Celebrating the new year with a banana bread that gets a boozy flavor boost with bourbon, pecans and orange zest. Recipe below.
The last day of 2013 began with me in the kitchen at 8:30 in the morning, preheating the oven, preparing to bake. The day being New Year’s Eve, it was somehow appropriate that I would be baking with bourbon.
Our houseguest was still asleep, so instead of the kitchen boombox, I had my iPod going. Somehow appropriate to cooking with bourbon, what was playing on it was The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York, a live album recorded at the Village Vanguard in January 1962. In addition to Cannonball on alto sax and his brother Nat on cornet, it featured the always inventive Yusef Lateef on tenor sax, flute and oboe. Hard bop jazz of the 1950s and ’60s is a sweet spot for me, and this album is particularly sweet. Great music to cook to—especially with bourbon.
I’m a latecomer to the brown liquor party, usually preferring gins, vodkas and rums. Lately, though, a fresh wave of imaginative cocktails by creative bartenders has me sampling bourbons and, to a lesser extent, other whiskeys (Marion has long been a fan of both). And recently, a small batch seven-year-old bourbon has made its way into our liquor cabinet. So when I saw the words “bourbon” and “banana bread” used in the same sentence somewhere, I was ready.
Bourbon’s southern roots told me that pecans were a better nut choice than walnuts, for some reason the default choice in many recipes. Marion suggested some orange zest too, a better, more subtle call than the flashier lemon zest, which would have just taken over.
A note about cooking with alcohol. Whether it’s wine or beer or something stronger, no, the alcohol does not all cook off. So if you’re cooking for someone who can’t, shouldn’t or doesn’t consume alcohol, don’t cook with it.
Bourbon Pecan Banana Bread
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or cooking oil (plus extra for greasing baking dish)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons bourbon
zest of 1 large orange
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 5×9-inch glass baking dish with a little of the oil. Set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir to mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, bananas, sugar, oil, vanilla, bourbon and orange zest. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in pecans. Transfer batter to baking dish.
Bake in center of the oven until a wooden pick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes (this is a very moist bread, so it may take even slightly longer). Transfer baking dish to a wire cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully work around the edges of the bread with a thin, flexible baking spatula to loosen it and turn it out onto the rack. You can let the bread cool before serving or serve it warm.