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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