Monday, October 4, 2010

Ultimate Banana Bread

I'm definitely on a banana kick lately.  When I've let my bananas sit on my counter a little too long (and didn't make them into ice cream), I stick them into the freezer.  Once I have collected enough super-ripe bananas (think waaay beyond spotty...these bananas are so ripe they aren't even yellow anymore) it's time for the next best thing: banana bread!

(Image source: Cook's Illustrated)

The July issue of Cook's Illustrated had a banana bread recipe that sounded so strange, I knew I had to try it.  It involves microwaving bananas.  Weird!  But as weird and unnecessary as it sounds, this banana bread was possibly the best banana bread I have ever had!  It was really banana-y, dense and moist, but not soggy, and still fluffy.  And the smell of it while baking....mmmm my apartment has never smelled better!

The secret to this ultimate banana bread is definitely the use of more bananas than a typical recipe.  This recipe calls for 5 bananas, which would typically make a banana bread way too dense and soggy -- enter the microwaving part.  The microwaving makes the bananas release their juices.  Then you simply strain the bananas, cook the liquid on the stove until it reduces, and then add it back into the dough.  This intensifies the banana flavor, but doesn't make the bread soggy.  Voila!  Ultimate Banana Bread!

Ultimate Banana Bread
recipe from Cook's Illustrated, July 2010

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 very ripe bananas (plus one mostly ripe banana for garnish, if desired)
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, if desired (I omitted the walnuts)
  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position, and heat to 350 deg F.  Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with a sharp knife. Microwave on high 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). [Note - if you don't have a fine mesh strainer (like me!) you can put a paper towel into a regular strainer placed over a bowl, and it will work just as well]

    (weeeiird! microwaved bananas!!)

  4. 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 until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
  5. 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.
  6. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

  7. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.
  8. 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.


  1. A friend of mine recently made the best banana bread that I've ever tasted. Her secret ingredient? Bourbon!

  2. Yours looks much prettier than mine :)

  3. mmm bourbon is an excellent idea! i think it's time for a banana bread contest ;)


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