Category Archives: cake

Garden Fresh: Blackcurrant Chocolate Zucchini Cake


This luscious, spicy, fragrant cake with heavenly-decadent chocolate and winey-rich blackcurrant tones is anything but usual. Kids love it, adults rave about it and guests will be mooching you for the recipe every time you would make this cake for birthday party (speaking of, with its consistency, this cake is born to have some candles in it) or any other celebration… 
Let’s put it this way: with 2 ½ cup of fresh zucchini and 1 ½ cup of fresh blackcurrant berries (still retaining its antioxidants upon baking) inside you will forget frozen Sara Lee cakes or those hasty chocolate things made from the box for a while. Just a bit of an effort and the sweetly rich reward will be a highlight of your next celebration.
Although most of our currants have been eaten by the birds this year (not only humans are trying to benefit from the summer bounty – farmers know it big time), I still managed to salvage some and was excited to make something really good out of little glossy black spheres known for their alluring tart flavor and sublime aroma. I also managed to pick a few baby zucchinis at their prime before they would turn into some giant monsters after all this rain. Naturally, I got a nail in my head to use both in some amazing combination: chocolate cake idea came first and last.
The blackcurrant berries add delicious tang to the food of the Gods (aka chocolate) and neutral zucchini in the cake. When cooked in desserts (see the British Eccles cakes recipe, for example), syrups (think famous French crème de cassis and a delectable ‘Kir’ drink with champagne), jams or coulis (for savory dishes, including steaks and stews), the currants’ aggressive tartness becomes well muted releasing the berries unique aroma and their astringency creates an added woodsy and piquant flavor.
I’ve been baking chocolate zucchini cakes before, but, somehow, always wanted to have a better formula for the cake to be: more dense or moist; with more balanced spices or sugar; have a foolproof baking time, etc. Many recipes I’ve tried had ridiculously short baking time for the temperatures of 325F to 350F and the amount of zucchini in them: I found it quite annoying having had to check the readiness again and again. 
The last one I’ve tried from otherwise quite good recipe book, didn’t have any salt in it and had the amount of ground cloves enough to stop the toothache of four people. The smell of baking ground cloves made a long-lasting potpourri effect in the house though, which was OK with me.  Naturally, I dialed the cloves back in the subsequent recipe along with other adjustments, including:
– adding blackcurrants;
– squeezing dry shredded zucchini;
– replacing just white sugar with half and half  brown and white;
– adding 1/2 teaspoon sea salt;
– adding 1 teaspoon finely ground Blue Mountain coffee (to enhance the chocolate flavor);
– cutting the 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves to 1/4 teaspoon of cloves;
– adding 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
– adding 30 minutes of baking time 

Oh that HAPPY KAYKEY! Moist, slightly fudgy, dense with chocolate chips and currents still intact on top for an extra punch… I could taste a hint of the coffee which I found boosted the chocolate flavor in a right direction. As usually, buttermilk plays a big role to have the best results with any soda cake – make sure you have it among your ingredients when ready.
Voila, the simple visual steps:

SUBSTITUTES: If you can’t get currants, feel free to sub with gooseberries, sour cherries or cranberries (frozen are OK too) – each would add a different tone and character, but approximately same level of tang and freshness. Equally, you can swap zucchini for the same amount of shredded tart apples and tart berries for neutral blueberries to have a Chocolate Apple Berry Cake. Well, if you won’t, I will for sure in one of those next posts, this recipe is worth to play with.
Currants of all kinds are now available at all farmers markets – don’t miss this short season to try the wonderful, unique taste of these berries. I’m sure you won’t have problem to find a way to use some of those extra zucchini, but if you are short of ideas for the currants, here are some other interesting recipes from fellow bloggers, Food Network and New York Times in which you can use them successfully: 
***
Black Current Jam, recipe from David Leibovitz

Black Current Sorbet, recipe from New York Times

Grape Black Current Granita, recipe from Food Network

***

BLACKCURRANT CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI CAKE
Yields: 15 to 20 pieces

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee (optional)
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups grated zucchini, squeezed dry
1/2 cup fresh blackcurrants
10 inch diameter spring form for baking

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round spring pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.

Toss 1/3 cup chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl. Whisk the remaining flour, the cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and coffee in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and pale, about 3 minutes. Add the flour-cocoa mixture; beat on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes (the batter will be thick). Fold in zucchini and beat until combined, about 2 more minutes. Fold in the flour-coated chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Distribute blackcurrants and 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top of the cake carefully.  Place in the oven. After 10 minutes of baking, reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, for about 1 hour and 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Adapted from: The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeiros, The Countryman Press, 2013

Summertime Raspberry-Almond-Lime Tea Cake Recipe


Summertime Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake
Summertime… and the living would be as easy as in Heyward’s lyrics except Canadian summer is so short and demanding, it’s always a good idea to have a piece of a fragrant fresh berry cake next to you to stop running and start pondering.    
In the ideal life the summertime should be like this:
Summertime fun
In reality, it’s always full of surprises: good and bad. Our month of June has been full of projects, inspirations and disappointments, travels, and cooking experiments.  I’ll begin with the end to make it easier for me to catch up with the steady food-blogging pace, which is not always possible after a break. I needed something that was relatively easy, utterly beautiful and ultimately delicious to get myself inspired to translate the inspiration into a small bow of culinary art.
Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Our yesterday’s cheerful party and this cake baked on a whim gave me that kick. It has everything in it to celebrate summer: the freshness of berries (raspberries), the sugary crunch of nuts (almonds), the vigor of lime, the boldness of spiced honey (marked as optional)… and, naturally, the tender moist sponginess of the pound cake. Wait, shouldn’t I mention first that it’s one of the easiest, and the most luscious cakes we’ve ever made?
Raspberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
This cake is an example of a simple, no fuss dessert you would want to bake again and again. We had it with tea watching Paddington last night (to the dying sounds of the fireworks fury banging outside the window).  The raspberry cake felt as heartwarming and rewarding as the movie itself although there was no marmalade around (which actually would be a good idea to have along). I served it with humble vanilla ice cream, some fresh raspberries and/or fresh raspberry coulis: the honest and ever-delightful classics. 
For the high-end restaurant style serving, dare for a slice of a room-temperature brie or a goat cheese (i.e. Lavallois from Chevriere de Monnoir would be a good idea) and some drizzle of adobe chili – spiced honey (recipe to be posted soon).
We based the recipe on a winning formula (tested and approved previously) of the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake from Gourmet Magazine of June 2009 (recipe also follows at the very end of this post), tweaking it with the addition of:
NUTS – chopped slivered almonds were used, although pistachios (other nuts if you wish) would be my first choice if I had them in my pantry.
LIME – optional lemon zest was replaced with lime zest and lime juice to make the taste more present.
SPICED HONEY – a very small (and optional) amount of my most recently discovered fav ingredient to accent the fruit.
Adobe Chili Spiced Honey
EGGS – using extra ingredients called for one extra egg.
BAKING TIME – ten extra minutes were added to the baking time accordingly.
BERRIES – we increased the amount of raspberries to much more fruits following the summer feeling. I assume the recipe works with all kind of fresh berries (or frozen, for that matter) and intend to make the next one with gooseberries from our garden (HA!)
Raspberry Almond Lime Tea Cake
INVERTING OR NOT – the initial recipe is for the inverted cake, which I noticed from previous experiments not always works well, so this recipe doesn’t encourage the inverting step, although I would live it to you to experiment with. Please note the berries tend to sink to the bottom, which might make the bottom look messy if you decide to invert it.
Raspberry Buttermilk Tea Cake
We absolutely loved the result and encourage you to try it by all means. Please let us know how it went, if you liked it or not by writing your comments and suggestions.
Monarda ‘Garden View Scarlet’: wonderful addition to the garden which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Happy summertime to ALL!
***
One year ago: French Toast Strawberry Rhubard Bake
Two years ago: Bread Crusted Salmon Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

***
RASPBERRY ALMOND LIME BUTTERMILK TEA CAKE
Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 juice of small lime
1/2 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili-spiced honey (optional)
1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon powder sugar for dusting
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and lime zest. Add egg/s and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.  Add lime juice, almonds and honey (if using) and mix again. Spoon the batter into the pan. Smooth the top roughly with spatula. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Dust with sugar powder. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Transfer carefully to a rack to cool completely. Transfer to the platter and slice. Serve with tea and optional additions of your favorite ice cream, raspberry coulis or brie.

***
RASPBERRY BUTTERMILK TEA CAKE (original recipe from Gourmet Magazine)

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

The latter recipe is adapted from:  Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Gourmet Magazine, 06/2009.

Green Tea Green Apple ‘Gimme That’ Mini Bundt Cake

I’ve been planning to join the Matcha tea craze in baking for a while and have finally come up with this mini cakes creation: worth every penny. Not only it’s a super-cute dessert with presence and pizazz, it is a moist and dense flavor bomb with a perfect match of green tea, green apple, maple syrup ingredients enhanced with the secret organic STASH tea powder to also include: hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate and raspberry flavors. The later ingredient is optional, although it works as a great taste booster and saves you lots of trips (and cash) to groceries for special ingredients if you happen to have it already. Pure Matcha tea powder alone is also good, packing the cakes with the one and only delicate taste of Japanese tea, along with its powerful health benefits.

