If you've ever read about Montreal, then you probably encountered a blurb or two on the restaurant Joe Beef. It's described as iconic, and typical of Montreal. It's a small space filled with big, jovial, fun-loving personalities and comforting, delicious food.
Some of the Joe Beef crew put together a wonderful book entitled "The Art of Living According to Joe Beef" that really reflects the ambiance of our city, and my growing neighborhood of Saint-Henri. The book assembles the stories behind the restaurant and its people, and even gives away several of their favorite and/or famous recipes. It's a great bedtime read, and a fun kitchen tool.
The book contains recipes for a few awesome dishes like lobster spaghetti, canard et saucisse, and even "good fries". Obviously, I went straight to the desserts section at the end. The dessert section is pretty random because it contains all sorts of sweet treats from simple banana bread to a fancy marjolaine layer cake. Personally, I love the randomness, but some may shake their heads.
Go figure, the one recipe I kept coming back to was one that the Montreal bloggers Foodie Date Night also recommended. And, even more intriguing is that the recipe actually hails from Olive & Gourmando, a great café in Old Montreal that we all have lined up for at some point.
I'm pretty sure you are thinking to yourself "Not another banana bread recipe!" but yes, I had to. This banana bread is moist and flavorful, and it may well be the best banana bread ever. It contains cardamom, which I thought was crazy for a banana bread recipe. However, the floral spice of the cardamom actually enhances the flavor of the bananas, rendering this the tastiest banana bread I've ever encountered.
The technique of this recipe will probably seem familiar since it is similar to the one published by Cook's Illustrated where you nuke the bananas to cook them so that they release their juice, then you cook down the banana liquid before adding it and the crushed cooked banana to the cake batter. This adds a few steps to the typical quick-bread recipe, but they are well worth it because you will end up with a moist, flavorful, and light banana bread that is sure to satisfy even the most discerning of banana-bread-critics. Just trust me and make this.
I tweaked the recipe a little, reducing the salt and also adding the baking soda along with the dry ingredients (instead of combining it with the sour cream as in the book). Mixing the baking soda and sour cream seemed counter-intuitive to me because the lifting power of the powder would be lost before it ever makes it into the cake batter. My inner nerd rebelled, and here's my version of the original recipe.
Montreal's best banana breadMakes 9 mini loaves or 10 muffins
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus a tbsp more melted butter for the pans
- 4 very ripe bananas, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup (200 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream (14% fat)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 10 standard muffin cups or 9 mini loaf pans with the tablespoon melted butter. Set aside for later.
- Place the bananas in a glass bowl and microwave them for 2 to 5 minutes to allow them to heat up and release their liquid. Transfer the bananas/liquid to a fine strainer, and strain the liquid into a small saucepan, gently mashing the bananas a little with a fork. Cook down the liquid over medium heat until it is reduced by half. Add back the bananas and let the mixture cool for later.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the rest of the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes to lighten the mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed, and mixing on low. Add the vanilla and mix again.
- Add the dry ingredients with the mixer on low, alternating with the sour cream and banana mixture, beginning and ending with the dry.
- Stop the mixer and give the batter a stir or two with a spatula by hand to be sure the batter is evenly mixed.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups or loaf pans.
- Bake the mixture for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester poked through the middle of a cake comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool completely before serving.