Apparently I need a This Car Brakes for Banana Bread sticker for our rental, because that is exactly what happened on our last trip back to Hawaii. This is my attempt to recreate what I now affectionately call “Vacation Banana Bread.”
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My grandfather was born and raised on the North Shore of Oahu. Kahuku, to be exact, the most northern point on the island, when it was just a village adjacent to one of the sugar mills.
Beyond the surf competitions (as world renowned as they may be), the North Shore was never a huge tourist destination. It didn’t draw the same attention as the flashy resorts down in Waikiki and probably lacked umbrella drinks (I don’t know for sure, I was a kid).
But for me, it is the place that holds the strongest memories of my childhood - going to the beach with my cousins, eating big family dinners in the carport at my Auntie’s house, poking the sleepy grass at the old sugar mill, waking up to the neighborhood roosters, and more sunburns, swimsuits, and shave ice than I can remember.
Several decades later, the North Shore has a solid island street food scene, bringing more and more visitors to that beloved side of the island (shout out to my cousin’s food truck!)
So when our family trip back to Hawaii coincided with my daughter’s obsession for banana bread, this is how I found myself pulling over on the side of the Kamehameha Hwy in Haleiwa for local loaves of banana bread.
It’s been months since our trip. And while there are plenty of other local dishes that are much more well known, like malasads, manapuas, spam musubi, and poke, it’s that banana bread that’s still on my mind this time.
I’ve never made a banana bread at home that I’ve been really excited about until now. My go-to vanilla butter cake was published in my first book, and I finally shared my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe last year. Now was the time to find a banana bread recipe that I absolutely love.
Here, I’ve taken some of Hawaii’s best exports to make a luxe, vacation-worthy banana bread. I’m not trying to pass this as a super healthy or humble banana bread. No, no. It is rich with coconut milk, hints of coffee, and buttery yet crunchy macadamia nuts.
A lot of “Hawaiian” banana bread recipes are packed with pineapple, shredded coconut and often maraschino cherries. This one is closer to the one I remember. Made with coconut milk and coconut oil, the flavor is subtle but the bread is rich and moist without being greasy. It’s honestly the best texture - not stodgy or heavy like some banana breads can be. This also makes it dairy-free!
I toyed with different amounts of coffee, and all tasted great to me. I settled on 3 teaspoons for a more robust flavor. It doesn’t scream “coffee” but definitely adds another layer of flavor, especially when compared to the recipe without. You can amp of the coffee to 4 teaspoons if you want (I did this for muffins and it was awesome!) or ditch it all together. Without the coffee, the banana bread is a bit sweeter.
The crunchy top is *chef’s kiss*! Don’t skimp on the chunky sugar. If macadamia nuts are hard to source for a reasonable price, you can always use toasted walnuts, pecans, or go without.
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