Ultimate Banana Bread

Ultimate Banana Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

Last week, there were bananas sitting on my counter that were in a sad state of affairs. They had gone from greenish to yellow to speckled to blackening. Fruit flies threw a party (ew). Those bananas needed to be rescued immediately, so finally, after years of staring at the recipe and dismissing it, I baked up the Cook’s Illustrated “ultimate banana bread” recipe.

Why had I dismissed it all these years? Quite simply, I always felt like banana bread should be, well, simple. A quick remedy to overripe bananas on the counter that could be in the oven before the first commercial break of your grandma’s favorite soap opera. This is not your grandma’s banana bread. The preparation methods seemed over the top to me, so I ignored it for years. Finally, I had some free time on my hands, along with black bananas, so I decided to give it a try.

Yes, there were more preparation steps and additional preparation time, but this is most definitely the best banana bread I’ve ever made.

Ultimate Banana Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

The banana flavor is dramatically intensified and the loaf baked up nice and high (all of the banana bread recipes I’ve made over the years have been short and squat). Not that I ever complained; it was all I’d ever known, but I do love a high loaf of bread, be it yeasted or quick. Tall is where it’s at!

Now, let’s talk about the texture. I love, love, loved it. The bread is supremely dense and very moist; while previous attempts at banana bread have all been moist, the dense texture was new to me. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to crumble apart when you handle it; the slices are heavy and substantial.

Ultimate Banana Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

I left out the walnuts since my husband steers clear of nuts and seeds since his diverticulitis episode last fall, but I would normally add them right in, as well. There’s just something about bananas and walnuts, right? I also love the sprinkling of granulated sugar on top of the loaf before putting it in the oven – it gives the finished bread a little bit of a sweet crunch on top.

If you’re itching to try a new banana bread recipe and you’re not opposed to a few extra steps, give this one a try – I guarantee you’ll love the end result!

Ultimate Banana Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

Two years ago: No-Bake Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
Three years ago: Two-Ingredient Ice Cream: Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
Four years ago: Beer Waffles with Cinnamon-Caramel Apples
Five years ago: Arancini: Italian Rice Balls
Six years ago: Italian Bread
Seven years ago: Chicken Spread

Ultimate Banana Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 55 to 75 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

This isn't your grandma's banana bread recipe!

Ingredients:

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 large very ripe bananas (about 1¾ to 2 pounds), peeled
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degres F. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3. Place the bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with a paring knife. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, or 15 minutes (there should be ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

4. Transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the reduced liquid into the bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

5. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined, with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the top of the loaf.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. The bread can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen (the wrapped loaf should then be placed in an resealable freezer bag or double-wrapped with foil) for up to 2 months.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

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52 Responses to “Ultimate Banana Bread”

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on August 11, 2014 at 12:07 am

    I have a 6-banana banana bread recipe and I have always wanted to try this C.I. recipe. I’ve seen them make it on re-runs of the show and it you’re right it does look like more steps than usual but I totally trust you when you say it’s the best you’ve ever made! Pinned :)

    Reply

  2. Tieghan on August 11, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I cannot wait to try this. Banana bread is my favorite and this new to me recipe is so exciting!

    Reply

  3. Stacey @ Bake.Eat.Repeat. on August 11, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Well now I’m conflicted because like you, I’ve always felt banana bread should be quick and easy, but if it’s the best you’ve ever made I’ll have to try it, even with all those steps!

    Reply

  4. Louanne on August 11, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Their recipe is truly the ultimate! I still ate gluten when I made if the first few [often] times and I’m happy to say it works well with gluten-free flour, too. It’s my go-to food gift – everyone loves it!

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:51 am

      Hi Louanne, Thanks for the tip on this being gluten-free friendly!

      Reply

    • Carolyn on August 11th, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Do you follow the recipe exactly when you make it GF? I have a friend I have just discovered needs to avoid gluten and I would like to make something for her.

