If you don’t watch America’s Test Kitchen and/or read Cook’s Illustrated, you are missing out. I love the no-frills cooking show that is actually about food, rather than good-looking personable characters, kind of cooking in front of a camera. As a teacher, I also love how they break down the chemistry that underlies so many cooking techniques and use things like giant cow models and scientific animation to drive the point across. If you love cooking, or want to learn more, it’s a must. The only negative is that you will probably be filled with disappointment when they taste test finished recipes and you’re sitting on the couch eating potato chips. Isn’t that the worst thing about cooking shows? 😉
So, obviously this is an America’s Test Kitchen recipe and as always they are aiming for something specific with their recipes. In this case, a strong banana flavor but not a soggy interior. I am always a bit hesitant to bake banana bread, although I adore it, because I grew up eating my Aunt Kathy’s banana bread. Her bread is incredibly moist and is still the best tasting banana bread I’ve ever had. Perhaps one day I’ll learn how to do it her way and share the recipe … although my whole family is pretty sure she has a secret to baking it because we never quite make it as well.
This bread, though, is a good second place. And if you prefer a less moist, more bread-like consistency with a nice crisp exterior, this is your bread. The recipe is really interesting because you “juice” the bananas in the microwave and that increases the banana flavor. I also loved the banana pieces on the top, although I could have put more. I cooked this in mini-loafs, and it made 6 loafs. Otherwise, use a regular loaf pan and you will have one large loaf. If you want to check out a banana bread with chocolate, this is another favorite.
- 1 and 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 large, very ripe bananas, peeled
- 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped (optional)
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar
- Adjust oven racks to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Place 5 bananas in a micro-safe bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap and cut steam vents in the plastic with a paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released juice; about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and allow to drain. Stir occasionally, allowing to drain for about 15 minutes. You should have about 1/2 cup of liquid.
- Transfer banana juice to a small saucepan and cook at medium-high until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir juice into the bananas (placed in the medium bowl), mash if needed 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 the prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally and shingle (overlap) bananas on either side of loaf, leaving a space down the center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the loaf.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes for mini-loafs and 50 minutes for a full loaf pan. Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature. Best within 3 days; store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.