Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Flavorful Banana Bread without the gumminess

I’ve always loved Banana Bread. It’s one of the first breads I learned how to make when I was a little girl, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. Growing up, we had it with breakfast or as a snack, and I still enjoy it that way today.

Even though I never grow tired of banana bread, it is sometimes hit or miss as to whether it turns out. For me, it’s one of the easiest breads to make, but it is also one of the easiest breads to mess up. It can be tricky to get a moist loaf that tastes great and isn’t gummy on the inside.

Recently, I tried a banana bread recipe three times, and the loaf came out gummy every time. That’s frustrating because not only is it a waste of ingredients, it’s a waste of time. Plus, when you’ve got your mouth set on enjoying a slice of warm sweet bread, and instead you get a sticky slice without much flavor, it’s a bummer to say the least.

I gave up on that recipe, but I heard about a different method for making banana bread that brings out the flavor and reduces the gumminess. I had ripe bananas and the time to bake so I decided to test this method for myself.



Ultimate Banana Bread

Makes: 1 Loaf

From: America’s Test Kitchen

Refer to the list of ingredients and the tips for choosing ripe bananas on the America’s Test Kitchen site.

I pretty much followed the Test Kitchen’s recipe and instructions for my experiment, except I used 4 really ripe bananas in the batter instead of 5 and one fairly ripe banana on top because that’s all I had. I also sprinkled sugar in the raw on top instead of granulated sugar.

The process for making this bread is really cool so I’ve documented the steps below:

The first thing you do is release the juices from the bananas to boost the flavor.

Place the bananas in a microwave-safe bowl. They suggested that you cover it with plastic wrap and cut steam vents. However, I don’t use plastic wrap in the microwave so I covered it with a paper towel.  Microwave the bananas on high until the liquid is released and the bananas are soft.  This will take about 3-5 minutes. 



Place the bananas in a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl.  Allow the liquid to drain into the bowl until you have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of juice.  Mash down with a spoon to release the juices if necessary. The recipe indicates this process could take 15 minutes, but it didn’t take very long for my bananas to release enough juice for 1/2 cup.



Transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup.  This will take about 5 minutes. 



Remove the pan from the heat, then stir the liquid into the bowl with the bananas.  Mash the bananas with a potato masher until they are fairly smooth.



Whisk the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla into the banana mixture.



Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, then pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture.  Mix just until the batter is combined, but there are still some streaks of flour showing. If you are using walnuts, fold them in at this point.



Scrape the batter into prepared baking pans.  I used 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch glass pans.  This is the size recommended by the Test Kitchen and just happens to be my favorite size as well. I also prefer glass pans for quick breads because they don’t seem to burn as easily.

Slice the remaining banana diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the slices on top on both sides of the loaf in a shingle pattern.  You’ll need to leave a 1 1/2-inch-wide space down the center of the loaf to ensure an even rise.  Trust me, you want to do this.  You’ll see why in a minute.  Sprinkle the top evenly with sugar.



Bake the loaf for 55 to 75 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees F. oven with the rack in the middle position. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove it and continue to let it cool on the wire rack.



Look at how much the bread rose. See where the banana slices are?  Now you can understand why you need to leave that much space down the middle of the loaf.  I think that is so cool!



Serve warm or at room temperature.  I did both.  I sliced this bread after it had cooled a bit and it tasted pretty good.  However, as with most quick breads, this one tastes better the next day. 


The Test Kitchen recommends eating the bread fresh, and although the bananas on the sides are a bit sticky, I still think it tastes better the next day. Just let the loaf cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and it can be stored for up to 3 days.  If it lasts that long. 




Happy Baking!


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