blend bananas with caramel topping. Pour over crust and spread evenly.

Sprinkle remaining crust mixture over filling. Pat gently. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars when cooled. Makes 24 bars.

Low-fat Banana Bread

(Buttermilk replaces most of the oil in this recipe. Very ripe bananas give the best flavor.)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)

1/3 cup buttermilk

1 T. vegetable oil

1 T. vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Directions: Lightly grease 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch bread pan. Dust with flour. Using electric mixer beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in mashed bananas, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat just until blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake bread until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf.

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