With Apologies to Tania, Garrett, Garrett's Grandma Capune, and My Dogs
These giant cookies are a hit with both kids and adults.
Before I became a farmgirl in rural Missouri, I was (among other things) a graphic designer in urban Nortnern California. I had a collection of Rapidograph pens and subscribed to magazines with names like Communication Arts and Print. Now I collect pitchforks and rocks and read Progressive Farmer and the quarterly bulletins put out by the USDA.
I've also forgotten nearly everything I once knew about photo screens, acetate overlays, paste-up boards, and type indication (just coming up with this list was a challenge), but fortunately all that stuff is pretty much obsolete anyway. So much for my college education.
One thing I do remember after all these years is an article where a bunch of designers was asked what they thought was the most well designed food, and somebody said bananas. Yes! Bananas come with their own handy packaging so they transport well and you don't have to worry about washing them before eating—which you can easily do one-handed. And, unlike oranges, they aren't messy and therefore don't require a napkin.
Bananas also happen to be one of the World's Healthiest Foods, and are packed with vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. According to the WHFoods website, they're one of our best sources of potassium—an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function—and can help do everything from build better bones to protect your eyesight. They also happen to be inexpensive, plentiful, and delicious.
Carrying around a healthy, protected snack is all well and good, but everybody knows the best way to enjoy a banana is after it's been baked into something like muffins or cookies or cake. The key to baking with bananas is to let them get really, really ripe — more ripe than you've probably had the nerve to let your bananas get.
I don't mean yellow with a few dark spots; I'm talking blackened skins with insides that have turned to mush. A little mold on the outside is even okay. Sure they look disgusting, but you won't believe the amazingly sweet banana flavor they'll give your baked goods. And guess what? Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, "almost to the point of spoilage," their antioxidant levels actually increase!
Organic bananas can now be found in many supermarkets, and they usually don't cost much more than the conventional ones. I find that organic bananas taste better, and of course they're better for your health, farm workers' health, and the environment.
Organic advocate and cookbook author Jeff Cox recently published a fascinating article called "How Organic Are Organic Bananas?" on Organic To Be, a wonderful group food blog created by Dave Smith, author of To Be of Use - The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work, cofounder of garden tool company Smith & Hawken, and all around very cool guy. Here's a brief yet frightening excerpt:
After harvest, bunches of conventional bananas are floated in tanks of sodium hydrochlorate solution to dissolve the drips of latex sap that can discolor the fruit. Experiments have shown that fungicide-treated bananas can develop off-flavors. Yet "hands" of bananas (the small bunches we see in markets) are conventionally treated with fungicides by being placed in polyethylene bags with blocks of vermiculite treated with potassium permanganate to absorb the ethylene ripening gas that bananas give off. This allows the bananas to be stored and shipped over a month's time before they start ripening.
And that's just what happens after they leave the soil-destroying, chemical laden, disease- and fungus-ridden plantations. Yet according to Cox, when bananas are under organic cultivation "the soil improves in health, amount of soil life, availability of nutrients, resistance to soil pests and diseases, and its ability to produce extra high quality bananas and plantains." Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Unfortunately locally grown bananas aren't an option for most of us, but if you choose to buy imported bananas, the organic ones are well worth seeking out. When you find some, buy an extra bunch to ripen on the counter (if you put them in the fridge they'll make everything else in there taste like bananas) and when they start to look really scary, whip up a batch of these flavorful, cake-like cookies.
Say it with me now: Yip Yap Banana Snaps!
Susan's Yip Yap Organic Banana Snaps for People
Makes about 30 very large cookies (which freeze beautifully)
Last fall I was thrilled to see that Tania had started posting again on her Canadian food blog, The Candied Quince. One of the first recipes she put up was for Yip Yap Banana Snaps dog treats in honor of her little dog's third birthday, admitting she chose them because she liked saying the name. The name hooked me, too, and I immediately decided I needed to make some for my own dogs.
But then I saw the recipe for Garrett's Grandma Capune's Banana Cookies on Vanilla Garlic, and making treats for people quickly won out over making treats for dogs (I know, I know, animal abuse). The name Yip Yap Banana Snaps, however, stuck. In fact I couldn't stop saying it.
One night I crawled back into bed after getting up for a drink of water and excitedly announced to an only slightly coherent Joe, "I don't want to build a bread bakery anymore. I think we should sell Yip Yap Banana Snaps instead!"
"Go. To. SLEEP."
I pretty much followed Grandma Capune's recipe the first time I made these, then I doubled the recipe so I could make my signature giant size cookies and started making various other changes, including adding a little vanilla, swapping out half of the all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour, and using a mixture of white and brown sugars instead of just white. They aren't health food, but they aren't terrible for you either.
You can make these cookies with raisins or chocolate chips and/or nuts or with nothing but the spices. Joe loves the raisin version; I like them with mini chocolate chips the best. As always I urge you to use local and organic ingredients whenever you can.
1 cup organic butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 real farm eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2¼ cups mashed very, very ripe organic bananas
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 cups organic white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (a little less if freshly ground, which I recommend)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
Optional additions (I usually split the batter in half and make two kinds):
2 cups raisins or 2 cups chocolate chips (per whole batch)
2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (per whole batch)
Heat the oven to 350F. Using an electric mixer (I use a hand-held mixer), cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Beat in the vanilla.
Combine the baking soda and mashed bananas in a small bowl and let sit for 2 minutes to froth a bit. According to Grandma Capune and Garrett, the baking soda reacts with the acid in the bananas to give the cookies their lift and rise.
Mix the bananas into the butter mixture, then add the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and mix on low speed just until combined. The batter will be more like a thick cake batter than traditional cookie dough.
Stir in the raisins, chocolate chips, and/or nuts. Use a 1/4-cup scoop or 1/4-cup measure to drop cookies onto a heavy duty baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper. I can fit 6 cookies on one half-size commercial rimmed sheet pan.
(I highly recommend investing in a couple of heavy duty commercial rimmed baking sheets. At less than $14 each, they're one of the best kitchen deals around. Treat them well and they'll last for ages. I've been using the heck out of some of mine for 20 years for everything from baking scones to roasting Brussels sprouts.)
If the batter gets too gooey to handle, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to stiffen up. Bake cookies until nicely browned, about 16 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container or freeze. I think they taste even better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to mellow and mingle.
Other sweet recipes on Farmgirl Fare you might enjoy:
My Best Banana Bran Muffins (and other flavor variations)
Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.