Really Good Banana Bread

I mentioned a few posts ago (pre-plum craziness) that I had a couple favorite banana bread recipes, and promised to write about them. It just so happened that I had three perfectly ripe bananas (spotted but not rotten), so I made a quick batch Friday. I based my bread on The Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated. This is a desert island cookbook for me – assuming my desert island had a kickin’ kitchen.

I do a few things differently than their published version and have made it as a vegan bread with success.I find it to be a forgiving recipe. This kind of recipe gives me the chance to address a baking gray area as well – greasing the loaf pans. To grease or not to grease, and god forbid, grease and flour? My loaf pans are of pretty good quality, but not expensive. They are the big ones and have a bit of a non-stick surface to them, rather slick sides. If you are really going for height in your baked good (bread, cake, muffin) and you have this kind of slippery side to your pan, it will help your goal to grease and flour the pan. The grease provides fat to help the cake/bread release from the pan easily and the flour on the sides gives the batter something to “hold onto” as it rises. This is in theory, anyway. I made two loaves of bread…one pan sprayed with Pam-ish canola oil and one pan greased with margarine and dusted with flour. They both came out the exact same height. So, very forgiving. This recipe, anyway. When in doubt, follow the rules above. And when baking, never assume that “non-stick” really is.

Off on a non-stick tangent, let me just say that I’ve had fun with the silicone baking utensils and pans over the past few years. There is nothing that will get a stubborn muffin out of its hole faster than to turn the pan inside-out. Silicone pans can be a little wobbly or difficult to handle when putting into the oven, especially when full of batter, and they don’t create a nice crust on the outside of what you are baking like a metal pan, but they are excellent at non-stick and so great to clean. We had gotten tired of rusting metal muffin tins and the seeming hours of cleaning necessary with the metal, so we’ve been very happy with our silicone muffin tin switch.

Ok, back to banana bread. This recipe will make one very large loaf, or two smaller ones. I like to bake it as a two-fer so that I can eat one and give one away. It also cuts down on the baking time and the chances that the middle won’t be cooked all the way through/outside overcooked.

350 degree oven

Dry Ingredients:
2 c. all-purpose white flour (or 1 c. apw & 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. sea salt (always fine sea salt for baking)

Wet Ingredients:
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t. vanilla
6 T. butter, melted and cooled before added to eggs
1/4 c. plain or vanilla yogurt OR 1/4 c. buttermilk OR 1/4 c. applesauce OR some combo of all three, depending on what you have available

1 1/4 c. Toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (I don’t usually like nuts in my baked goods and walnuts are pretty low on my nut list, however banana bread just doesn’t taste right without them)

Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl – I use a whisk to combine and work as a sifter.
Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl – beat well.
Add the dry to the wet and fold together – avoid overmixing. Quick breads are like muffins, you don’t want to create gluten strands from the flour or your bread will be tough. Add the chopped nuts when there is just a little flour showing in the mix and stop stirring when the last of the flour is incorporated. Pour into prepared pan(s).

**A favorite trick of mine is to sprinkle white sugar on the top of the batter before baking, creating a nice sugary crust in the oven

Put into the oven at 325 degrees. If you are baking 2 pans with this recipe, set a timer for 25 minutes and turn the loaves at that point. They will probably cook a total of 35-40 minutes depending on your oven. Use the toothpick test to determine when they are done. A toothpick or skewer (or knife if you are desperate) poked into the middle of the loaf should come out clean, or with cooked crumbs sticking to it, not wet or with batter on it. Make sure you are checking these loaves starting at 35 minutes to avoid overbaking. If you are making one big loaf, check for turning at about 30 mins and expect the loaf to cook around 55 minutes.
**Vegan version: use Egg Replacer for the eggs, beaten with water (beat egg replacer until very foamy); use vegan margarine for the butter; use soy yogurt or just applesauce for the moisture…I usually would add 1/2 c. applesauce and skip the yogurt.

This bread is awesome warm, it’s awesome straight from the fridge, it freezes well, it makes a great gift. Close to the perfect comfort food. You can skip the nuts if you have allergies, you can add chocolate chips if you need to. Personally, I like an unadulterated loaf. As in, to myself.

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4 Comments »

  1. karen knaus said

    This recipe sounds great and so healthful….no oil, which I like. I have 3 bananas in the freezer so I am going to make the bread this week. Do you think they have that Cooks Illustrated cookbook at Costco?

  2. Jan Fox said

    Hi, Heather Swain a long lost friend from Nashville turned me on to your site and this is the first viewing I’ve had and I am super excited! I await my current bananas to get ready for this bread, even if it is 90 degrees here I need to taste your version. I too love to make two loaves and give away. Cool to find you and I look forward to MORE! My current quest is for a perfect oatmeal cookie, chewy and moist is my desire. Yet, crunchy is nice too. AHHH, I LOVE all of it!

  3. Sarah Knopp said

    This banana bread was YUMMY! VERY moist and almost creamy tasting if banana bread could be called creamy 🙂 My husband doesn’t like nuts, so I left them out. I love them and after trying this recipe I recommend trying it with nuts, I think it would be just perfect with them in it. This one’s definitely a keeper.

  4. digital playground account

    Really Good Banana Bread | EatLikeAChef – My fascination with food

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