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Let’s Get Baked

My friends always know when I have writer’s block because there’s usually a sudden explosion of baking around my house. I’m plotting my next book and it’s not going well, but the baking is!
The latest opus is banana bread. I’ve made many versions, mostly bland failures, until I came across this recipe with a crazy secret–banana syrup. Seriously. It’s super easy but I would never have thought about intensifying the flavor in this way.

And after all, that’s what plotting a book is about–seeing something in a new way. Thinking outside the box. And baking while you do it.
If you’d rather just read about baking, grab yourself a copy of The Winter Lodge, which is filled with recipes from my fictional bakery on the shores of Willow Lake. Happy reading!

Ultimate Banana Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf
Note: Use ripe or even black bananas in this recipe, even the frozen ones taking up space in your freezer.

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ripe bananas, peeled (see note)
1 fresh banana for garnish, sliced
1 stick butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
2 teaspoons coarse sugar, like turbinado

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, line with waxed paper or parchment, and lightly spray again.


  1. Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut steam vents in plastic. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to a strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.


  1. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.


  1. Transfer banana liquid to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add bananas to the liquid and mash until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.


  1. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in nuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf. Sprinkle coarse sugar evenly over loaf.


  1. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 60 to 75 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine Editors. Copyright 2011

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2 Responses

  1. I’ve read, and really enjoyed, several of your books. In the Lakeshore Chronicles, Lakeshore Christmas, there are several great-sounding recipes in the back of the book. I’d love to try some of them but I’m sure you already know how difficult it is to copy anything from a book that doesn’t lay flat. Do you have those recipes online or in any other form?

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