pistachio banana bread surprise

Pistachios are the nut of choice in the Middle East, like hazelnuts in Italy and walnuts in the USA, so when the Cooking Light cover photo of a delicious looking banana bread arrived and we immediately turned to the accompanying 7 recipe article, the pistachio variation stood out immediately. Not only does ani munch on these nuts around the house, perhaps driven by a childhood association from growing up in Lebanon, but the ice cream flavor seems to be her favorite. Pistachios are perhaps best known for the various baklavas of the region, where they often provide the meaty filling. So we did one up to try it out and even the guys at work, used to all the variations that we could find of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies brought in frequently by ms_ani, seemed to like it. Then when a getting-to-know-each-other first family dinner with a Turkish university colleague arrived with a portable dessert request, cheesecake bob, always trying to think up something new and different, gambled on a variation of the carrot cake cheesecake, with more banana bread hiding the surprise cheesecake interior this time, based on the pistachio-cardamom flavoring of the banana bread.

We modified the bad carbohydrate content of the bread/cake by substituting half of the white flour by white whole wheat, compensating slightly by using better-for-bread white flour on the other half naively thinking that might help it rise a bit better than ordinary flour, and jacking up the baking soda a bit (an extra 1/2 t). Then we used some unrefined cane sugar in the bread component where it would not show. Okay, not very helpful in a diet-busting dessert, but small changes are better than none. We had bad experiences with reduced fat cream cheese so we left that alone.


dry stuff
1 c better-for-bread or all-purpose flour
1 c white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/4 t
1.2 t salt
wet stuff
1 1/2 c mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
1/2 c "sugar in the raw" cane sugar or the usual white stuff
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c = 1/2 stick = 4 T = 2 oz butter, softened
1/3 – 1/2 c reduced fat sour cream or the real stuff
1/2 t ground cardamom
misc stuff
2/3 c coarsely chopped pistachios
cooling spray
surprise stuff (cheesecake filling!)
2 8 oz packages = 1 lb cream cheese
1/2 – 2/3 c sour cream
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t cardamom
1/4 c finely ground pistachio crumbs
1/8 t = pinch of salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Wisk all the dry stuff together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Put all the wet stuff in a blender (peel those bananas!) and blend smooth. Easy, eh? Set aside.
  4. Blend together the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar in a medium bowl with electric beaters.
  5. Beat in the cardamom, salt and pistachio crumbs.
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time until just incorporated. Set aside.
  7. Dump the wet stuff into the dry stuff and blend with the electric beaters until well mixed.
  8. Beat in the pistachios.
  9. Cut out a parchment paper circle traced from the bottom of a 9 in spring-form pan bottom and place in the bottom of the assembled pan. Spray the sides and bottom with cooking spray.
  10. Pour half the banana bread batter into the spring-form pan and even out. Then go around the side pushing some batter against the side with a rubber spatula to form a well for the cheesecake batter.
  11. Pour the cheesecake batter into the center and even it out, trying to keep it a bit away from the side of the pan.
  12. Go around the pan dropping a spatula glob at a time against the side to wall in the cheesecake batter.
  13. "Lay" the rest of the banana bread batter down by stretching it out as you dump spatula globs over the cheesecake batter trying to cover it as best possible.
  14. Smooth out the top with the spatula trying not to let the cheesecake batter escape to the surface.
  15. Bake for 1 hour.
  16. Give it the old cake test with a sharp instrument stuck in the middle. If it comes out clean its done, otherwise keep baking and testing. We used a shish-kebab skewer and it came out clean the first time.
  17. When done, remove and let cool completely.
  18. Place in the refrigerator.
  19. When ready to serve, or transport to a serving destination, remove from the fridge and take a thin sharp knife to ease around the side of the cake to free it from the cheesecake pan side. Remove the side and clean. Put back in place if transporting to another destination.
  20. Remove the side at the serving destination. Place on a nice serving dish. Cut small wedges. Enjoy. Make a wish for peace in the Middle East.


  1. This procedure can be reverted to the original banana bread by stopping at the surprise stuff and just using a standard 8x4 or 9x5 in bread loaf baking pan. "Cardamom banana bread with pistachios" from Banana Appeal by Jean Patterson, Cooking Light, September, 2003, p.158.
  2. Our bad carbohydrate awareness index was recently raised by exposure to a news-entertainment piece on the South Beach Diet, whose author seemed to actually make sense about changing the way we eat rather than just trying another fad.
  3. The white whole wheat flour had been sitting in a Rubbermaid container for several years, a relict of our bread machine baking days. Why is there so much bad carbohydrate bread around us here in the US?
  4. The Greeks are out of the pistachio zone: they use walnuts in their version of baklava. Cardamom (hale) is another common Middle East ingredient, often added to Lebanese coffee and throughout the Middle East.
  5. Illustrations. The target audience seemed to approve.
pbbsrprz.htm: 18-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]