Pervasive Plantains on Grand Cayman:

The Quest to Bake Something You Like with Something You Don’t

by Anne Evans

I have been told that if you don’t like something, you should create a recipe with it, so you do like it! Thus, the origin of this blog as I have always thought that plantains — which are abundant on these Cayman Islands — were rather uninteresting. This journey is a summary of what I have learned about plantains and the recipe for a baked delight that is the culmination of my efforts.

What is a Plantain?

Musa is one of three genera in the family Musaceae. The genus includes 83 species of flowering plants producing edible bananas and plantains. Though they grow as high as trees, banana and plantain plants are not woody and their apparent “stem” is composed of the bases of the huge leaf stalks. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musa_(genus)

The scientific name for the plantain is Musa paradisiaca. There are 2 subspecies, M. acuminata & M. balbisiana, which are further subdivided into varieties that select for certain desirable traits. M. acuminata is the more common of the 2 subspecies with its varieties having a yellow or green peel.  From https://shuncy.com/article/what-is-the-scientific-name-for-plantain.

Plantains have much thicker skin than other plants in the Musa genus and thus are harder to peel. You will need a knife to cut one open.

Plantains are high in starch and relatively low in sugar. Whether they are ripe or not, plantains are cooked prior to consumption. The recipe typically determines whether to use ripe or unripe plantains, so how do you tell them apart?

Colour: Unripe plantains are green. As they ripen, the skin begins to turn yellow, then develops brown spots and eventually becomes completely black when fully ripe.

Texture: Unripe plantains are very firm. Ripe plantains are softer and fully ripe plantains are so mushy that they barely hold their shape.

Flavour: Unripe plantains have a neutral flavour – perhaps why they are often likened to potatoes. As they ripen, some of the starches convert to sugar so they gain a little sweetness. See https://www.masterclass.com/articles/plantains-vs-bananas

How Does a Plantain Differ from a “Yellow Dessert” Banana

Texture: Both are firmer and drier when unripe, becoming soft and moist as they ripen and ultimately mushy when over-ripe.

Size: Plantains are generally larger than yellow dessert bananas.

Peels: Although you can peel ripe yellow dessert bananas with your hands, you will require a knife to peel a plantain whether it is unripe or ripe due to their thicker skins.

How are Plantains Cooked

Plantains can be cooked with or without their skins. They may be fried, boiled, or baked. Peeled and sliced plantains may be microwaved. As noted previously, the recipe typically determines whether to use ripe or unripe plantains as well as how to cook them. In my recipe for Plantain Bread that follows, I call for very ripe plantains baked in their skin as I feel it maximizes the flavour and sweetness of the fruit. (I’ve also included a one-ingredient recipe for baked plantains from another website that you might like.)

Try my Plantain Bread recipe and tell me what you think. I seem to have cornered the Plantain Bread market as I have not come across it on Grand Cayman Island at all. Have I indeed created a memorable baked delight out of an otherwise rather uninteresting fruit?

The Expatriate Baker’s Plantain Bread

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened, + more for greasing the pan

2 large eggs, at room temperature

¼ cup molasses (Grandma’s Yellow Label)

1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 very ripe plantains (~9oz each, skin on), baked* and then mashed (~2 cups pulp)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack set in the middle of the oven. Grease a 5” x 9” loaf pan with butter, line with parchment paper, butter the parchment paper, and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the grated nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the granulated sugar and butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at-a-time beating until incorporated. Add the molasses, followed by the sour cream and vanilla, beating after each addition; mixture will separate. Reduce the spread to low and alternately add the dry ingredients and mashed plantains (1/3 dry, ½ plantains, 1/3 dry, ½ plantains, 1/3 dry), beating after each addition until just incorporated.

Spread batter in prepared pan and level top. Bake for about 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted into the center and it comes out clean. If necessary, tent with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking to prevent over browning. Let it stand on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, before removing it from the loaf pan to cool completely.

Yield: one 9”x5”x3” loaf weighing ~3 lbs. Approximately 8 servings.

This is a very moist bread and keeps well if wrapped airtight and refrigerated

Ref: Significantly Modified from My Mother-in-Law Mary’s Banana Bread & ayouniquejourney.com/plantain-bread/.

Baked Plantains in Their Skins

1 or more very ripe plantains (~9 oz each, skin on)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut off both ends of the plantain. Make a single slit through the plantain skin from top to bottom on the longer of the curved sides (See photo of ”how to cut a plantain” above).
  2. Place the cut plantains in an oven proof dish.
  3. Let the plantains bake skin-on for about 25-30 minutes.  The sweet smell of the sugars in the plantain will let you know when they are done. Additionally, the peels will be completely black, and the plantains will begin to ooze syrup.
  4. Turn off the oven and let them finish cooking in the residual heat for about 10 -15 minutes more. 
  5. When cool, remove the plantain pulp from its skin.

Yield: approximately ½ cup mashed baked pulp/plantain.

From https://karma-free-cooking.com/2008/10/29/baked-plantains-in-their-skin/

If ai cannot solve a problem by baking a cookie, I cannot deal with it

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