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Fruity Banana Bread

 4 ounces ( 1/2 cup, packed) dried apricots
 1/3 cup orange juice
 Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil, for greasing pan
 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
 2 teaspoons baking powder
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 3/8 cup sugar
 Finely grated zest of 1 orange
 2 large eggs
 1 cup (about 3 medium) mashed very ripe bananas
 1/2 cup mixed nuts, chopped
 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar or granulated white sugar

1. Using kitchen shears, cut each apricot in half lengthwise. Holding halves together, cut four
or five times crosswise. In a small saucepan, combine apricot pieces and orange juice. Bring
to a boil, then remove from heat. Allow to rest until apricots have absorbed most of the liquid,
about 1 hour.
 
2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a baking sheet in oven. Spray or oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan,
and if desired, line with parchment paper. Melt butter in a microwave oven or small saucepan;
reserve.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large
bowl, blend together reserved butter,  3/8 cup sugar, and orange zest. Mix in eggs one at a time,
then mashed bananas, apricots, and nuts. Stir in flour mixture one-third at a time, stirring well
after each addition.

4. Scrape dough into pan, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted
into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Place pan on a rack to cool. To serve, remove
from pan, and slice thinly. Serve at room temperature.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.