I’ve spent the last 15 years lining up secret cooking weapons across the USA. Bourbon barrel aged vanilla is my latest treasure.

At the dawn of my cooking career, I pulled down my grits and greens money via working as an overnight baker in Birmingham, Alabama. I was still in culinary school, but needed to keep a roof over my head before I could begin pulling down the big bank that awaited me as a line cook. That’s about 16k per year as a caveat to culinary students who are reading.

I baked cakes, pies, tarts, tortes, tea breads and cookies in the dark of night at a bakery perched on the back side of Red Mountain-the southern terminus of the Appalachian range.

My favorite tea bread, to this day, is a riff on banana nut cake. I grew up eating the stuff as my Aunt Wilma had a gold standard that I thought could not possibly be improved on.

But improve I did.


5 each bananas, ripe to the point of ruination

1 c. Sugar, I use untreated Mexican cane

2 each eggs, from well tended hens

1 T. vanilla, Bourbon Barrel aged

½ c. oil, I like peanut

½ c. Crema Salvadorena,

2 c. flour, self rising-just like all good southern bakers

1 c. Pistachios, busted up into large bits


* mash bananas and cream with sugar, vanilla, oil, eggs and crema

* incorporate flour and pistachios

* turn out into greased loaf pan

* bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or til done

cooking notes: Bourbon Barrel aged vanilla is available from http://bourbonbarrelfoods.com/shop/vanilla-extract/bourbon-barrel-aged-vanilla

Crema Salvadorena is available at HEB, Fiesta or any small box Mexican grocer

Pistachios are one of the world’s great nuts, pecans may be substituted

This is recipe number 102 in the archive

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