Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ultimate Banana Bread

**** I haven't made this yet but I can't wait to do so!!! ******

Ultimate Banana Bread

Our ideal banana bread is simple enough--a moist, tender loaf that really tastes like bananas. We discovered that doubling the dose of bananas in our favorite test recipe was both a blessing and a curse. The abundance of fruit made for intense banana flavor, but the weight and moisture sank the loaf. Looking to add banana flavor without moisture, we placed our bananas in a glass bowl, microwaved them for a few minutes, and then transferred the fruit to a sieve to drain. We simmered the exuded banana liquid until it was reduced and then incorporated it into the batter. Brown sugar complemented the bananas better than granulated sugar, as did swapping out the oil for the nutty richness of butter. Toasted walnuts lent a pleasing crunch. As a final embellishment, we sliced a sixth banana and shingled it on top of the loaf. A final sprinkle of sugar helped the slices caramelize and gave the loaf an enticingly crunchy top.

Ultimate Banana Bread
Serves 10

Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using five thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. We developed this recipe using a loaf pan that measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness 5 minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (let it cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 large very ripe bananas (2¼ pounds), peeled
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½‐inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

2. Place 5 bananas in separate bowl, cover, and microwave until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine‐mesh strainer over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

3. 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 mostly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined, with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼‐inch‐thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of loaf in 2 rows, leaving 1½‐inch‐wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

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