One-bowl banana nut bread

One-bowl banana nut bread

It was about this time last year that I was lured across the street, to the Pearl Street Pumpkin Patch, by a tangle of cosmos. I noticed a small sign that said PICK YOUR OWN CHARD so I wandered through the entrance – into a little oasis in the middle of a residential neighborhood just south of the city – and tiptoed around, looking for someone to see if I could actually pick my own chard or if it was more of one of those I choose my own chard and you physically pick it for me kinda deals. A voice from behind the corn said I could pick it myself, so I did. And then he took a break from tending to the tall stalks to introduce himself and find out how I discovered the garden. I told him I was across the street having coffee. And that I’m inherently nosey. He laughed.

I took a picture with the chard and posted it on Instagram. The following week I got an email, through the contact form on this site, from a person who called himself Garden Man. Turns out it was the man from the pumpkin patch; the crazy one who tried to sell me an armful of chard (and heirloom tomatoes) for a measly $2. One of his tenants saw my photo on Instagram (HI MAL!) and suggested he get in touch with me. So he did.

I should preface this by saying I had every intention of telling you about Garden Man (whose real name was actually Steve) exactly two weeks after I met him. About his mind-boggling resilience and his big plans for the little pumpkin patch and his wildly infectious demeanor that never ceased to put me in a good mood. Thom always said I was my happiest when I came back from spending time with him at a coffee shop or in his garden. Which I think speaks volumes about him as a person. I could be in his presence for a mere two hours and I would come home radiant and on top of the world. Being around him was like coming up for a breath of fresh air – and I’m fairly certain that anyone who was lucky enough to know him would wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

Extra ripe bananasOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut bread

Unfortunately, in May, Steve lost his third battle with cancer. Three days before Thom and I were set to go back to Ohio and get secretly married. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I was there to witness his physical life come to an end. But I was. And let me tell you something: seeing someone you admire – someone you watched give it their all and put up such a tough fight – take their very last breath and succumb to something as awful and unpredictable as cancer, is one of the most devastating things you will ever witness. It will haunt you. It will wreck you. It will make you want to say fuck it to your secret wedding because how could you possibly get married at a time like this?

But this isn’t about me. This is about Steve. The pithy dude who wasn’t at all concerned with political correctness or worrying about accidentally offending someone. He said cancer will do that to you. And losing a child. And going through a crippling divorce. But that’s what I liked about him: he was raw and real and, most of all, the dude was unapologetic and meant what he said. So when he confessed that the idea of baking without eggs and dairy seemed asinine, I didn’t take it as an insult. I took it as a challenge. A challenge that resulted in me showing up to his garden the next day, with a warm loaf of banana nut bread in tow. He laughed and rolled his eyes and, instead of saying thank you (like a normal, well-mannered person would do), he proceeded to taunt me for “forgetting the eggs and butter”. But I knew he’d come around. And he did. At about 10PM that night I received a text from him saying something along the lines of it being good; damn good. And instead of saying thank you (like a normal, well-mannered person would do), I responded with a sassy I know followed by a string of kiss-y face, salsa dancing, and lightning bolt emoji. Topped off with a sarcastic comment about him being on a beautiful path to a cruelty-free lifestyle.

This was our friendship in a nutshell. For eight months we gave each other shit over coffee and he (unsuccessfully) tried to convince me to eat a “real burger” while I (successfully) convinced him to trade me all the vegetables in his garden for homemade banana nut bread. We laughed until we cried and then he got sick again. Then there was a lot less laughing and a lot more crying. And now he’s gone.

And I’m just here eating banana nut bread, trying to wrap my mind around that.

For Garden Man. The hilarious and irrepressible ol’ dude with a smile that could – literally – light up a room. I hope the ethereal plane is covered with a mess of cosmos, knee-high rainbow chard, and pumpkins ten times the size of the one on my table. You are missed.

One-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut breadOne-bowl banana nut bread

Notes: This recipe is definitely more bread-like than cake-like, which is necessary for when I give you the recipe for banana bread french toast (!!!!!). It’s also just barely sweet, so if you want something that eats more like a dessert, up the sugar to 1 cup (or 1 1/4 cups if you’ve got a serious sweet tooth). I’ve made this recipe using whole wheat flour, light spelt flour, unbleached flour, and white whole wheat flour and, in the end, the crumb of the white whole wheat reigned supreme (the other three flours produce an end product that is delicious, but the texture just didn’t do it for me). This recipe also works fantastic with pumpkin or sweet potato puree. However, you’ll want to use 1 1/2 cups puree + 1/2 cup pure maple syrup to make up for the sweetness that’s lost when replacing the bananas. Speaking of which, your bananas really should be black. Because I was in a hurry to get the recipe up for you guys, I jumped the gun and made them with those speckled things up top but DON’T DO THAT. If your bananas look like they might make you sick if you ate them raw, they’re good to go.

