As a child I ate a lot of butter. Not buttery dishes, because we ate healthily, but just straight butter. Most nights you could find a small but pronounced moat running through the center of the butter stick, because I would run my finger down the middle and eat the butter straight, thinking that no one would be able to tell it was me (because, naturally, it would be my brother, who didn’t like butter, who would be blamed…?). At restaurants, more than once, I was scolded for eating the butter.
So it’s no secret that I became an instant fangirl of Paula Deen’s when I discovered her chatting on some now-defunct daytime talk show in college. In fact, I even met her one night in Raleigh when she was in town signing books. I waited for hours and finally had my moment, breathlessly telling her some story about a test I was choosing not to study for to meet her instead (joke’s on you, Paula, I never studied for tests). We snapped a picture, which I lost tragically during a home break-in… (no, they didn’t grab a framed shot of the two of us hoping to sell it for millions online, though, I’m sure it would have sold, but it lived only in the digital world on my stolen laptop), and that was that. I really thought (and secretly still do) that I’d work for her one day and pressed on through my heartache when I learned that she smoked and wore a wig. I’m still not sure which is more upsetting to me. But through thick, and, well, thicker, Paula’s been my homegirl and my go-to for a dessert recipe in a pinch.
When I wanted to use some overly ripe bananas that had taken up residence in my freezer, I turned to her tried and true banana bread recipe, knowing that with a foundation as solidly spectacular as that one, adding in some additional spices and pumpkin puree would be a dream. And when I decided that it needed just that little something extra, I recalled the topping of her caramel apple poke cake and scaled it down, added some salt and proclaimed it good. And when my husband, whose sweet tooth is minimal, spent his day off downing a small loaf of the stuff, I knew Paula and I had served up a winner. Y’all.
Note: This is even more extraordinary in a bowl topped with Trader Joe’s pumpkin ice cream. Just. Do it.
Other note: Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics cook book is an all-time favorite of mine. I turn to it time and time again.
Third note: The listed recipe below yielded two small loaves and one large loaf.
One more note because I like even numbers (seriously, I can’t even have my TV volume set on odd numbers unless they’re multiples of 5. Sometimes Davey the Hubbers will send me a picture of himself watch TV with the volume on 13 or 17… like a real jerk): we debated whether to call this concoction “bumpkin” bread or “pumpnana” bread. Then we started using those terms in grown up ways and forgot that we were trying to name bread, so jury’s still out on that front.
Pumpkin Banana Bread + Salted Caramel Topping
Adapted from Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics recipe
2 sticks butter, softened
2 c. sugar
6 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3 c. all purpose flour
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I didn’t actually measure this when I made it… I just gave it a few generous shakes, but I’d approximate that’s where I landed)
For salted caramel topping
1 stick butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
Splash of milk
Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pans. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, bananas, vanilla, pumpkin and dry ingredients. Mix until well combined. Pour into loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes. With about 10 minutes left in baking time, melt butter, brown sugar and milk together. Feel free to add more brown sugar if the mixture remains too thin. Bring melted ingredients to a boil and let boil rapidly for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to begin to cool. You should be left with a nice, golden caramel sauce. Add generous sprinkling of salt. Taste and add more, if desired. While bread is still warm, poke several small holes in the top of each loaf, and drizzle with caramel. Add more to the top.