February 23 – Banana Bread Day
I’m not a baker. I’m a cook, in that I like to make delicious things to eat and share them with the people I love. I’d even love to do that with sweet things. But I hate measuring. A dash of this and a sprinkle of that to taste has always been my way, which is why I’ve leaned more towards cooking in my life than baking. Ever since I was a child my baking endeavors have ended disastrously: from serving undercooked orange muffins with the paper sticking to it to my 2nd grade class, to attempting chocolate cookies from scratch and ending up with one large, charred thin cookie spread all across the baking pan. I’ve even come close to saying I can’t bake.
But my baking friends told me to be vigilant, and try something easy at first to gain my confidence. The thing they suggested? Banana bread. It’s incredibly forgiving to the bad baker, and because the banana is such a strong taste, it can retain a lot of measurement screw-ups and still taste yummy. I was so ecstatic when I made my first successful loaf of banana bread, and have been making different varieties (banana walnut, banana cornbread, banana cranberry) ever since. I’ve branched out to cookies and cakes (cakes from a mix, of course, lol) but banana bread still works wonders and the final product makes me feel accomplished.
You can find more than one variety of banana bread in New York City that’s far more than passable; you can even call it amazing. It’s a bread that’s easy to make but only a few can master it and make it outstanding. Head to Park Slope for some of that masterful bread taste: Blue Sky Bakery makes a chocolate chip banana bread that you will go…um…bananas for. 😉 It’s moist and flavorful, and the chocolate chips help make this a sweet little treat. While there, you can pick up a few of their more unique offerings, like savory muffins made with zucchini and carrot, but their simple banana bread is what truly makes this bakery stand out. Head there early, however; once the daily-made baked goods are sold out, the store’s shuttered for business for the day, which could mean a very early closure and a very disappointing trip to the slope.
Blue Sky Bakery
53 5th Ave (between St Marks Ave & Bergen St), Brooklyn
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I adore Blue Sky Bakery! They make the most scrumptious muffins and chocolate chip banana bread known to man! The other reviewers are NOT exaggerating! They make a lot of really unique muffins with various ingredients you don’t often see used in muffins – rhubarb, raspberry, cream cheese, carrot, zucchini, etc, and their banana bread is to die for. I could live on that stuff.”–Aimee A.
“Terrific all around. Not only are the baked goods delicious–muffins and choc chip banana bread especially so–but the staff seem great.”–Josh Z.
But there is more than one way to eat banana bread, just as there’s a myriad of ways to bake it. Sullivan Street Bakery–which, false advertising, is not on Sullivan Street–has outshone the rest of the bland, typical banana breads by making a coffee and sambuca-flavored banana bread pudding. Cooked to perfection, the bread isn’t brittle nor soggy, the bread still holding its shape and texture when added to the warm, gooey custard. The coffee and sambuca add levels of bitterness to it that makes sure the pudding doesn’t sway too far on the sweet side. (Which, of course, means you can eat a whole ton of this stuff before getting sick of it!) It’s definitely a new spin on both the banana bread and the bread pudding, and the flavor combinations are wacky, but complementary, and are anything but typical.
Sullivan Street Bakery
533 W 47th St (at 11th Ave)
“My current affair is with a caramelized wedge of banana bread pudding. I have an especially soft spot in my heart for puddings which are generous and easy in the mouth, and I love Bananas for the same reason. At Sullivan Street Bakery, the two are combined with a flaky, butter-rich crust. The bread pudding mix is immensely moist, lightly spiced, and hovers an enviable line between custard and cake. To top it off, the bananas have been soaked in sambuca and coffee and deeply caramelized—dancing on the verge of bitterness, but falling just to the right side of sweet. Rustic comfort at its best. This warmed cut of pudding, accompanied by coffee, would make for a very fine start to the day.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“It seems like making pasteries is a lost art. When Starbucks sells what they call “pasteries” its a mass produced product. What they serve at Sullivan Bakery, like their Banana Bread Pudding with a real banana on top are the goods.”–Bill S.
Have you found a delicious banana bread in the city that just has to be shared with everyone? Let us know about it in the comments!