Friday, October 8, 2010

Banana Bars

I had to have one bite!

 There are certain smells that transport me right back to my childhood.  The smell of Old Spice will always remind me of my Dad, who wore that scent until I went to college.  Food has a way of taking me back in time and kindling fond memories, too. These memories are sharp as the time I was making them because they are of friends and family who I don't  have the pleasure of being around all the time.  I can prepare a dish and immediately be back with that person and, through their recipe enjoy some fond memories.  These banana bars have that nostalgic connection for me.
When I worked in Fort Worth, TX as Children's Minister our church building was sold and we began a two year process of building a new building North of the current location.  This two-year time span was certainly challenging, but also among some of the best times of ministry, personally.  We met in the Keller ISD High School and each week transformed the school into our church building.  Teacher's lounge became the Nursery, Cafeteria and halls became classes for preschool through 5th grade, and the performing arts center (auditorium) was one where the adults Bible class met.  It was during this time that many, many new faces came our way, among them the Cardenas family.  Adam, Gabe, Mari-Kathrine, Dillon, Sharon, and Renan would come rolling in every week.  Usually whisking Dillon off to the Nursery, in a rush, always smiling and enjoying being part of the excitement that was our church experience.

Sharon eventually became my secretary and very good friend.  We became fast friends because we shared a love for cooking and eating.  We talked a lot about food and cooking and would find a recipe online and tear it apart to make it our own.  Ms. Sharon has some great recipes, and these banana bars are at the top of that list.  They cake is super moist, thanks to the addition of sour cream, and has a subtle yet unforgettable banana flavor. Light and tender, with the hint of vanilla and almond (I added almond extract to the recipe) throughout.  You top these wonderful bars with a cream cheese butter cream that I could eat with a spoon.  The cake doesn't last long, but keeps very well, covered on the counter.

If you have some bananas past their prime, give these bars a try.  A simple powdered sugar glaze would also be wonderful on this bar, if you didn't have or want to make cream cheese butter cream.


Here's the batter spread into the pan ready for the oven.
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup Sour Cream
2 bananas, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8th teaspoon almond extract (cap full)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour a half sheet pan, set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer: add the butter and sugar mixing well (5 minutes) on medium high heat.  Add the remaining ingredients, mixing each well before adding the next.  When completely incorporated, spread the batter evenly onto the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set.  Cool completely before frosting with butter cream.

Notes:  I don't mash the bananas because my mixer does a good job of that, it saves a step and a bowl.  I think these would make great cupcakes, you would have to play with the cooking time of course.  If you don't have a half sheet (I get mine at Sam's) baking sheet, you can use a jelly roll pan just fine.

Here it is hot out of the oven.  The white spots are the banana
bits, so good.
Cream Cheese Butter Cream

1 stick room temperature butter
8 oz Cream Cheese
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond
2 boxes of confection sugar.

Beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth and without lumps.  Add extracts and mix to incorporate. Slowly add confection sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.  Frost cake.  If the frosting is too thick add some milk to thin the frosting.

This cake is super simple to whip us and is so delicious, especially when the cake is still just a tad bit warm and the icing is kind of...melty.  You can keep this in the fridge or on the counter, either place is just fine.  If you really didn't feel like making frosting (it's super simple to do, you really can do it) you could crack open a can.  I can't remember the last time I ate canned frosting, it is just so simple to make your own.  I think you will want to keep this cake in your handy file and use it often.  Ms. Sharon also has another great sheet cake called a White Texas Sheet Cake that we tweaked over and over to make it right.  Just typing those words has really made me want to make that cake now...great.

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