Ultimate Banana Bread
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.
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.
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!
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
This isn't your grandma's banana bread recipe!
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
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
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.