A recipe for moist, flavorful banana bread is a find. A half-dozen of them, all in one book, is a discovery.

And if they all come together quickly with wonderful results, well, that's a gold mine. Maida Heatter's Cakes (Andrews McMeel) isn't the kind of book that captures a baker's imagination. There are no pictures, no fancy ingredients, no special techniques - only recipes. Each begins with a brief introduction, and each is backed by Heatter's reputation as the doyenne of desserts. But a closer look reveals an enticing depth of variety for cakes - plain, fancy, chocolate, with fruit, with vegetables, with yeast, cheesecakes, and baked breads.

One thing is very clear after six days of harried baking: Everything turned out.

Everything was delicious.

The week began with a 10-pound bag of ripe bananas and a mission to try every banana recipe in the book. Recipes were started between 5:30 and 6 p.m. - after work - and cooled and refrigerated by 9 p.m., an important consideration for working moms.

There was only one major snag. Everything was so good and so easy that it was hard to move on to the next recipe, so there were nights of repeating a recipe in addition to trying a new one (plus there were side trips trying other recipes in the book).

Banana Carrot Loaf

Makes 1 (9-inch) loaf

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2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon each baking soda and cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large bananas (1 cup)

1 cup light raisins (steamed) 1 cup (packed) grated carrots

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1. Adjust rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan (8-cup capacity) and dust with bread crumbs.

2. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs just to mix. Beat in sugar and oil. Coarsely chop bananas and add to egg mixture along with raisins and carrots. Then on low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients and beat, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, until thoroughly mixed. Turn mixture into prepared pan.

4. Bake for one hour, 10 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf, all the way to the bottom, comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pan.

- From Maida Heatter's Cakes (Andrews McMeel)

Per serving (based on 12 servings): 312 calories, 4 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams sugar, 15 grams fat, 31 milligrams cholesterol, 224 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Pecan-Peanut Butter-Banana Bread

Makes 2 small loaves

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1 cup each sifted all-purpose and whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 to 3 large bananas (1 cup) 11/2 cups pecan halves, toasted

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1. Adjust rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter two 8-by-4-by-21/2-inch pans and dust with wheat germ or dry bread crumbs.

2. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until softened. Add peanut butter and beat to mix. Beat in sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Coarsely mash bananas and add to the bowl. Then, on low speed, add the sifted dry ingredients and beat only until incorporated. Add the pecans.

4. Pour half of the batter into each pan and smooth tops. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan before turning out.

- From Maida Heatter's Cakes (Andrews McMeel)

 

Per serving (based on 16 servings): 268 calories, 6 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 231 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.