Ultimate Banana Bread
This one single loaf of banana bread contains six bananas. Six! And it is, hands down, the best loaf of banana bread I’ve ever made. Other banana breads have been good, but this is full of banana flavor and still light and not too dense.
I have instituted a banana ban in our household, which really isn’t too much of a problem because Nate hates bananas and they aren’t my favorite fruit. However, when I saw this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated and Nate suggested we make banana bread (meaning that I make banana bread) I was willing to temporarily overlook my principles. He feels the same way about desserts that I feel about vegetables: yeah, they’re there, but why bother when there are other things to eat? Needless to say, when he suggested that I bake something, I was game!
The only thing that seemed questionable to me about this recipe was putting the slices of banana on the top… it seemed a little excessive and I thought it would turn into gross mushiness. Surprisingly, those bananas wound up being my favorite part. They caramelized in the oven and gave the bread an interesting texture. I think I may have picked them off the rest of the loaf and just eaten them plain.
Side note: It is not a good idea to look at pictures of yummy-looking food when you’re jet-lagged and you’re trying to convince your stomach that it’s NOT hungry, even though it’s technically dinner time, because you already ate dinner. Even though dinner consisted of trail mix and drinkable yogurt because you forgot to go to an ATM today and have no money. Traveling is fun. And I’m so making this banana bread when I get home. Banana ban be damned.
Ultimate Banana Bread
From Cook’s Illustrated
|1 3/4||cups unbleached all-purpose flour|
|1||teaspoon baking soda|
|1/2||teaspoon table salt|
|6||large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled|
|8||tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly|
|3/4||cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar|
|1||teaspoon vanilla extract|
|1/2||cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)|
|2||teaspoons granulated sugar|
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.