If you feel hooked, dear reader, let’s buckle up for a quick food journey, play some Lilly Allen and agree the ‘Life for Me’ can totally include these treats.
Of all my previous mini cakes, muffin or cupcake experiments, I had the most fun with these ones. Whether you are a pro in your own kitchen or just an amateur of an easy, but special kind of dessert you never tried before, but were potentially curious about; the texture and aroma of which would be surprising; the taste of which would linger long after the first bite; and which can be re-heated a week later to reveal even more flavor – this is your thing.  These little sweet babies are the result of my light bulb moment re-purposing the Keurig-style STASH organic tea cups, which later became a pure Matcha tea cakes experiment. Four green apples are included and maple syrup is not forgotten. Believe me, if I’ve done them 3 times in the last 30 days that means they are obsessively addictive. The mini Bundt cake pans are procurable at many places today: from Walmart to Winners, but you can as well have these cakes in the cupcake or muffin shapes.
The spring has sprung, the Easter times go on and the beautiful city of Montreal is finally awakening from the never-ending cold slumber. What a Joy! You can gauge this excitement by the special things cooking on the stoves and special desserts baking in the ovens. The green tea + green apple cakes make a perfect ode to celebrate spring and nature’s renewal…
If you plan a trip to a potluck party this week-end, these will literally sell like hot cakes. No need to advertise, just wait to watch the face expressions while the cakes will be disappearing with cosmic speed.

There are two options to finish the cakes: drizzling with the maple syrup or dusting with confectionary sugar. I prefer to do both. There’s an indefinite number of garnish: from trendy pistachios, to other nuts, to spices like cinnamon or cardamom, to fruits, to whipped cream, jams, even fresh cheese or exquisite savory ingredients like foie gras or smoked fish if you’d like to stretch them to an upscale tapas party territory.

The cakes also make a perfect picnic or Easter basket companions.  These are easy and fun to make in advance and keep for a few days or up to a week in a fridge. If you decide to revive them into something especially impressive, just warm them up in  pre-heated oven (375F) for about 10-15 minutes to have that newly developed crisp crust, which you will re-drizzle later with maple syrup and re-powder with sugar.  Amazing!

It all began with giving a new purpose to the STASH tea cups with 100% natural green tea, hibiscus, orange peel, chamomile, pomegranate, raspberry flavors and Matcha. The idea of using Matcha in dessert has been rattling around my brain for a while. I was going to make the usual apple cinnamon cakes and then noticed the ingredients written on the STASH tea cups. As Deepak Chopra says, ‘intention brings attention’ and eventually ‘brings the process to fruition’: I broke the seal on the cup to see the inside and the tea mix looked like a perfect ingredient to me.  In the first batch I used only two cups of STASH tea powder. I was very impressed with the taste, but felt like it can take on much more tea ingredient.

The next batch I made was with the load of pure Matcha: 3 tablespoons of Japanese Green tea and Matcha mix, which I powdered in the mortar with pestle. In the third batch I used both, STASH tea powder and Matcha and the result was outstanding: cakes bursting with flavors you always look for when ordering desserts at coffee or tea house (and often fail to find).

Tip: squeeze some apple juice out (and drink it) from the pulp to make the texture of the cakes less dense…

Give the cakes a generous maple syrup drizzle on a patriotic whim; dust with powder sugar  and garnish with crushed pistachios. Voila, your green tea cakes are ready to impress the palate.
First time I tasted it I was just struck how incredible a mouthful of green tea the cake can be.
Everyone agreed. Try it with you favorite tea or coffee and you won’t be missing anything…


Enjoy your Easter baking and have a great week-end!

***
Previously, around this time of the year:
BBQ Lamb Chops
Eggs Asparagus Ham Tart
Savory Easter Cypriot Bread
Lentil Avocado Spread

***


MATCHA GREEN TEA & APPLE MINI BUNDT CAKES

Yields: 5-6 cakes depending on the bundt pans’ size
Ingredients:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, OR gluten-free flour for gluten-intolerant
2 tablespoons Matcha green tea powder (plus 1 extra tablespoon to replace the STASH tea if necessary)
2 contents of tea bags or Keurig-style cups of STASH Pomegranate Raspberry Green tea with Matcha (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick butter, ½ cup, or 118 gm
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
3 eggs, beaten
4 green apples, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon lemon juice to spray the apple pulp with
Confectionary sugar for dusting
Slivered nuts for garnish
5-6 mini bundt cake pans
Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
Wash, peel and grate the apples. Squeeze the juice out (to drink or discard) and drizzle the pulp with lemon juice to prevent from browning.
Unless you already have Matcha powder, ground the green + Matcha tea mix in the mortar.
Sift the flour into a big bowl and add the green tea and STASH mix tea, if using.
Beat the softened butter and brown sugar in a separate bowl with mixer.
Whisk the maple syrup and beaten eggs well.
Grease and flour 5-6 mini bundt cake pans and spoon the cake batter into.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before inverting them onto the wire rack.
Glaze the cakes with maple syrup and/or dust them with confectionary sugar.
Sprinkle with pistachios, almonds or other slivered nuts.

Sour Cherry Babka with Quark Cheese & Maple Glaze Recipe


Keep the Metamucil close, because I’m coming at you with this totally irresistible, incredibly addictive Babka with sour cherries, quark/cream cheese and maple syrup glaze. This brioche-like Babka is an awesome culinary cross between Slavic and Jewish Easter recipes. It’s a great sweet bread to make few days in advance of Easter and keep it at the room temperature or in the fridge (while secretly cutting slices at night when no one can see you devouring it with melted chocolate drizzle and ice cream).

The maple syrup glaze made with one of those gorgeous maple products you procured the other day at the SS fair will have time to get absorbed and you can add a fresh layer of it just before serving.

The down side of this yeasted cake is that you have to find half a day to make it. Allow yourself exactly 4 hours and 40 minutes to have the Babka finally baked and cooling. We made it last night, finished at almost midnight, so there will be no detailed pictures of the steps of making the dough, but I don’t think you really need them. I know the leavening part is imputed to often baking flops. Many of home bakers lambaste themselves over it, but you’ll never know until you try, right? When armed with the proper ingredients, right proportions and yeast that IS actually ACTIVE, I see no reason anyone would fail this mission.

On the upside, this Babka is incredibly deliscious and versatile with some extra additions like honey, melted chocolate, butter, maple syrup, caramel, etc. It can be stored at the room temperature for up to three days or for few days longer in the fridge.

Sour cherries give a great fresh tang balanced delicately with the cheese mix (lightened with the quark cheese instead of pure cream cheese and maple syrup to replace sugar) and spongy, yeasty dough. Simple and attainable goodness and a stunning center piece (given you saved your night trips to the fridge for the better days).

Our midnight steps… followed by some blurry final shots…

The boring part is the waiting times for the dough to rise, which on the other hand, gives you time to do many other things in between. Otherwise it’s fun to whisk, rock and roll. But if you feel that you are not yet ready for the challenge and might find the experience still humiliating, just wait till I post something much simpler but equally adorable next week.

Happy Easter Baking!
***
PS: Here are some other good ideas for the Easter breads we’ve posted previously:  
 ***
MAPLE GLAZED SOUR CHERRY BABKA WITH CHEESE
Yields: 10 to 12 portions
Ingredients:
For the Babka Dough:
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup, plus 2 tbsp plus a pinch of granulated sugar
¾ cup warm milk
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
3 cups all-purpose flour, extra for the surface
Kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, extra for the bowl, pan and lining parchment paper
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp of cream for an egg wash
1 ½ cups pitted fresh, thawed or drained sour cherries
For the Filling:
6 ounces quark cheese
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 egg yolk
¼ cup maple syrup plus 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
For the Glaze:
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp milk
Instructions:
Sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over warm milk in a medium bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes until foamy.
Whisk together remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the egg, and yolk. Whisk into the yeast mixture.
Combine flour and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a mixer. Add egg mixture. Beat on low speed until almost fully combined, for about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough-hook attachment. Add butter. Beat until smooth, soft and slightly sticky, for about 10 minutes.
Butter a large bowl. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface; knead for a few minutes until smooth. Place in bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Make the filling: stir together quark cheese, cream cheese, egg yolk, maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.
Punch down dough. Transfer to a floured work surface. Let stand for 5 minutes. Roll out to an 18-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush edges with egg wash. Spread the filling over the dough. Top with cherries. Tightly roll dough like a jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. Coil into a snail shape on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Drape plastic wrap over dough. Let stand in a warm place until risen by half, 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap. Cut six ½-inch slits into top. Bake rotating halfway through, until golden, for about 55 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake until deeply golden, 15 to 20 minutes more (cover with foil if the top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cake cool.
Make the glaze: Mix together maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar and milk. Add more sugar or milk to reach the desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from: Martha Stewart’s Yeasted Cheese and Sour Cherry Coffee Cake

