Sunday, June 13, 2010

Banana Bread (Walnuts Optional)

What to do when you're in the midst of a baking frenzy and you're being stared down by the bowl of ripe bananas on your kitchen counter? Make banana bread.

I've experimented with literally dozens of banana bread recipes, and below is my (and my husband-the-primary-banana-bread-eater's) hands-down favorite. I adapted it from Flour Bakery's Famous Banana Bread recipe on

I don't usually put walnuts in my banana bread because I find they distract from the banana flavor. But they're a good source of healthy fats and fatty acids, fiber, protein and antioxidants, so today I added them. Alas, the bread tasted more like walnut bread, so I'll be going back to eating walnuts by themselves or in salads, etc.

Banana Bread (Walnuts Optional)
Makes 1 loaf

3 large, very ripe bananas
1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use walnut oil, which imparts a rich, nutty flavor)
3 tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt, creme fraiche or sour cream*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

*Note: If you're avoiding dairy, leave out the yogurt/creme fraiche/sour cream and add another 1/2 banana. You could (and I will) also experiment with replacing the oil with applesauce or pear puree, and the wheat flour with a gluten-free alternative.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and lightly coat a loaf pan or 8 x 8 x 2 square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Puree or mash the bananas and set aside. I puree mine in a blender, because banana chunks tend to "sink" the batter (i.e., it doesn't rise as well). Oh, and you should probably use bananas that are completely brown as opposed to my spotted bananas, below.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour (measured, as always, with the spoon-and-sweep method), baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar on increasing speed until very light and frothy, about 10 minutes. You want your egg mixture to "ribbon" from the whisk as pictured below.

5. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low and slowly drizzle the oil into the egg mixture. When well-combined, stop the mixer and add the bananas, yogurt/creme fraiche/sour cream (if using) and vanilla. Whisk at medium-low speed to combine.

6. Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture. Whisk at low speed until just combined. Do not overmix; your batter should be lumpy and there should be flour on the sides of the bowl.

7. Stop the mixer and, if using, add the walnuts. Gently fold the batter with a spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until the walnuts and flour are incorporated.

8. Pour the batter into prepared pan (I always use an 8 x 8 x 2 square pan, which bakes more evenly and solves the problem of dry, overbaked edges) and bake on the center oven rack for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. (Check after 40 minutes.)

I find that this bread keeps in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for a week. It also freezes well. (Tip: Defrost at room temp, in the wrapping, so that the condensation collects on the outside of the wrapper and not on the bread. Because who likes soggy bread?)

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