I’d be hard pressed to find a time during my week that is more wonderful than Sunday mornings. Lazy, comforting, judgement free Sundays. If it could talk, Sunday would gently reassure you, in a soft, honeyed voice, that the stress and worries of the previous week were gone now, and you could be free to start again.
As I sit here, sun cascading through my windows and setting my whole right side aglow, there isn’t anywhere in the whole world I’d rather be. Ryder, whose head is just inches from my legs, seems to agree. Our content sighs quietly echoing eachother.
Yes, Sundays are the cat’s ass, as far as I’m concerned. Especially when you wake up early and realize you have some bananas that are quickly going bad and begging to be made into a loaf of dense, moist banana bread.
I’ve made many a banana bread in my day. It may have even been the first thing I learned how to bake. It’s simplicity and endless variations make it one of the most versatile loafs you can make. It comes together quickly and takes little more than what you have hanging around the house.
When I noticed the bananas, I anxiously started rummaging through my cupboards, trying to figure out what variation I would try today. I immediately locked eyes with a bag of hazelnuts that’s been hanging around for just a little too long. Bingo! Nuts are a wonderful pairing for banana, but pecans and walnuts are a little overdone in my house. I find walnuts, especially, take away from the brightness of the banana. But hazelnuts, when ground down to a coarse meal, were a lovely addition. Their flavor was subtle and recognizable but not overpowering.
I wanted to add a little more richness to the bread and considered roasting the bananas, as I’ve done before, but decided against in. Instead I opted for some browned butter to add a little more depth and warmth to the bread. If you haven’t browned butter, or tried browned butter before, you’re missing out on something wonderful. Butter alone if wonderful, but browned butter can’t even be compared. It’s rich, nutty, warm and earthy. It was the perfect pairing to hazelnuts and banana. I added just a little cream cheese to give a bit of a kick, and keep the bread moist.
Hazelnut Brown Butter Banana Bread w Honeyed Hazelnut Streusel
If you do use fresh bananas in this, be sure they are over-ripe and soft. I usually put my bananas in the freezer when I see that they are browning. If you do freeze them, take them out 30-45 minutes before you’re ready to use them.
3 medium bananas
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup + 1 handful skinned hazelnuts*
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 handful hazelnuts, skinned
1 tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
*see here for instructions on skinning hazelnuts
Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease an 8x4” loaf pan.
In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add your butter and let it melt and bubble away, swirling the pan every few minutes, until it’s golden brown and fragrant. About 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl, taking care to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
While the butter is browning, add skinned hazelnuts to a food processor and grind to a course meal.
Add the brown sugar and salt to the butter and mix. Add the cream cheese and vanilla. Whisk to loosen the cream cheese.
In a separate bowl, whisk together your ground hazelnuts, flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Add the dry mixture to the wet in two batches being careful not to over mix. Pour into your greased loaf pan.
Chop up the hazelnuts until small and mostly uniform in size. Add the honey and brown sugar and stir mix until combined.
Sprinkle over the loaf batter evenly. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
(I was enjoying my cup of tea a little too much and left my loaf in the oven a wee bit too long…try not to do that, ok?)