Art and Science of Perfect Banana Bread


Moist, moist, moist! Freshly baked banana bread based on a recipe of a true bread artist is something to behold. Utterly aromatic, comforting and delicious, what can taste better or be a better gift on the Hugging Day (today), or the Hunt for Happiness week (this week)? There are thousands recipes of banana bread, but this particular one stood the test of time in our family. 
Photo of Peter Reinhart credit: Ron Manville
The recipe comes from Peter Reinhart, one of the world’s leading authorities of bread, author of nine books on bread baking and multiple James Beard Award winner. To call his book ‘Crust and Crumb’ a bread-making bible in our house wouldn’t be an exaggeration (fyi, his most recent ‘Bread Revolution’is currently undergoing lots of testing chez nous). Every recipe from it is a hit, so when it came to banana bread recipe few years ago, Reinhart’s book was undoubtedly our first reference.  
My grandfather in law was pioneering in bananas import to Quebec about a century ago in hunt for his own happiness. I’m not sure if an idea of making banana bread from some of his perished goods ever crossed his mind, but the fact remains: bananas were then very expensive. The first recipes of banana bread started appearing in the cookbooks around the Great Depression when some entrepreneurial housewives hustled on recycling overripe bananas into baking goods and popularizing baking soda and baking powder. The two latter ingredients were chemically leavening breads rather than natural yeast. Banana bread spearheaded the revolution of breads from other leavens. Quick breads became a new American staple.
Here’s Peter Reinhart’s Banana bread master formula: ‘Banana bread is the standard by which quick-bread artists are judged. The criteria for great quick breads are simple: They must be moist; They must be delicious. The way to accomplish this is by using plenty of ripe fruit and the proper proportion of supporting ingredients. Tenderness is produced by fat, which means butter, though canola, corn, and other oils can be substituted if cholesterol is a concern. The rest is just flavor blending, the eternal balancing act among sugar, fat and starch.’
The exact banana’s condition is crucial for the bread’s quality. The more overripe is the banana, the more flavor, aroma, sweetness and moist texture it will add to the bread. That said, the slightly greenish or perfectly all-yellow banana will not add any flavor to the bread. 
Example.These are no-goes (the last one is close, but still not enough blackened):
The naturally overripe banana will have much more of brown and black spots. 
For the successful loaf bananas have to be absolutely, perfectly OVER-RIPE! There are two ways to speed up banana’s over-ripe: by hot or cold temperatures.
1. Preheat the oven to 300F. Place unpeeled bananas on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely before peeling and mashing.
2. Place bananas in the freezer for 3 hours. Or, heck, if you are in Montreal right now where the frostbite has reached its peak, just put them outside for an hour.  Let bananas thaw completely  and discard any liquids before peeling and mashing.
This is how the banana will look like after:
Yes, ROTTEN would be the right word. Which brings me back to the ‘Rotten’ episode of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘The Mind of a Chef’ series featuring Chef Chang and Christina Tosi (from Momofuku Milk Bar) making a wondrous banana cream pie from limp blackened thawed bananas.
True: ‘some foods are better rotten…’ to attain the best results in the recipe.
I hope you’ll have a blast making this bread.  Keep it in the fridge, so you can slice it and toast it and have an incredible breakfast, snack or dessert at any time you feel like going bananas.
Enjoy!
***
Two years ago: King Cake
***
BANANA BREAD (Peter Reinhart’s Master Formula)
Yields: two large or three small loaves
Ingredients:
3 ½ cups (16 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (0.5 ounce) baking powder
½ tbsp (0.64 ounce) baking soda
1 tsp (0.25 ounce) salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs (6.65 ounces) at room temperature
2 tsp (0.2 ounce) vanilla extract
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 ½ cups (20 ounces) ripe bananas, mashed (3-4 bananas)
1 ½ cups (9 ounces) walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Instructions:
Position a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350F. Spray two 9x5x3 loaf pans with non-stick spray.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes.
Mix in eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Mix in vanilla and continue beating for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 of buttermilk, then 1/3 of mashed bananas. Continue in this manner until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth. Stir in walnuts.
Fill the pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 45 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 325F. Bake for additional 15 minutes, or until baked through. The safest way of knowing if they are finished is to test them with a probe thermometer. The internal temperature should be 180-185F.
Let the loaves cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn them out carefully on a rack to cool for at least one hour before slicing.
Adapted from ‘’Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers’’ by Peter Reinhart, The Speed Press 2006