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  • Writer's pictureDiana Scalia

Angel Food: Fantasia in a Bread

Updated: Nov 4, 2023

In 2024, I intend to publish my second cookbook, which is titled Angel Food 2nd Edition: Love Made Visible on the Plate. Until then, I’ll be sharing some recipes - with their love stories - for La Vie en Magenta. I hope you enjoy my Angel Food series!

A lifetime ago, Disneyland served a signature ice cream flavor called Fantasia. It was a blend of banana, cherry, and pistachio, and only available at Disneyland. It is now said to only be there during Electrical Parade season.

For me, this blend of flavours represents something like a fantasy return to childhood. My heart happily recalls that each summer, our family of seven visited Disneyland. My father was a huge fan of this family tradition and, Mama – not so much.

A family meal inside the park would have cost a fortune, so Mama packed a huge picnic dinner. We rode the Disney Railway train around the park when we arrived, then had ice cream at the Carnation Ice Cream parlor.

We enjoyed rides and fun until dinnertime when we got our hands stamped (very exciting). At the car we enjoyed our delicious family picnic then we returned to the park, sometimes until long after the 9pm fireworks.

For us children, it was one of our life’s happiest days, each and every summer.

In her experience, Mama got to keep track of 5 children plus my dad (like a 6th child), host a huge unpaid catering job, and stay cheery in the hot sun. At the end of the night, my sisters and I sat with her and watched people dance to the bands. That was her happy place, which made it our happy place too.

Later in life, Mama agreed how precious those memories are. We took my father when he was elderly, and he loved the park even from a wheelchair. Now with their family of three generations, Disneyland was perhaps even more magical when seen through the eyes of my parents’ grandchildren.

Holding those memories makes me smile through tears at the moment. This week is the anniversary of when Mama passed, and the loss of my brother John is still quite raw for me. Being reminded of Disneyland – and doing lots of baking to perfect this recipe – feels really good to me right now.

Mama taught me to make banana bread when I was very young. We sometimes added walnuts and even chocolate chips, which made it all the more special. My Angel Food theme is about foods that lovingly remind us of home. Banana bread is like that, for me.

My new signature quick bread will have you loving the mix of banana, cherry, and pistachio – reminiscent of Fantasia ice cream. Brown butter icing makes it irresistible, as does a topping of crushed pistachios.

Try it for dessert (or, for a meal - I won’t tell) with finest-quality pistachio gelato and hot fudge sauce. Or just for breakfast with extraordinary coffee or tea. Maybe make two loaves (simply double the recipe) and share one.

Just, please, make it about the Love. Angels wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fantasia in a Bread

Butter and flour, for preparing loaf pan

4 Tbs butter, softened

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

1 egg

1 Tbs vanilla

1 ripe banana, mashed

1/3 cup cherries – frozen-thawed or canned

3/4 cup flour

¼ cup pistachios, ground finely

½ tsp soda

½ tsp salt

Brown Butter Icing and Pistachio Dust, recipes follow; optional

Butter and flour 1 large loaf pan, and preheat oven to 350F.

In large mixing bowl with hand mixer on medium speed, cream butter with sugars and yogurt. Add eggs and vanilla.

Remove any pits from cherries. Pulse cherries in small food processor until just blended. Blend cherry into mixture with hand mixer.

Combine flour, crushed pistachios, soda, salt. On low speed, blend into mixture. Transfer bread batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 35-40 mins or until knife inserted comes out clean. Cool bread in pan, on wire rack.

Prepare optional Brown Butter Icing and Pistachio Dust while bread cools:

2 Tbs butter

In small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Stir constantly, ideally with small rubber spatula, to brown butter and keep bits from sticking to bottom of pan. When butter is browned, remove from heat.

Gradually add:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Thin icing by whisking in:

3 Tbs whole milk (or more if desired)

1 tsp vanilla

Make Pistachio Dust:

In small food processor, combine and pulse until finely ground:

2 Tbs whole pistachio nuts

1 Tbs Turbinado sugar

Turn bread out of pan after about 30 minutes. Place loaf on platter and drizzle with icing. Sprinkle icing with Pistachio Dust.

Yields 8-10 servings.

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