Saturday, February 26, 2011

Banana Bread

A friend of ours was moving this week, and I wanted to bake something that said "Happy New Home" for when I stopped by to visit. I had already shared the bacon chocolate chip cookies and truffles with her, so I needed something else. Immediately I thought of my mom's banana bread.

There's nothing like baking on a cold, stormy day. And banana bread is especially great because it's so crazy quick to throw together, gets rid of some over-ripe bananas along the way (usually some I've thrown in the fridge or freezer that look nasty and brown, but are perfect for this recipe), and it makes the whole house smell amazing.

Batter ready to go into the oven!
That's actually the exact association I have with this banana bread - throwing the door open after school on a cold, rainy day, and having the warmth of the house and the aroma of banana bread envelope me immediately. You better believe those raincoats and galoshes were thrown off into a heap in the corner in a hurry! That's happiness - biting into a warm, moist, buttery, thick slice of banana bread. And let me just say this now - banana bread is not meant to be sliced thin. You need a good, thick piece to sink your teeth into. And definitely err on the side of under-baking instead of over-baking, because no one wants dried-out, crumbly banana bread - unless you've never had anything different, in which case, make this recipe and then see if you're not a convert.

So here's the recipe. This is one my mom culled from her Cuisinart class at the Y (seriously. How awesome is that?), but originally the recipe is from "New Naturals" by Honey Lesser in "Bon Appetit". Needless to say, I do this all in my Cuisinart since that's how I learned it from my mom, but you could just as easily use an electric hand-held or stand mixer.
Banana Bread
2 very ripe medium bananas, peeled, cut in 1-in. pieces
1/2 cup butter or margarine, chilled, cut in 6 pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (some or all whole wheat flour OK)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnut or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Into large bowl (or Cuisinart with knife blade), add bananas and butter/margarine. Process until finely chopped (~20 seconds in Cuisinart). Add remaining ingredients - dry first, then eggs, milk, and lemon juice/vinegar. Process (~10 seconds in Cuisinart).

Add nuts, if desired, and process 2-3 seconds longer. Do not overprocess: this will make bread coarse. Turn batter into greased 9x5-in loaf pan. Bake until bread springs back when touched lightly in center, about 55-60 minutes. Cool before removing from pan.

Makes 1 (9x5-in) loaf
*Note: doubling the recipe makes 3 loaves of 8x4-in foil pans. Bake ~45 mins.

Step 1: bananas and butter
Like I said, lots of Cuisinart directions since that's what she learned it for, but they should be easily adaptable. Make note of the order of the baking soda and lemon juice/vinegar, as it's important to activate correctly. I've used both lemon juice and vinegar depending on what I have on-hand, and I haven't tasted a difference either way. It's really just about the acid to activate the baking soda.  

A little side note - did you know that the flap on the inside of the lid of the baking soda box is to scrape the powder flat in the measuring spoon? I thought that was an amazing trick as a kid (and I love that they've kept it).

That handy baking soda flap!
I personally don't like nuts in my desserts, but my mom did used to make it with walnuts fairly often, and it wasn't bad (to people who like nuts, read that as it goes really well with the banana bread!). Next batch I'll add chocolate chips, per the hubby's request, and fold them in at the end as you would with the nuts.

You may also have noticed that my mom mentions whole wheat flour in the ingredients (yes, I've included her notes in the recipe). I've had it that way, and while it's not quite as moist, it is still very tasty, and you might feel a little better about eating a whole loaf of it!

Activating the baking soda = bubbles!
I also remind you what I said earlier about undercooking versus overcooking. I set the timer for 45 or 50 minutes and check from there. But I use a gas oven that runs hot, so I tend to do this for most recipes.

This loaf is not as tall as normal bread, and I like it that way. I think it helps it stay moist and evenly baked. You could try more batter in a smaller loaf pan and see what it does if you really wanted it taller, but I can't speak to how long to bake it for that.

I take the "cool before removing from pan" pretty liberally. Once it's cooled enough that I can touch the pan and don't worry that the bread will lose its shape, I pop it out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Well, usually onto a cutting board to try a piece and make sure it's tasty, of course!, and then onto the cooling rack. Like I said, it's great warm. And you can recreate that by putting it onto a griddle or in the toaster. I prefer it on the griddle with a thin layer of butter side-down, but that's just me. Hey, no one said this was good for you!

Yum! Love the break in the middle too
When you store the bread, you want to keep all that yummy moisture in, so I usually wrap it in foil or a tupperware container. It should probably go into the fridge after a day or two (if it's not all gone by then), although I don't want my lax habits getting anyone sick, so default that to fridge storage after it's cooled.

Now I'm sure it took you longer to read this than to make the bread! It takes me all of maybe 10 minutes to throw the batter together and get it into the oven. And even though it brightens the stormiest of days, it's certainly just as tasty on a warm and sunny one!


  1. I totally second thick slices for banana bread. :) I like to play around with my banana bread recipe; I've added flaxseeds for some extra crunch, and once when I had walnut oil around, I used some of that instead of butter, and it seemed to enhance the flavor.

  2. That sounds tasty with the walnut oil. I'd probably like that better than the actual walnuts, in fact. Great idea!