“What’s Oh Henry, “Nate asked from the couch.
“O’Henry? The book awards?” I asked without looking up but silently congratulating myself on my literary 7 year old and giddily imagining long afternoons reading together.
The candy! He yelled over to me. He was holding one of the mini candy bars from his giant bucket of Halloween candy that suddenly appeared in our lives on October 31. Not only is the giant bucket full of yumminess, it’s also a collection of shapes, colors, words, flavors, sizes that seemed to intrigue both kids almost as much as the sugary goodness.
Last night Nate made me rank my top 6 candy bare (Milky Way, KitKat, Three Musketeers, Reese's, Hershey bar). He laid the mini bars in the order I chose and came back to the lineup from time to time throughout the evening.“ Are you sure that Milky Way should win?” It took considerable time and consideration on both our parts.
Mack is a little more reckless with it all. (This is the boy who ran in from trick or treating, took off his costume and all his clothes and announced in backwards-facing briefs “Let’s start this party!”) He fumbles through various lollipops and chewies, pausing sporadically to ask “is this one the poison?” (Yes I did tell them about that because I can’t help it.)
Michael and I have become the house experts on all things candy. We know which ones have nuts, which are too sweet, too sticky. Tootsie Rolls for example are a waste of tooth-time. Nerds are intriguing—so tiny and brightly colored — but without substance. Michael likes anything gummy and I prefer anything not gummy (aka chocolate.) But we are the ones who can show these naïve boys the way through their candy bucket.
And suddenly candy is forefront and center of almost all of our interactions. It’s the first thing they ask about when they get home from school. In the morning it’s a grueling decision making process to determine which piece goes in the lunchbox and then the runner-up, the one for after school. We seemed to have moved on at least temporarily from the car races and fantasy baseball games of yore to the inevitable candy wars.
So in order to add some conflict, I thought I'd bring something else sweet into the daily mix. (Also because no one is going to eat those withering bananas lying hopeful near the candy center.) But I needed a kick-ass Banana Bread, one of that could stand up to a Hershey's.
Who better to ask than the grumpy queen of making it right whatever it takes (here mainly a lot of butter)—Gabrielle Hamilton whose book "Prune" is genius. And whose banana bread recipe is so thoroughly realized and explained, down to how long to cream the butter and sugar and what shade the combination should achieve by the end of mixing. It would be impossible to let her down. The cake is rich and dense but not too sweet—moistened by buttermilk and pierced by soft walnuts. It's really delicious and gave the candy a good run.
Prune's Banana Bread
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cups sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cups (2 sticks) butter softened
- 1.5 cups bananas, mashed (from about 5 bananas)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
In a stand mixer, cream eggs and butter until light yellow. Alternate adding 1/2 banana mush and 1/2 buttermilk. Then slowly add flour mixture.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake until loaves are golden brown, about 55-65 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Recipe adapted from Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton