An ‘arresting’ recipe: Elaine’s banana bread
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 09:38
RUDOLPH - If Elaine Lyons discovers a batch of new people showing up in her life in the next month or two, seeking to become friends, I'd advise her to consider the overtures with a healthy dose of suspicion.
|Elaine Lyons serves her banana bread on her mom’s silver tray. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
My guess is, they will have read this Cook's Corner and figured out the truth: If you are family, friend, neighbor, co-worker or fellow volunteer with Lyons, you are going to enjoy some of the best baked goods to be found anywhere.
Just stick around. She's always baking, and she's always sharing what she's made.
That makes it almost impossible for Lyons herself to settle on just one recipe for this week's column.
"I asked my daughter which one to make, and she said 'Oh, make your banana nut bread. Everybody loves that.'"
It comes with the seal of approval from no less an authority than Bowling Green Police Chief Brad Conner.
Back when he was Lt. Conner and Lyons was still working as administrative assistant at the police department, she brought a loaf of the banana bread in to work one day.
She's pretty sure she originally found the recipe in a Country Cooking cookbook - one of the many different cookbooks in her collection.
"I know it had to be between 15 and 20 years ago, because I was working at the police department at the time and everybody just loved it."
After the first taste, Conner either requested Lyons make another loaf of the banana bread that he could take home to his wife, or he took the last bit of the loaf she had already made home with him.
Either way, Conner and his mother both liked Lyon's banana bread so much they switched allegiance immediately.
"He told me they were throwing out their recipes and going to use this one from now on. I thought that was pretty cute."
Most every recipe has one or two silent keys to its success and Lyons is pretty sure what to credit in this one.
"I think the buttermilk is the key to the moistness" of the banana bread.
She remains faithful to the recipe as spelled out elsewhere on the page, with one occasional exception.
"The only thing I change from time to time, sometimes I use applesauce in place of the oil. It cuts down on the fat content."
Lyons is Wood County born and raised, although she has called several different communities home over the decades. She attended grade school in Tontogany, but graduated from the old Liberty High School in Rudolph.
In 1970 Lyons started working at the police department in Bowling Green, first as a dispatcher and the last 13 years as administrative assistant to the chief, prior to her retirement in 2003.
For the past two years she's been a regular volunteer at Wood County Hospital, stationed at the emergency entrance.
That gives her a new outlet for her constant baking.
"Last summer I made a rhubarb bread for the gals at the welcome desk at the hospital."
Not everybody loves rhubarb, she knows, but for those who do she sometimes unveils another special recipe, for a rhubarb cream pie.
During zucchini season she has a zucchini bread recipe to die for. "Sometimes I put chocolate chips in the banana bread; I do the same with zucchini bread."
This week she decided to make cherry pie as the finish to what turned out to be a nontraditional Easter dinner.
"It was just my son and I" and the pair decided to take advantage of the warm sunshine. "We did steaks and shrimp on the grill, and we had broccoli and the cherry pie." In return, he spent the afternoon working in her yard.
Lyons has a total of five grandchildren, all now grown, and seven great-grandchildren. Other children, too, get to enjoy her grandmotherly touch in the kitchen.
"I take the neighbors my bread sometimes. The kids love my breads."
Lyons often gravitates toward recipes that have won contests of one sort or another, especially state and national.
Take the one for Award-Winning Washington State Apple Pie. "It is the only apple pie recipe I use now."
Sometimes she makes a tropical version of banana bread, called Pina Colada Bread.
"It has pineapple and coconut in it, and there's a rum extract that you put in it."
Lyons "is always putting things up on Facebook," one of her friends noted, saying she generously passes along photos and ideas about recipes that have turned out well for her.
All told, she estimates she's been baking bread for at least 20 years.
Like many people she went through the bread-machine fad. "I used the one my son got me, for quite awhile, but I wasn't happy with how the bread turned out."
When the machine started acting funky, she happily discarded it and returned to making all her bread from scratch.
In recent years, it's become her regular Sunday tradition.
Best Ever Banana Bread
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium)
½ cup Canola oil
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine eggs, bananas, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened.
Fold in nuts. Pour into a greased 9-inch-by-5-inch-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until bread tests done. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack.
Yields 1 loaf.
Note: For an intense banana flavor, use bananas that have speckled dark peels. For a milder flavor, use bananas whose peels are still yellow.