The good ol’ US of A has not been a shining example to the world recently. What with the government shutdown and the impending vote on the debt ceiling, we’re starting to not look all that together. I happened upon some talk of the US not being a “Banana Republic.” Both President Obama (here) and Representative Harry Reid (here) were recorded using the phrase. It’s no coincidence that they sound like carbon copies of each other. Democrats and Republicans can agree that a united front it a good thing, regardless of how well they practice this. Anyway, politicians like these types of sound bites, they want to drive their point home.
Just as an interesting tid-bit, The Atlantic published an article about the US becoming a Banana Republic back in January and you can take a look at it here.
So what is there point with this Banana Republic Business? Well besides being a mildly over-priced store, Banana Republics are a not-so-nice set-up. The term was coined by O.Henry over a hundred years ago. He had been living in Honduras avoiding embezzlement charges (like any true american) and realized that the entire country was propped up by foreign investors in the banana production. Without these investors and without the bananas, Honduras was basically up a creek, so to speak.
But the United States isn’t similar to Honduras in any of the ways that makes it a Banana Republic—as David Graham of The Atlantic writes “Domestic banana production is extremely low; our government is not dominated by a major overseas corporation; and the U.S. economy is actually heavily biased toward the tertiary, or service, sector of the economy.” Sure, one could argue that there are a lot of current representatives who are “primarily concerned with economics benefiting…corporate power (Geek wise).” The connection between the US and Banana Republics is the prospect of sovereign default—us not paying our bills. This is something deemed common in a Banana Republic, thus the point that the US cannot become a banana republic.
Last bit of important info: Raising the debt ceiling in no way means we will borrow more money and increase the deficit. It simple means that Congress agrees to pay for things to which it has already committed. In 2011, the contention over raising the debt ceiling pushed the decision to the last minute. Even though the ceiling was raised and the US didn’t end up defaulting on any payments, the mere prospect of our government not following through on financial commitments had some negative macroeconomic effects. From the report by the US Treasury: “In 2011, the U.S. debt was downgraded (for the first time in our history), the stock market fell, measures of volatility jumped, and credit risk spreads widened noticeably.”
Let’s get to the goods: Banana baked deliciousness. Just so you know, browned butter is a revelation. It’s definitely worth the extra 5 minutes of prep time considering the caramel-y flavor it elicits. Dense with rich flavors, these Blondies are definitely not good for you, but they’re sooo good, if you get me:
To Make the Cheesecake Swirl:
1/2 Package of Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbls Sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Put all the ingredients in a medium bowl.
- With an electric mixer, beat until smooth (about 1 minute)
To Make the Browned Butter Banana Blondies:
12 Tbls Butter (browning process found under step 2)
1 1/2 Cups Brown Sugar (I suggest dark but it’s your choice)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Medium Ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- Preheat Oven to 325 Degrees. Butter a 13×8 pan, sides and all.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Then let it cook until the foam subsides and butter turns a deep nut brown, about 5 minutes. Cool.
- Transfer browned butter to a large bowl
- Add brown sugar and vanilla
- Throw in two ripe bananas and mash into mixture, allowing some large chunks to remain
- (Make sure mixture is cooled enough) Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each
- Add flour and salt—mix until incorporated
Putting it all together:
- Transfer blondie batter into prepared pan and spread evenly
- Dollop tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture on top of blondie batter (picture below)
- Gently, with a fork or butter knife, swirl the cream cheese mixture into the blondie batter (picture below)
- Bake for 18-20 minutes in the 325 degree oven
My input on the Blondies: as far as preparing pans, I usually use tin foil to make clean-up easier. Make sure to butter the tin foil if you want to do this as well. Watch the butter and make sure not to burn it. Your house will smell momentarily like a movie theater. The butter kind of kept to itself until I added in the flour so don’t worry if it’s not incorporating, it will eventually. Definitely err on the side of caution with the baking time–these bars are pretty thin so they bake up quickly.
I had a debilitating range of recipe ideas with which to represent banana. Blondies seemed the best avenue but once I got there, I had about 10 streets I could turn down. Browned Butter won me over. And Cream Cheese always wins. But here are some alternatives if you’re wanting to mix it up:
Other ideas for Banana Blondies:
- Skip the Cheesecake Swirl (gasp!) and just bake the bars. Once they’re done, drizzle with caramel and some sea salt
- Skip browning the butter AND skip the Cheesecake swirl. Bake just the bars and top with a swipped Peanut butter frosting once they’ve cooled.
- Make the NYTimes version of this business, find it here.
- Pull a switch-eroo and replace the vanilla extract in the blondies with some dark rum 🙂
Best of luck on your butter browning,