Down Under

My Whirlwind Romance with a Perfect Slice of Banana Bread

Image Credit: Hali Bey Ramdene

On December 7, 2016, I fell madly in love with a slice of banana bread. Yes, a slice of banana bread! But not just any banana bread — this particular one was topped with a luxuriously creamy espresso mascarpone and crunchy buckwheat groats.

And it has haunted me ever since.

The First Spark

It all started when I saw the bread in question floating around somewhere on Instagram. I gasped the first time it came across my feed. That fluffy mascarpone! Those tiny buckwheat groats! Those swirls of honey! Then I read the caption and discovered it was gluten-free. As someone who has had many sad-looking (and tasting, for that matter) gluten-free baked goods, this was a revelation.

The best part? This beautiful creation was available in a not-too-far-away place called Two Hands Restaurant in New York City.

I quickly added Two Hands to the top of my must-visit list that I brought with me to our Kitchn staff retreat in NYC. I knew the trip would be busy, but I pledged that I would make it to the restaurant at some point to try this banana bread. Luckily, since I work for a food publication, it didn't take much convincing to rally two intrepid coworkers to get up early and join me for a trek to Tribeca for breakfast. When we were seated, I zeroed in immediately on the banana bread. I eagerly chirped my order to our server, and sat in anticipation until it came to the table.

Love at First Bite

Now, with all this hype, the thought did cross my mind that maybe I was building this up a little too much. The doubt started to creep in: What if I dragged my coworkers across town for no reason? What if I just spent $6 on another disappointing gluten-free treat?

And then the bread arrived. I took approximately 12 photos of it and then proceeded to devour it. A huge smile splashed across my face. Not only did it taste as good as it looked, but it was also way better than I could've imagined. The bread was moist and dense, with just the right touch of sweetness from the banana. The mascarpone was rich and buttery — the espresso flavor prominent but not overwhelming. And then there was the surprising crunch of those buckwheat groats, almost caramelized in the honey drizzled on top.

After I demolished my plate (don't worry — I shared a bite with my dining companions), I immediately became obsessed with the idea of getting the recipe from the restaurant. Like someone talking about a wonderful first date they just went on, I gushed to the rest of my coworkers about the bread. They were on board with getting the recipe, and even tried reaching out to the restaurant for it, but, sadly, this is a story of unrequited love.

The One That Got Away

I've since tried to recreate the recipe at home, based on what I remember from that morning. The bread was all wrong, but the topping was closer. I whipped mascarpone with an espresso cold brew I buy at my local Whole Foods; the hardest part was finding the balance of getting that espresso flavor without watering the mascarpone down too much. I couldn't find buckwheat groats, so I tossed finely chopped hazelnuts with honey and drizzled them over the top.

As I sat eating my wannabe Two Hands replica, I resigned myself to the fact that I didn't need the recipe anymore because I wasn't going to try making it at home again. I realized that a lot of the magic of that bread was in the hunt for it — finding it on Instagram, dreaming about it, traveling to get it, and then finally eating it in its natural habitat. I'm content to just enjoy it whenever I'm in New York again, which is going to be this spring ... not that I'm counting down or anything.

Have you ever fallen in love with a baked good? Share in the comments!