Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am pretty new to Cook’s Illustrated.  For the most part, every recipe I have tried has really been a winner.  They definitely do their research, and have different techniques to make sure that whatever you are making – ends up being the best.  They don’t just give you the recipe either – they go into depth about what you are making, and why their techniques work better than probably anything else you have ever tried.

I saw this recipe for Banana Bread – and they claimed it was the best recipe ever.  Ok, with a statement like that, how can I pass that up?  The problem is, I think I already have the best recipe ever – my mother’s recipe.  I really couldn’t imagine this recipe topping that, but I figured I had nothing to lose.   I looked at the ingredients – and there were two main differences – one was the number of bananas, and two was that this banana bread used butter instead of oil.  Then, I read the instructions – wow, you cook the bananas in the microwave and drain the liquid?  Are you serious?  And if that is not enough, then you reduce the liquid until it makes a sweet banana syrup – this was quite an extra big step in the process.  This better be good – and with 5 bananas, this has to be the most banana flavored bread in the world.  I made one slight change below – leaving off the step where they “shingled” another banana by slicing it up and layering it on each side of the bread before baking.

Ok – so it comes out of the oven – and looks very similar to my mother’s recipe.  Then comes the true test – the tasting.  I swear my mother’s is better.  It is moister – and I really didn’t see how these extra bananas did anything for the bread.  But – the biggest problem with this bread was how it stood up for the next few days…after one day, it already started to taste stale – I think that is the butter.  When you use oil, it somehow gives it some extra moistness so it stays fresh for a few days when wrapping it properly with plastic.  Sorry Cook’s Illustrated – this is one recipe that doesn’t beat mine.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 large very ripe bananas, peeled (almost 2 pounds)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Preparation

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife.  Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cups liquid).

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: 

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining.   Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 loaf.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

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Banana Bread

Happy New Year everyone!  Tomorrow marks a big milestone for me – for those of you who know me, you know what that means.  The anticipation of tomorrow was one of the reasons why I started this blog to begin with.  Time was running out for me to finish things on my list…the blog being one of them.  The purpose of this blog was for many reasons – to document recipes, especially my family recipes, to write about food, and to share my passion with others.  I wanted this to be a blog about food, not about me or my family – and for the most part I think I have stayed true to that.  Every once in a while you get a glimpse into my crazy life, but for the most part – I just talk about my love of cooking and food.  I love cooking for many reasons:  it calms me to be in the kitchen, I love eating, but most of all, I love sharing what I make with others.  There is nothing that makes me happier than to see other people smile when they eat something I have made.  It almost gives me more pleasure than eating myself…which definitely helps me fit into my jeans.  Well – here’s to many more blog posts about cooking, baking and food.  I will definitely be drinking to that tomorrow night at my favorite restaurant.

I think everyone knows how to make banana bread – everyone has their favorite recipe that they like.  The truth is, when your bananas get too ripe, what else can you do with them other than bake?  Sure, you can make banana muffins – but banana bread is just a little quicker.  What amazes me though is the varieties of banana bread out there – and even when you do find a recipe that is similar to yours – how different the end result can look.  My mother’s recipe is very simple and produces a very pure (in my mind) taste and texture.  It is not too dense, but not too fluffy either – in my mind it is perfect.  With 1/3 cup oil per loaf, the bread is not too greasy either.  I have made this recipe with chocolate chips, and that tastes great as well – so feel free to get creative.  This bread freezes really well – just wrap it in plastic first, then in foil.  Let it defrost on the counter, and you will be amazed how delicious it is.

Ingredients

  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk or buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Mash bananas with a fork and set aside.  Mix oil, sugar, milk, vanilla and eggs well.  Add mashed bananas.  Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl, and add to banana mixture with nuts (optional) until just combined well.  Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 x 5″ loaf pans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from pans while still warm and wrap with plastic.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here: Banana Bread

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