      Reply

  5. Jodi P on August 11, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Well, my long-time favorite recipe has been the one you shared that was your grandma’s recipe. Soooo, if you say so, I must try this one! I don’t usually have that many leftover bananas, I might have to buy some specifically for the purpose of this recipe!!

    Reply

  6. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on August 11, 2014 at 7:45 am

    The more bananas, the better!! This bread is fabulous!

    Reply

  7. Lori on August 11, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Michelle, I am going to have to put this one in the rotation. Cooks Illustrated is my go to guide. Their recipes are usually keepers.

    Reply

  8. Keisha @ Mocha Baker Girl on August 11, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I have been wanting to try this recipe for a long time too and i felt like you that banana bread should be simple. But im way more open now, since i discovered roasting bananas. Im definetly gonna finally give this recipe a try and if you are still feeling adventurous about banana bread you should definetly try roasting a few bananas before using them in your bread. Its amazing. You get the sweet, carmelized banana flavor in your loaf.

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Roasted bananas sounds amazing, I will definitely give that a try!

      Reply

  9. Sarah on August 11, 2014 at 8:29 am

    I have a pile of overly ripe bananas on my counter and I love banana bread! I can’t wait to try your recipe, it looks delicious :-)

    Reply

  10. Heather @ Shards of Lavender on August 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I have the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook and love all the research and testing they put into developing the perfect recipes! I thought the same thing about all the extra steps, but I’ll have to try this because it simply looks delicious! If only their cookbook used your photos, I think I’d be more inclined to take the effort to try more of their recipes!

    Reply

  11. Andrew Brotherton on August 11, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I love Mark Bittman’s banana bread recipe as well, one thing I like to do is add bourbon to my banana bread. It adds a subtle sweetening to it and who doesn’t like bourbon?

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:52 am

      I haven’t tried Mark Bittman’s recipe; I have to add that one to the list!

      Reply

  12. Krissy - The Sugar Pixie on August 11, 2014 at 9:23 am

    This is our family’s favorite banana bread recipe! The extra steps are totally worth it!

    Reply

  13. Allison on August 11, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I don’t have a microwave. Any alternative suggestions? Would love to try this recipe as I have bananas at home now.

    I just discovered Cook’s Country on CreateTV and that’s the one thing I don’t like about the show – they never offer an alternative to using a microwave – I even sent them an email about it!

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Hi Allison, You could probably place the covered bowl in an oven set to a low temperature. You’re basically pre-cooking the bananas a bit and getting them to release some liquid.

      Reply

      • Allison on August 19th, 2014 at 2:23 pm

        Thanks Michelle – the oven thing did work. My daughter made this over the weekend – she’s the baker and 12 yo – very good!

        Reply

    • Diane on August 11th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Cook’s Illustrated said this in their online article about microwaving:
      Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar.

      Reply

  14. Wendy on August 11, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Have been making Flour Bakery’s banana bread as my go-to fave banana bread for several years (plenty of extra steps and ingredients there too) but this looks amazing. My only issue is that the recipe calls for “large” bananas – any idea how many cups of mashed banana you wind up with? I always seem to have a different idea of what is “medium” or “large.”

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Hi Wendy, I need to try Flour’s recipe! I have their cookbook, I assume it’s in there? Haven’t opened it in awhile :( I included the weights for the bananas in the recipe above, I hope that helps!

      Reply

      • Wendy on August 11th, 2014 at 11:26 am

        Michelle, yep it’s in there! I got to try it in person several years ago when visiting Boston and got hooked. A little bit of a PITA but worth it although it’s not a tall loaf. Can’t wait to try this one though – my taste testers are not-so-patiently waiting!

        Reply

  15. Robin Christensen on August 11, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Man, that looks great!

    if you have any left – try turning a couple of pieces into French Toast – and let us know what you think! I saw this done on “The Kitchen” on Food Network on Saturday. Looked YUMMMMMMY! They did it with zucchini bread.

