Baking is one of my coping mechanisms. It keeps me busy, and then I get to eat/feed other people comfort food. My project for the evening was a riff on my friend's family banana nut bread recipe. The dates add a tangy sort of contrast to this sweet, homey quick bread, and the pecans are sweeter than the traditionally used walnuts.
The only real secret to any quick bread recipe (y'know, anything you can put in a muffin tin/get to rise without yeast) is to not work the batter much at all after you add in the flour. You really only need to get the flour wet -- mixing it too hard will create too much gluten and make your bread/muffins tough. And nobody likes tough muffins.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
3 ripe bananas, sliced
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped small
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread your pecan bits out in a pan and stick them in the oven until they begin to get fragrant -- 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how fast your oven heats up. (You want them to get a little deeper in color, but be careful not to burn them!)
Meanwhile, butter & flour a bread loaf pan. Yes, even if it's nonstick!
Measure out your dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, salt) into a bowl and combine them by stirring with a whisk. (You could sift them together if you're more motivated than I am.)
In a separate bowl, combine the butter and sugars. Hit 'em with an electric beater on low-to-medium speed for ~2 minutes, or until the mixture increases in volume and lightens in color a bit. Add the eggs, vanilla, and bananas, and beat for another minute or so on low-to-medium, or until the bananas are pretty well mashed up and mixed in -- smallish, pea-sized chunks are okay, but you don't want pieces much larger than that.
Now, my friends, it is time for the dry ingredients, so put that mixer down. Gently stir your dry mixture into your wet mixture, juuust until it's incorporated. A couple dry spots are okay, 'cause after you gently stir in the toasted pecan bits and the chopped dates, you're gonna leave the batter alone for five whole minutes. Five! Just set the bowl down and walk away. (I know this because Alton Brown knows this.) While you're checking your Twitter page, the flour will be busy soaking up some extra moisture without creating any of that nasty tough-muffin gluten.
When you come back, pour the batter into the prepared pan (you'll notice that most any flour pockets will have disappeared, and the batter will have some air pockets in it -- this is a good thing) and pop that sucker into the oven! It'll take an hour or so to bake -- check it at 60 minutes, and leave it for another 5-10 if it's not a deep golden brown yet. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes (to let it finish cooking & solidify a bit), then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it sit for another few minutes (for the same reason) before slicing and devouring.