Banana Bread Lovers, This One's for You
Lena Sareini’s elevated spin on classic banana bread dazzles with layers of flavor.
Banana bread is lovely and humble, a hug in loaf form. But in the hands of 2020 F&W Best New Chef Lena Sareini, this quick bread, born of thrift and good intentions, becomes elegant and nuanced. Sareini, who left Detroit's Selden Standard to flex her creativity via collaborations and pop-ups with local chefs, looks at banana bread through the lens of a pastry chef. "The goal at the end of the meal is to have your guests' plates be empty. If you serve a too-sweet dessert, that can be challenging."
To hit the proper note, Sareini insists on waiting until your bananas are extremely ripe—very speckled and mushy. "Be patient," she says. "That's the only way the banana flavor is going to show through." Sareini then complements the sweetness of the bananas with the nutty richness of brown butter. But her next steps are what lead to licked-clean dessert plates: Sareini toasts slices of the chocolate-studded bread until golden brown then tops them with slightly bitter chicory root ice cream and a drizzle of banana caramel. "The banana is the star," Sareini says. "So I choose components that will enhance it."