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Awesome idea! I will definitely do that next time :)

      Reply

  16. Cathy on August 11, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I make this all of the time but another thing is to slice banana and layer overlapping along edges of loaf pan after sprinkling with sugar. This will carmeliize and keep loaf moist and is pretty.

    Reply

  17. Jessica @ A Kitchen Addiction on August 11, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I love a good banana bread! This one looks great!

    Reply

  18. Kelly P. on August 11, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Hey BEB. Looks great. My favorite banana bread that I found while eating a vegan diet for 2 years (for health reasons) is a chocolate chip banana bread. It is wonderful with dark chocolate chips. I still bake it. It freezes great to pull out when an unexpected guest shows up. Yum. Can’t wait for fall/winter baking!

    Reply

  19. Beth P. on August 11, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I love this banana bread recipe! Yes, it has a few extra steps, but it still has simple ingredients. Simple and delicious!

    Reply

  20. Cathy J. on August 11, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I have a couple of go-to recipes for banana bread. I love my one bowl Mennonite Banana Bread recipe, which only requires two bananas. I bump up the favor with a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Adding the cinnamon makes the bread take on a truly amazing favor.
    Thanks for sharing this I’m going to give it a whirl too.
    (I also was diagnosed with diverticulitis in June and my belly hasn’t been the same since. I had to give up my popcorn, which hasn’t been easy! :-( )

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 11th, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Hi Cathy, I’m so sorry about your diverticulitis bout! My husband also had to give up popcorn, which has killed him. We had a little tradition of making a big bowl of popcorn and setting it between us when we watched a movie or one of our favorite shows at home :(

      Reply

  21. Lynne on August 11, 2014 at 11:48 am

    What would put me off from this recipe is that I rarely have 5 overripe bananas. I use 3 in my “go-to” recipe, and I usually have 3 bananas to be used.

    Reply

  22. Angelyn @ Everyday Desserts on August 11, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I absolutely adore my mom’s banana bread – it’s the best I’ve ever eaten! But this recipe looks really phenomenal! Just pinned it and I can’t wait to try it!

    Reply

  23. marcie on August 11, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Lol about the fruit flies — I’m having my own problems with them, too! The bananas are becoming overripe so fast, so I have several that I need to use up. This bread sounds perfect, and I’ll give it a try. :)

    Reply

  24. Mir on August 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Wow, this is sure intense! I love the concentration of banana! The most I’ve ever used is 4. Wanna try this!

    Reply

  25. Rosalie on August 11, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    They had another banana recipe in their Cooks Illustrated magazine a few years back. The butter was melted too and it called for 1/4 cup of plain yogurt. I received a lot of compliments with that recipe.

    Reply

  26. Thalia @ butter and brioche on August 11, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    i swear i have about ten different banana bread recipes, but i definitely will be adding this one to my collection! im always on the hunt for the perfect banana bread – and yours looks pretty damn good!

    Reply

  27. Tammy Norman on August 11, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Just to ease all of those fears about nuts and seeds including popcorn, etc. for those with a history of diverticulitis….that is definitely old school!!! Nuts and seeds are great for fiber and are no longer restricted for those who have a history of diverticulitis and are very much encouraged as they add fiber to your diet (which is great as they taste so good :-) (despite the many fears and misconceptions out there)
    This recipe sounds great with or without!

    Reply

  28. Tammy Norman on August 11, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    In case you are wondering, I am a family nurse practitioner and have researched this area a lot, especially after my mom had a recent episode of diverticulitis! (who also loves cooking and baking and this website)

    Reply

  29. Janet on August 12, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    This sounds SUPERB! As I live in a banana producing area I have no excuse now not to make it. I would never have thought to prepare the bananas this way, can’t wait for my current bananas to over ripen. Thank U again for a new exciting recipe. Love and hugs to Duke and Einstein.

