This is the first desert recipe I have posted here because we do not make desert very often, but this great Banana Bread recipe might just be the exception. Of course, it’s mostly due to having bought a nice bunch of bananas and then, a week later, having a pair of squishy brown soft ones starting to leak onto the counter.
So, let’s take a quick side trip here and talk about bananas and when it’s OK to still eat, cook, or bake with them. All bananas are heavy on starches. The banana flesh is mostly starch and water when the banana skin is green, and these starches begin an internal transformation into sugar as the banana ages after picking. As you know, when they sit on the counter, the peel starts to turn yellow, and that’s when most people like to peel and eat them. Soon, however, brown spots begin to appear, and the banana itself becomes a little less firm. I know a caterer that puts out a Continental breakfast spread for a large business every morning and they discard any bananas that have even a small brown fleck on the skin. A terrible waste, in my opinion, (this blog IS called “toms opinion” after all) since that’s when they have converted enough starch to start tasting really sweet, and have lost their initial bitterness. Their texture is also just getting to the perfect state, whereas before that, they are a bit mealy.
So, if you leave them out much longer, they will get brown, and ultimately almost black. When they just start to ooze out of the skin, that’s when they are perfect for banana bread. Now, before you think I’m completely crazy, be aware of a couple of caveats. First, fruit flies love squishy fruit, and they find it the most hospitable place to lay their eggs, as it virtually insures the survival of the larvae. So, bananas out on the counter will attract them from afar. Even though some might advise that, since you will ultimately be baking them in a very hot oven, a few fruit fly larvae just amount to a little additional protein, I’m not sure most of you would find that logic appetizing.
Second, you have to always worry about mold. Mold can be toxic, and even if it is not, will spoil the taste of almost anything, given time. Perhaps some certain cheeses are an exception, but generally, bananas are not! So, to prevent both a fruit fly and a mold infestation, I suggest that those couple of bananas that are starting to spot brown on the counter be moved into a container in the fridge. There, they will sit happily for up to three weeks or more and turn into the most glorious banana bread base you have ever eaten.
So, assuming you have been patient with your bananas so far, and you have two or three nice black runny ones, take them out of the fridge, split them carefully and scoop out all that caramelized runny sugar goodness into a measuring cup, and set it aside. You are going to need about a cup of it. If it smells a little “alcohol” like, no worries, that’s perfect, but if it’s truly spoiled, your nose will recoil from an acrid spoiled smell, and you will know that something went wrong.
So now, proceed with this recipe, and bake yourself an excellent loaf of banana bread that really shines if you take a slice and toast it until the surface becomes crunchy, just before you eat it. By the way, the word “bread” in the name? That’s just there to absolve you of a little guilt for eating it. This isn’t really bread; it’s cake or candy maybe, but “real” bread contains yeast! (Yup, that’s another one of those pesky Tom’s opinions.)
One last quick hint. You might notice that 3 of the main ingredients are listed by volume and also by weight. This is particularly important for flour, and just very convenient for the butter. Flour is such a fine ground dust, that it can trap and contain a significant amount of air for a given volume. Conversely, if allowed to settle out, or worse yet get packed down, a cup of flour can weigh up to 1/3 more than a cup that contains the “perfect” amount of air. All professional bakers weigh out or “scale” all their ingredients to assure consistency between batches. So, it is much better for this recipe, if you weigh the flour rather than try and scoop it out with a measuring cup. A cup of all-purpose flour with just the right amount of air in it should weigh 120 grams.
As for the butter, I buy mine in 1 lb. blocks, and cutting a chunk off and weighing it out to the proper amount is way easier than trying to measure it with some sort of tablespoon measure.
So, here is the recipe below. At the end, I have also provided a link to a MS Word version of it in case you want to save and print it. Also, I strongly suggest the chopped walnuts and the dried apricots. Personally, I think chocolate chips put the sweetness over the top, so be careful and balance the sugar in your recipe if you intend to add them.
Preheat oven to 350 °
1 1/3 cup (160g) All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Baking powder
¼ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
4 Tbs (60g) Butter
2/3 cup (140g) Sugar
1 Tbs Vanilla extract
2 lg Egg – Well beaten
1 cup Mashed banana (2 or 3 medium bananas, way overripe)
1/3 cup Walnuts, crushed large
2/3 cup dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup Chocolate chips
Sift dry ingredients together into a bowl
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and gradually add the sugar until fluffy. You can do this in a mixer if you like, or if you feel strong, by hand with a whisk.
Add eggs and beat well
Add the vanilla extract, mix in thoroughly
In 3 steps, alternate flour and banana into mixer bowl, mix, but do not beat. Do not mix too long or you will develop the gluten in the flour and your banana bread will become tough.
Fold in nuts, fruit, and chips as desired
Spray PAM® into 8 ½ inch loaf pan
Pour in the batter and bake 50-70 minutes until internal temperature reaches 200° and toothpick comes out clean