First off, I don’t like bananas – can’t stand ’em. Taste, texture, smell – nothing about them I like. But I’ve always sort of liked banana bread. My main complaint was that my Mom’s banana bread always ended up with a soggy, banana-y section on the top in the middle. I guess it was too moist, or didn’t bake long enough, but the obvious banana element ruined it for me (sorry Mom!). Anyway, I do buy bananas because the kids like them, and occasionally we end up with extra, over-ripe ones, and I can’t just throw them away! So I found a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which does involve a few extra steps, but turns out to be well worth the trouble. The following recipe is my version – I omitted an additional step that added fresh sliced bananas to the top. I highly recommend adding the nuts – any nuts will do. The bread is naturally very moist, and the nuts add some welcome texture. My favorite way to eat this bread is toasted (careful getting it out of the toaster – it will crumble), spread with unsalted butter, and topped with a sprinkle of sea salt.
- 1 ¾ c flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4-5 large, very ripe bananas
- 8 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ c packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ c walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Heat oven to 350°. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
Place 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). *If using frozen bananas, skip the microwave and put in the mesh strainer to thaw and drain. Mash occasionally with a fork until completely thawed and proceed.
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 or fork 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.
Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 65 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.