Banana Bread

We all know baking has become really popular over the past couple of months as people around the world try to fill their quarantine days with creative pursuits they may not have had much time for before. Banana bread is the latest obsession. It evokes comfort and warmth. And when it’s made by you, in your own kitchen, it’s even better.

But why is it popular right now? Maybe we’re looking for something just a little quicker than homemade bakery-worthy bread — and yeast is out of stock at the store, anyway. Maybe we just want to indulge in a dessert, and banana bread sounds much better for you than, say, three-layer chocolate fudge brownies with toasted mini marshmallows and melted toffee drizzle… you know, just as an example.

Plus, banana bread is thrifty. We’ve all had bananas that get too brown before we’ve had a chance to enjoy them. Mashing them up for banana bread gives them new life and reduces waste. It also makes us feel good. Hey, just mashing them in the first place is pretty satisfying.

Chrissy Teigen’s version is so popular at the moment that people are having trouble finding its secret ingredient, vanilla pudding, in the store. But there’s nothing wrong with going the classic, non-pudding route. It’s easy to make, you know it will taste good, your kitchen will smell amazing and the result keeps for months in the freezer.

You can add any number of mix-ins, too. Have you got blueberries that are going soft? Repurpose those, too, by throwing them in the batter at the last minute. Add some chopped walnuts or pecans. Chocolate morsels. Shredded coconut. Lemon zest.

banana bread

Banana bread is one of my specialties, but the recipe I use is not my own. It’s this one from James Beard. You can see the well-worn printout of it that’s pasted in my cookbook. I don’t change a thing (that note about the baking temperatures was because of an oven we used to have — the heat was always a touch off).

Yes, you need baking soda for banana bread. Sorry, you just do. The mashed bananas are heavy and you’ll need something to get the bread to rise. That’s also why you need buttermilk, or something acidic like lemon juice along with the milk — the chemical reaction with the baking soda creates the bubbles that make the cake rise.

Oh, did you catch that? “Cake.” Not bread. Because really, banana bread is too good to be called just a bread. Now go and have fun mixing up a batch.

Pull-Apart Pizza Bread

This bread would be delicious to have with an Italian meal, for an afternoon snack, or part of a quick lunch. It tastes just like pizza but is made with prepared refrigerated biscuit dough. The fun part is pulling off the individual pieces, especially while it’s still warm.

I made this with my son yesterday after seeing the recipe in his children’s magazine. We put the bread on the dinner table and loved tearing the pieces off. There was one piece left over, but it didn’t last very long after dinner.

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup pizza sauce
1 12-oz. can refrigerated biscuit dough*
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano


Grease a 1-quart Bundt pan or angel food cake pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Heat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. of the cheese and 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the sauce around the bottom of the pan. Separate the biscuits from each other and tear each into three pieces.

Place the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave. Dip half the biscuits in the melted butter and put them into the pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and sauce, bell pepper, and oregano on top.

Slightly stretch apart the remaining biscuit pieces, dip into the butter, and add them to the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and let cook 5 minutes on a rack. Remove from pan and place, inverted, on a serving plate.

*For those not in the United States, you’ll have to substitute a homemade biscuit dough for the canned, refrigerated kind. Do a search for “Southern buttermilk biscuit recipe” to find one. I have not made this one, but I love Southern Living magazine, and the recipe is probably good. Complete the recipe through Step 2, then weigh the dough and use only 12 ounces of it. Then divide in half and just pinch off large chunks to proceed with the pizza bread recipe.


Fennel Seed Bread

I got this recipe from an Estonian food blog (, which in turn got it from a Swedish baker. It’s delicious, and what a nice change to use yeast and such basic ingredients in a recipe again! Mine didn’t rise as high as hoped, but I’ll try to fix that next time. I also used two tablespoons of fennel seed instead of the two teaspoons called for below. I recommend it.

25 grams fresh yeast
1 Tbsp. honey
400 ml tepid water
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fennel seeds
4 1/4 cups plain flour

Crumble the yeast into a large bowl, add honey and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add tepid water and stir until everything is dissolved.

Add the salt and fennel seeds and most — not all — of the flour. Stir until combined, adding more flour if the dough is too wet. You may need to knead the dough by hand toward the end.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel or clingfilm and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place about one to two hours, until double in bulk.

Punch down dough. Divide it into two equally sized pieces. Put a little flour in your hands and, on a lightly floured surface, form each dough piece into an oblong loaf.

Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper and lift the dough pieces onto the baking sheet.

Heat the oven to 250C/480F degrees and let the dough rise outside the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Bake the loaves in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 150C/300F degrees and continue baking for about 20 minutes longer, until the bread is light golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

Let cool on a metal rack, loosely covered with a towel.