Sunday, March 9, 2008

Best Ever Banana Bread

Here's another recipe that was the result of a years-long search for a recipe that was what I thought it should be. I can honestly tell you that I tried dozens of recipes for banana bread, ranging from easy, Bisquick-based recipes to more complicated, superlative-laden recipes. This is the first time I've ever made a recipe that labeled itself "Best Ever" and ended up believing that the recipe authors were telling the truth.

For me, banana bread has to meet a few criteria to make the grade. It must first of all be moist, because, hey--no one likes a dry bread, really. It should be dense, but light; nothing too fru-fru for me, please, but I'd prefer it not also be suitable as a doorstop. And it should be addicting.

I believe this last point is what made my banana bread quest so daunting: there are plenty of Just Fine banana bread recipes out there, but few Really Good, Really Addicting ones. There are so few breads that make you guiltily slink back to the loaf promising yourself just one more little sliver--for the third time. The ultimate test of the addiction factor comes when I put it in front of my family: if they all feel they must sneak a bite or two when I'm not looking and end up eating the whole thing in a day, well, that's a pass. Then there are recipes like the coffee cake I tried last week: it was okay, but it took us four days to finish the thing. That's a fail.

Now, I realize that most superlatives are subjective. And this banana bread might not fit the bill for your family. That's okay. All I'm saying is, this banana bread never lasts more than six or seven hours in our house, and that's something, when you consider that two of our family members weigh about 30 pounds and have stomachs the size of a walnut.

One more note before you try this recipe: Sometimes, I get a little decadent and mix up a streusel-type substance to put in the middle. It usually involves brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon, ground nuts, and melted butter, but I've never even attempted to write down any sort of recipe for it. So if streusel sounds good to you, find another recipe somewhere that has streusel in it, and just steal it away and insert it into this recipe. I'll never tell.

Oh, and I take back that other thing about that last paragraph being the last one. I have one more thing to say: use rrrriiiipppe bananas--I mean, bananas so ripe, they're nearly black and too smooshy to eat. They'll make the most flavorful bread for you.

Thank you. The End.

Best Ever Banana Bread
from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking, a Taste of Home book

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. mashed banana (2 or 3 medium)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. buttermilk *
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease (I use cooking spray) and flour a 9x5x3 loaf pan. (Actually, I use a bundt pan, because it bakes up a bit more quickly and makes for a prettier bread. But use what you've got!)

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. In another bowl, mix together the eggs, banana, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, and stir just until moistened. (Seriously, don't go overboard with the stirring.) Fold in the nuts, if you're using them.

Add batter to loaf or bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour (less--ore like 45 minutes--for a bundt), or until loaf tests done. (That's what they say in the recipe. Here's what I say: Insert a toothpick, and if it comes out clean, the bread is done. Also, if the edges of the loaf are pulling away from the sides of the pan, that's a good indication of doneness, too.)

Remove from oven, and cool for 10 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This bread is a better-the-next-day bread, so I usually bake it at night. When it's cool, wrap it in plastic wrap, and it'll be so moist and tasty the next day, you won't believe it. In fact, don't even try to eat it the same day, because you'll probably be disappointed, and you'll want to rename it Pretty Average Banana Bread and never make it again.

*Buttermilk: I never purchase buttermilk. Instead, for this recipe, I put a teaspoon of lemon juice in the bottom of a 1/3 cup measure, and then fill it not quite to the top with milk. Give it a good stir, let it sit for about five minutes, and you've got the thickness and tang of buttermilk without the added expense of it. For other recipes requiring more buttermilk, use this formula: 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar, plus enough milk to measure 1 cup total.


Doug said...

Your recipe sounds interesting. My favorite banana bread recipe comes from "The Fanny Farmer Cookbook". It's the only banana bread recipe that I have seen that doesn't call for any kind of oil or fat. It's a very simple recipe, that I sometimes will add raisins and or pecans to. I even added some dried pineapple a couple of times. The only thing that I do a little different to the recipe in the cookbook is that I cook it in a water bath. By that I mean I place the bread pan into a 9"x13" pan and put about 1/2 to 1 inch of water into the pan. At the end of the prescribed hour of baking I take the bread pan out of the water bath and bake for aproximately another 10 minutes. And that makes for a nice moist banana bread without being greasy like some recipes.


Lorie said...

Cori--How apropriate that you posted this, I was just looking at the over-abundance of super-ripe, blackish bananas I have, and thought to myself, "I need to make banana bread tonight." Thanks. I'll try this recipe!