    Reply

  30. TimedEating on August 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Really excellent banana bread recipe. I also found it was really versatile – I had a little bit leftover that went a little stale so I made it into pain perdu (a bit like french toast but with caramel crunch on the outside). It was FANTASTIC! Here’s the recipe if you like http://timedeating.co.uk/dessert-egg-soldiers/ (just subsititute bread for banana bread)

    Reply

  31. Mandi on August 15, 2014 at 3:03 am

    I’ve been challenged by one of my readers to find a good banana bread recipe, and so far I’ve been letting her down! All of mine, whilst delicious, are way too high in the middle and way too crispy on the outside… defo not blog worthy! Now I just need to try this one out, and to try and get a hold of a few kg of bananas before my hubby eats them all!!

    Reply

  32. Marilyn on August 16, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    I made this tonite….used 6 bananas that I had in the freezer because they were too ripe to eat (I just throw them in the freezer with peelings intact) and when they thaw, the extra liquid basically drains right off! No need to microwave etc, you can strain the juice right away. My husband doesn’t like walnuts, so I put chocolate chips in place of the nuts. Very, very yummy!!!!

    Reply

  33. Michelle on August 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I HAD to give this recipe a try . . . and I have to say that this is truly delicious banana bread. I used the specified number of bananas, but ended up with more than the specified amount of liquid (approximately 1 1/4 cups). It took me much longer than 5 minutes to cook the liquid down, and I gave up and used what I had, which was maybe 2/3 cup (I’m not sure though b/c I didn’t measure, just poured it all back into the bananas). In the end, it didn’t seem to matter as my loaf turned out just as beautiful looking as yours, and SO flavorful, moist, dense and wonderful!! I believe this bread gets better tasting after a couple of days – although the slightly crunchy top (which I LOVE) disappears. Thanks for trying this recipe and posting it. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to my old stand-by banana bread recipe . . . :D

    Reply

  34. Dawni on August 21, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Wow!! I will never throw out another extra ripe banana again. Just finished making this.. In oven now. The banana mixture tasted fantastic and it’s not even cooked yet!! :)

    Reply

  35. Tracy | Pale Yellow on August 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I don’t know why the ultimate banana bread seemed like such an enigma, but this recipe is a must try for sure!

    Reply

  36. Sydney Sun on August 24, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Banana bread is such a staple in my kitchen and I love experimenting with different recipes for it! My all time favourite so far is the Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread recipe that I have posted on my blog, but this one sounds delicious as well. I would definitely add chocolate chips to it though to satisfy my sweet tooth :)

    Sydney

    Reply

  37. Erin on August 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    This is the only banana bread recipe I will ever need again. So great ! And your cream cheese cinnamon rolls by far the best I’ve ever had.

    Reply

  38. Yolanda (Grandma of 5 girls!) on September 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Yummy, yummy and yummy!!! Yes, it is the “ultimate banana bread”! I am tossing out all my other banana bread recipes and keeping this one! Yes, it does take time to prepare but so worth it! The bread is moist, excellent banana taste and is loved by granddaughters!! Thank you for sharing!!

    Reply

  39. Nathan on September 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    This was awesome! I made it this weekend and went all out. In the time I was waiting on the bananas I browned the stick of butter (in the pan that I later used to reduce the banana juice) and toasted the walnuts in the oven for 12min @ 350degF.

    Reply

  40. Katya on September 20, 2014 at 3:30 am

    I think I went back and forth a dozen times in my head between regular banana bread and this one when I saw your recipe – the usual ‘quick’ banana bread is so delicious, how could this be any better right? Wrong! So glad I went for this one, I will never use the regular method again. Deeeelicious

    Reply

  41. Wendy on October 1, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Made this beautiful bread this morning (was waiting for the appropriate opportunity to get it out of my house quickly). I also had a little extra liquid so I cooked it down a little longer. Only change I made was to sprinkle the top with raw sugar instead of granulated sugar. Worth the extra steps with the bananas any day of the week! Thank you for sharing this one!

    Reply

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