PS – You have until the end of the day to enter the $150 giveaway!

ONE-BOWL BANANA NUT BREAD

4-5 (490g) extra ripe bananas (2 cups of puree)
3/4 cup (150g) cane sugar
3/4 cup (135g) coconut oil, melted (but not hot)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (115g) almond buttermilk
, room temperature
Dash of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups (365g) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (45g) raw walnut pieces, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 pound loaf pan (mine was 4″x12″, which is longer and more narrow than a typical loaf pan) with oil and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the bananas with a hand mixer or immersion blender until smooth. Whisk in the sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract, followed by the cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and half of the flour. Whisk in the buttermilk then, using a rubber spatula, stir in the remaining flour and finely chopped walnuts, just until combined (do not over mix or else your bread will be tough and chewy). Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (if using a shorter/wider loaf pan, it may need to bake a bit longer). Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely. Banana nut bread will keep loosely covered, at room temperature, for up to three days.

Yield: 10 thick slices

33 Comments

  • Reply Clem @ The Vegan Cookie Fairy 1 October 2015 at 7:34 AM

    That was beautiful, Ashlae. I was going to say heartbreaking, and then I realised how wholly inappropriate that word would be considering the pain you’ve gone through.

    What on earth is white whole wheat flour and where do I get it? I’ve only ever seen white, whole wheat and spelt n the UK.

  • Reply Edlyn 1 October 2015 at 8:24 AM

    8 months is too short but then again 8 months can feel like a lifetime. I know exactly what you’re talking about. The more I think about grief, the more I feel like there is a selfish side to this emotion. I hate feeling it but I know it’s not about me. In a way that has helped bring me out of those stages of life. It has helped ne focus more on the person I’m grieving/celebrating and living a life I know they would be proud to still be a part of. Banana bread is a great way to keep Steve (Hey Steve!!) always joining you for coffee. It’s the best way, really.

  • Reply Erin 1 October 2015 at 8:32 AM

    Steve sounds like he was a truly wonderful person. As lucky as you feel to have known him, I’m sure he felt just as lucky to know you. You have such a beautiful way with words. Photos, too. This banana bread looks divine.

  • Reply Erica 1 October 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Perfect photos, and probably one of the most beautiful posts I’ve read. You have a real talent with words. This looks like the best banana bread ever.

  • Reply selma 1 October 2015 at 12:35 PM

    When I make this bread, will send a “hi” to Steve altough I do not know him, you helped us connected to him . Also you made us realize how fragile life is..Thank you. You are one special person and a great food writer.
    Selma

  • Reply dana 1 October 2015 at 3:39 PM

    I love you. You are the best human I know. That is all. Now gimme dat BRAD.

  • Reply Gemma 1 October 2015 at 4:15 PM

    This banana bread looks fantastic! :-) I’m picturing myself eating a thick slice of your bread paired with my homemade peanut butter…what a yummy breakfast!

    Your pictures are so so beautiful, always!!! <3

  • Reply Batya 1 October 2015 at 5:36 PM

    A, I just read this while exercising on the elliptical at the YMCA on Colorado. I’ve got snot running down my nose, my eyes are teary…and a stranger asked me if I was having an allergic reaction OR if it’s the AC (which is definitely on way too high). I told her I read something very beautiful, very sad, and very moving. I’d love to join you in the patch. Xx, B

  • Reply Jessica 1 October 2015 at 6:21 PM

    This is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read in a long time, and the banana bread sounds so good. Can’t wait to hear about the french toast!

  • Reply The-FoodTrotter 2 October 2015 at 1:21 AM

    Your banana bread looks so tasty and soft. I love your pictures, it gives me the feelings I wake up for a sunny winter breakfast :)

  • Reply Lisa 2 October 2015 at 1:33 AM

    Damn, this loaf looks insanely good, INSANELY GOOD!

  • Reply Kristina 2 October 2015 at 1:42 AM

    If I would be at home reading this I would cry, being in public I try to hold the tears back. This story is so touching. Sometimes people come into your life and then leave, but in the short time you knew them they made a huge impact on you, those are the special persons. And I can understadn why he loved your banana bread, it sounds delicious.

  • Reply Heidi 2 October 2015 at 7:00 AM

    This was beautiful, Ashlae. I spend a lot of time at Steam and have admired that garden, from afar, since early last spring. I now regret the fact that I never bothered to walk across the street to visit, as Steve sounds like the kind of person everyone needs in their lives. Hugs to you, my friend.

  • Reply Abby 2 October 2015 at 8:40 AM

    This love is perfection! And the story, oh my heart.

    Do you have any suggestions for making it gluten free? I know the GF + vegan combo is really tricky. I have two flour blends on hand (one with xanthan gum and one without). I also have coconut flour + almond meal to work with.

  • Reply Christine 2 October 2015 at 10:36 AM

    It sounds like you found an impactful mentor, an indispensably illuminating influence. May your sense of his spirit forever align you with your happiest self. <3

  • Reply Rachel | La Pêche Fraîche 2 October 2015 at 1:21 PM

    Oh me oh my, Ashlae. As someone who is currently picking up the pieces of her own wreck, this brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story with your readers. I am reminded, in my darkest moments, that I’m grateful for the swirl of haunting memories—imbued with love—that I can conjure up at any moment. Gorgeous, warm, and cosy photos as well—I’d be hard pressed to think of a more comforting food than warm banana bread! xxxx

  • Reply Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is 3 October 2015 at 4:51 AM

    […] one bowl banana nut bread. such perfect slices. […]

  • Reply Susannah (Lemon and Coconut) 3 October 2015 at 7:18 AM

    Thank you for sharing something so personal, we pass through each others lives and it’s difficult to make sense of. The bread looks so lovely, I love your photo of the slice on the plate on the chair arm, so vibrant and abstract it’s gorgeous. I’m going to try making it with buckwheat and coconut sugar, see ow it turns out. :)

  • Reply Abby 3 October 2015 at 7:26 AM

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Thank you for being real; for sharing the good and the bad. As someone who just lost a dear friend, I feel your pain. I wish I didn’t. xo

  • Reply Linzy 3 October 2015 at 7:38 PM

    This post made me cry. I lost a good friend of mine earlier this year after a long battle with cancer. Sometimes the simplest thing can remind us of those we lost. This really was a beautiful post.

  • Reply vivarais@restaurant-le-vivarais 3 October 2015 at 10:47 PM

    This bread is amazing. My neighbor bakes goodies for my kids all the time and they love them but this amazing recipe puts me back in the competition. Thank you!

  • Reply Jess 5 October 2015 at 6:56 AM

    Oh, this look so delicious, perfect for breakfast on Sunday morning. Waking up to the smell of this… magical. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  • Reply Shandra 5 October 2015 at 11:10 AM

    This post is so heartfelt – I came for the bread recipe and am so glad to have received so much more. Thank you for the reminder that you never know when the next someone who impacts your world will come around, and that it’s not the length of a friendship that matters, it’s the depth. We all need a reminder every once in a while to keep those doors to friendship open. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • Reply Franziska Glauser 6 October 2015 at 12:58 AM

    Never baked banana bread on my own, but really have to try it with your recipe. Looks fantastic and sounds pretty easy to make. As always, love your beautiful pictures and the whole look of your wonderful blog!
    Sending you my best wishes from Switzerland, Franzi

  • Reply Sophie | The Green Life 6 October 2015 at 10:50 AM

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Steve sounds like he was a truly amazing person. Thanks for sharing his story and for sharing this beautiful recipe too. This banana bread sounds absolutely heavenly!

  • Reply Madeline | madeline marie 6 October 2015 at 12:17 PM

    what a sweet sweet post. this banana bread is also probably the prettiest i’ve ever seen. i have some bananas about to get a little over-ripe; i may need to make this!! ; )

    also thank you for following my blog! glad we’ve connected. <3

  • Reply Hunter 7 October 2015 at 4:15 PM

    I saw this post and decided to make it on a whim (with pumpkin!), and after I’ve just put it in the oven, I came back to read the post. Your friendship with Steve sounds like one of those once in a lifetime kind of friendships. You know how to make beautiful words, and thank you for sharing your heartfelt story.

    P.S., just had a bite straight out of the oven and it’s freakin’ delicious!

  • Reply sara forte 8 October 2015 at 10:15 PM

    that looks amazing! I am always on the lookout for new banana breads to try. Or to play around with because I can’t help myself. This looks like perfection. xo

  • Reply Nanci katz 10 November 2015 at 8:31 AM

    What a BEAUTIFUL tribute to your amazing friend!

  • Reply Laura 13 November 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Holy shit. This bread is so good. So good that I had to go to your website and leave a comment as I’m stuffing it in my mouth still warm out of the oven. IT’S SO GOOD. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Reply Ashlae 21 November 2015 at 6:56 AM

      Hi Laura –

      HOLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAA! <3

  • Reply sara 2 February 2016 at 10:33 AM

    This story broke my heart. God Bless.

  • Reply Vienna 18 March 2016 at 3:36 PM

    Your blog is one of my favorite blogs – absolutely stunning photography, genuinely touching yet humorous stories, and recipes that result in nothing less than perfection. More points for being vegan. I just love browsing through your posts everyday. Great job!

    P.S. Steve’s story really depressing, but I’m glad you guys had a very genuine friendship.

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