Monday, May 9, 2011

Ultimate banana bread

I love banana bread and have made many though the years but I had yet to find a truly wonderful recipe as my breads either lacked in banana flavor or had great flavor but were dense semi-wet bricks.  Well I finally found the ultimate banana bread recipe and this one’s a keeper! 

I had six black perfectly-ripe-for-banana-bread bananas on the counter and it must have been kismet as this recipe called for exactly six very ripe bananas.


Ultimate Banana Bread (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 large very ripe bananas black or heavily spotted, peeled
8 TBS salted butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste  
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional) 
1 TBS large decorative sugar crystals 

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Place 5 bananas in a large (because the juice will bubble up and over so larger is better) microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in the plastic with a knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are very soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a small saucepan and allow to drain, stirring and mashing occasionally for about 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid). Set the strainer with the bananas aside and cook the banana liquid over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes.

In the now empty banana bowl melt the butter in the microwave until it's almost completely melted and then stir to melt the rest of the butter while also allowing the butter to cool slightly. To the melted butter add the brown sugar and stir then add the cooked bananas, eggs, reduced banana liquid and vanilla bean paste and stir to mix.

Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some small streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Layer the banana slices on top of the batter along both long sides of the loaf pan, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Cool bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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