The world is decidedly scary right now. Our household, like most around the globe, is prepping for weeks of social distancing and potential quarantine. My freezer is set to bursting but I can assure we only have a rational amount of toilet paper in reserve. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about giving your nerves a break and nothing silences strung-out nerves like Banana Bread French Toast with Stewed Rhubarb.
Yes, delivering nostalgia and comfort is the name of the game today and this buttery brunch delivers both tenfold. While this dish is more decadent than anything you’d dare to eat on a weekday, it’s not overly fancy. What I really love about this Banana Bread French Toast is how casual it is. It’s not trying to stretch your definition of what brunch is or what tastes good. Instead, it gives you blissful nostalgia drench in maple syrup and served unsweetened whipped cream. This is a plate of greatest hits, nothing avant-garde about it.
I find the longer I make food, the more I’m driven by memory. Not just my own but the memories of other people. I want my food to tickle them in just the right way. I believe that, for the most part, when we sit down to the table, we want to enjoy ourselves. Even if we’re having something virtuous, we want to feel the joy that comes with eating. And the root of that joy lies in nostalgia.
Now, I don’t think this is particularly limiting. A fan-favorite combo like chocolate and peanut butter has an infinite amount of applications. So the opportunity for personal expression is present even if you are pursuing the culinary equivalent of playing the Chicken Dance at a wedding.
Take today’s Banana Bread French Toast for instance. My jumping-off point is a bake sale classic. You’d be hard press to find a North American that doesn’t have some kind of memory associated with a good loaf of banana bread. My grandmother made a mean banana bread almost every week. And guess what else she used to make – stewed rhubarb.
Now, banana bread and rhubarb may sound like an odd combination, but if you lived in my brain, you’d wonder why it took me so long to get there. Part of the reason this blog bears the name it does is because of my grandmother’s stewed rhubarb. She made it in abundance every spring when the rhubarb patch behind my family’s farmhouse took off. I have many memories of spooning the rhubarb over pancakes, ice cream, and tea biscuits. She would freeze vats of the stuff in repurposed ice cream containers and we’d stir it into pie fillings and oatmeal all year long. To me, nothing is more nostalgic than the taste of rhubarb.
So, with my childhood in the driver’s seat, this Banana Bread French Toast with Stewed Rhubarb made perfect sense. It’s exactly what teeny Susan would want in a crisis, she just didn’t know it. But there are hints of my current self in this dish as well. The unsweetened whipped cream is a plea for balance in a sea of sugar. But the richness of the cream itself is a nod to my adult understanding that sometimes indulging in something is good for the soul.
So, I’m going to leave it here with that tasty thought. I hope a nice plate of something decadent will provide you with a much-needed reprieve from all that is scary right now. Keep your head up, look out for one another and keep whipping that cream.
Banana Bread French Toast with Stewed Rhubarb
- 454g (1 lb) fresh rhubarb chopped
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 ripe bananas
- 2 tbsp milk 2% or higher
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup walnuts chopped
Banana Bred French Toast
- 2/3 loaf banana bread cut into 8 thick slices
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
Unsweetened Whipped Cream
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- maple syrup for drizzling
For the Stewed Rhubarb
- Place the rhubarb, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer the rhubarb until it breaks down completely and the liquid in the pan takes on a syrup-like consistency.
- Transfer the rhubarb to a bowl and let cool to room temperature before covering and transferring to the fridge.
For the Banana Bread
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- In a separate bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cinnamon and set aside.
- In another bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together and whisk to combine.
- With the mixer set to low, add the banana mixture in thirds, alternating with the dry ingredients. Wait for each addition to become fully integrated before adding more. Finally, add the walnuts and mix until evenly dispersed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for an hour or until a toothpick and be inserted and removed cleanly from the center of the loaf. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transfering the loaf to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Enjoy some of the bread fresh before transforming into french toast, because there is nothing better than fresh banana bread.
For the French Toast
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the milk, eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
- Melt a small amount of butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until frothy. Briefly dip two pieces of banana bread in the egg mixture, ensuring they are coated completely before placing on the skillet. Cook the bread for roughly 3 minutes a side or until golden. Transfer the finished pieces of banana bread french toast to a large plate and keep warm in a 150°F oven. Repeat with the remaining slices of banana bread.
- Pour the whipping cream into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the cream on medium-high until medium-soft peaks form. Transfer to a bowl.
- Arrange two slices of Banana Bread French Toast on a plate and serve with a spoonful of stewed rhubarb, a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream