Like the ebb and flow of the ocean tides, inspiration seems to come and go with a steady rhythm. Some days it rides in on a large wave, electric and exciting as it washes over me. Eventually the inspiration is called back into the sea and I desperately grasp at the departing water, trying futilely to hold onto the last remains as it slides easily between my fingertips.
With the last burst of warmth before fall surrounding me, I've been feeling inspired by everything from the color of ripe peaches to the golden light before the sun sets.
This time the inspiration for this recipe unexpectedly stood out between a set of paragraphs—"Today I learned how to bake mean banana bread. The secret apparently is half a cup of dark rum." The baker in me, interest piqued, wondered if it could be true. Was this the secret to baking up a remarkable banana bread? With such a bold claim written in front of me, a secret ingredient exposed, the impulse to discover the truth propelled me forward.
The bananas were purchased. They rested on the counter until speckled and brown. The batter was mixed, the rum was added, and when the loaf emerged from the oven, hot and steamy, I didn't wait until it cooled to take a bite.
Puzzled, I took another taste. The rum, it seemed, was nowhere to be found.
In my sheer desire to taste the barest hint of rum, a third of the loaf disappeared in front of my searching eyes. Defeated, I divided up the rest to share with friends, hoping they could taste something I couldn't. Even so, the consensus was clear—though it was a good loaf of bread, it just didn't live up to my rum-infused expectations. I allowed myself to drift into other projects, forgetting about the loaf of bread. The banana bread, however, wasn't finished with me.
Out of the blue, my friend informed me that a couple of days later the banana bread had mysteriously changed in the night. It seemed the rum flavor missing on that crucial first day had finally come out to play. In disbelief, I rushed to the store to buy another set of bananas and the cycle repeated once more. With my patience tested, I waited the right amount of time for the rum to emerge before I took a bite. As promised, it was there, subtle and sneaky.
Inspiration, ever mysterious, likes to keep me on my toes, reminding me I can't always find it when I'm looking for it. Unpredictable, it can be found equally in a few words in a novel full of sentences or in the virtues of a friend who can hold out on a loaf of banana bread longer than myself.
Banana Rum Bread is a boozy twist on the traditional loaf of banana bread. Like a fine wine, the longer the banana bread rests on the counter top (or sits in the refrigerator), the stronger the rum flavor will develop. The first day the rum flavor is completely absent, but the subtle flavor slowly creeps in the following days, resulting in tingling tongues and happy taste buds. The banana bread batter is a very basic recipe so you could certainly throw in a pinch of cinnamon or a handful of chocolate chips if you desire, but the real star is the half a cup of dark rum.
Note: All of the rum does not bake out of the bread, so this is not an appropriate recipe to share with children.
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Banana Rum Bread
Yield 9 x 5-inch loaf
1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 grams) butter
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (120 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (118 ml) dark rum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and mashed bananas until fully incorporated. Mix in the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the rum.
Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.