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Beautiful Banana Bread
I am not going to sugar coat this: the recipe I am about to share is a total pain in the rear end to make, especially compared to other banana bread recipes where you take ripe bananas and just dump in the rest of the flour, sugar, eggs, etc. and voila! This particular method takes some advance prep, waiting for things to cool, extra bowls…but the end result is worth it to me. Rather than a ho hum type of banana bread you have had many times in coffee shops or that you’ve undoubtedly made before, this recipe produces an extraordinarily deep, complex banana flavor mixed with bittersweet chocolate chips. I don’t serve this for breakfast but rather as a special, rustic dessert.
I made this banana bread following our family Thanksgiving weekend when I discovered we had a few leftover bananas the kids didn’t eat. We usually keep bananas around the house for smoothies or to chop on top of granola or oatmeal and if they become overly ripe I stick them in the fridge or freezer as need be. Once I see six overly ripe bananas…well, this is my favorite use for them.
What you read below in terms of cooking, draining and reducing the banana juice originated from a recipe in Cooks Illustrated. Otherwise I changed it drastically: I decreased the brown sugar, added half whole wheat pastry flour, removed the nuts, added bittersweet dark chocolate, and made a few other minor changes. Shocking, I know.
Often I do the banana microwaving and draining, then measure everything out before I exercise in the morning. When I return it’s just a matter of preparing the pan, melting the butter and stirring everything together. No mixer needed, just using a kitchen spatula is a better system for me.
During one of these bleak, dark winter days when you feel like baking and have leftover bananas, try this recipe. You won’t be sorry.
All the Ingredients
Best Banana Bread
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour
teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
large very ripe (speckled or dark brown skin) bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled (five for the bread and one reserved to top the loaf)
- 1 stick salted butter, melted and left out on the counter for 10 minutes
large eggs, room temperature
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
teaspoons granulated sugar (to sprinkle the loaf at the end)
Place oven rack mid-oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, put a piece of parchment paper on the bottom only of the pan and respray the bottom. This makes it easy to remove the finished loaf.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. I usually remove one teaspoon of this mix and coat the chocolate chips with it so the chips don’t sink the bottom of the loaf.
Place five bananas in a glass microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several vents in the plastic with a knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about five minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl so the juice drains, mashing and stirring occasionally. Leave it for about 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
Transfer the banana juice to a quart size saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 10 minutes. If you have more than ¼ cup at this point, measure out ¼ cup and discard the rest.
Remove pan from heat, stir the ¼ cup of reduced juice into the cooked bananas, and mash with a large fork until fairly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
Scrape batter into a prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Overlap banana slices on top of either side of the unbaked loaf, leaving space down the center. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the banana-topped loaf.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes or until done. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps for 3 days wrapped tightly at room temperature or up to 2 months in the freezer.
Note: For the bread itself, you can use five thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid you won’t need to cook them. Just put the thawed bananas into the strainer. Previously frozen bananas won’t work for the top so just sprinkle sugar on top of the loaf if you don’t have a very ripe never-frozen banana!
As an aside, last week I repeated this recipe. The raw batter seemed a little thick to me but I popped it into the oven for 15 minutes before I noticed the MELTED BUTTER SITTING IN A PYREX CUP ON TOP OF THE COUNTER. After all my hard work, I figured I had nothing to lose and took the banana bread out of the oven, greased another pan and stirred the slightly baked contents into the butter. The chocolate chips, of course, melted… and I had some bigger banana chunks from the topping but you know what? It was fantastic: like a dense chocolate pound cake. Sometimes mistakes lead to greater recipes. Sorry I didn’t snap a picture of my chocolate banana bread but the two of us demolished it in less than two days.