We’ve been going through a bit of a smoothie phase around these parts, which when coupled with the hus-b’s penchant for buying in bulk (Costco’s shareholders should send him a muffin basket) means that we have enough fruit, juice and protein powder to open our own doomed Jamba Juice franchise. It also means that, from time to time when the blender isn’t whirring, we’re going to end up with some leftover fruit that needs to be dealt with post-haste.
So when then hus-b mentioned that some tragically black bananas had taken up residence in the back of our fridge, I immediately thought of banana bread. Healthy? Please. Original? Not so much. But there is something charming and sensible about having a fresh loaf of homemade quickbread on hand. A lady never knows when she might be called to entertain guests, and sliced banana bread and tea would make any guest feel welcome.
Novice housewife that I am, I don’t have a banana bread recipe that I’ve made a zillion times in my repertoire, so some research was most certainly in order. I hit up my usual suspects — Epicurious, Martha Stewart, America’s Test Kitchen (aka the mad scientists behind The Best Recipe and my much beloved Cook’s Illustrated) — but was sold as soon as I stumbled upon the title “Perfect Banana Bread Every Time” over at Food & Wine. Type A personality fodder title notwithstanding, the recipe was also simple, quick and didn’t require a run to the market or the purchase of creme fraiche (which always reminds me of the hilarious and way-too-close-to-home “Creme Fraiche” episode of South Park).
I broke out my KitchenAid mixer and disposable mini loaf tins to further simplify the process, and less than an hour later I had three fresh loaves of banana bread, minimal kitchen clean up and zero gross bananas cluttering up my refrigerator. That was “perfect” enough for me, thankyouverymuch, but then I took a bite: moist crumb, fabulous texture and pure banana flavor. I’m now secretly hoping that the hus-b buys ten pounds of bananas on his next Costco run just so I can try different mix-ins (chopped Snickers sounds insane, no?) and incarnations (a stash of banana muffins would be fabulous to have in one’s freezer). Perfect indeed.
“Perfect Banana Bread Every Time” (Food & Wine, adapted from Sally Sampson’s The Bake Sale Cookbook: Quintessential American Baking)
4 medium overripe bananas, the blacker the better
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup or more nuts, raisins or chocolate chips (P&V favors a combination of golden raisins and chopped walnuts.)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. (P&V used three 5 7/10 x 3 1/3 x 1 7/8 mini loaf tins.) In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with the sugar, then mash in the butter. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. (P&V did all of this in a KitchenAid with the flat beater attachment. If the bananas are ripe enough, no mashing will be necessary and a quick spin at a medium speed will suffice.) Mix the flour with the baking soda and salt and add them to the bowl. Mix just until the ingredients are blended. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake until the banana bread is well-browned and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. (To account for the smaller loaf size, P&V baked all three loaves concurrently in the same oven for 40 minutes.) Let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and let cool to warm before eating.