When Caitlin Trainor’s daughter Evangelina was a toddler, Trainor wanted to give her a treat that was nutritious and contained minimal refined sugars. After some experimentation in the kitchen, Trainor developed his cast iron banana bread. “I’m just a go-to kind of girl,” says the choreographer, who is the artistic director of Trainor Dance and, in addition to serving on the faculty at Barnard College, founded the online class platform Dancio. “My husband says if you like something Caitlin cooks, you better enjoy it because you’ll never have it again.”
This improvisational approach to cooking mirrors Trainor’s process in the studio. “I’m not interested in creating the same thing twice,” he says. “If we are really in a real creative process, there is always a risk of failure. There’s something very satisfying about a little creativity in the kitchen.” Trainor also appreciates the sensory elements of cooking; it relies on smell and feel rather than following recipes or instructions. “There’s something about food and dance that feels like the heart of life in the sense that it’s all changing and moving,” says Trainor. “Food and dance nourish us in a way that doesn’t last forever.” And does Evangelina, now 6, still like Trainor’s banana bread? “Absolutely. She’s in it for the chocolate chips.”
Trainor’s favorite kitchen tool is her Microplane. “That thing cost $7 and I always give it to people,” he says. It works best when you add fresh nutmeg (as in her banana bread), ginger, or citrus zest. “It’s so easy and transforms food so easily,” adds Trainor.
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/3 teaspoon micrograted fresh nutmeg (“The spice adds a surprising dimension to the bread. Ground nutmeg works too, but will be more subtle.”)
- a pinch of cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 3/4 cup melted butter or coconut oil (reserve 1 tablespoon for oil per pan)
- juice of 1/2 lemon or a drop of apple cider vinegar
- 3 ripe or overripe bananas, mashed
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 2 1/2 cups flour (white flour or at least 1 cup 1:1 gluten-free flour mixed with coconut flour, almond flour or quick oats)
- 1/2 heaping cup walnuts or pecans
- 1/3 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened
- 2/3 cup chocolate chips, unsweetened, semisweet or bittersweet
- Preheat oven to 300°F. If using nuts, crumble them into a cast iron pan (you can substitute a glass pie plate) and toast them in the oven for 15 minutes or until fragrant. Remove the nuts to cool and turn the oven up to 350°F.
- Add the beaten eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, butter or coconut oil, lemon or apple cider vinegar, and mashed banana to a large bowl and mix with a large spoon to combine.
- Place 1 tablespoon of butter or coconut oil in a pan and place in the oven to heat until lightly sizzling, about 4 to 5 minutes. This will give the bread base a nice buttery crust.
- Meanwhile, add baking powder and flour to the wet ingredients and mix. Do not overmix; just a few swirls with a spoon should be enough to prevent gumminess. The batter should be thicker than pancake batter but looser than cookie batter. A few white spots may remain.
- Fold in any optional extras.
- Pour the batter into a buttered mold and place in the oven. Start checking for doneness after about 23 minutes by tapping the top of the bread. It should be firm but not hard.
- When the bread is ready, remove it from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once completely cool, cut into pieces to enjoy.