Jul 11, 2011

Ultimate Banana Bread

I have a strange relationship with banana bread.  I never really crave it, in fact, sometimes it sounds downright disgusting to me, but whenever I do eat it, I enjoy it.  I don't know why it never sounds good - maybe I wasn't using the right recipe?  I don't know.  I do know, however, that awhile ago I watched America's Test Kitchen make this banana bread on their PBS show and I wanted to try it. I kept putting it off and putting it off, and for no real reason.  I always have bananas in the freezer so I don't know what was with the hold-up.

I will say that there are a few extra steps that aren't in your traditional banana bread recipe but they are completely worth it.  Extracting some of the liquid from the bananas truly gave this bread the perfect texture.  It wasn't gummy in the least, only the perfect denseness but still with much lightness and wonderful flavor.  So now when I do crave banana bread, I know exactly what recipe I'll head for.

Ultimate Banana Bread

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 tsp. granulated sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1⁄2x4 1⁄2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.  Place 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl and cook 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 cup liquid).
3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1⁄4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir reduced liquid into bananas.  Mash with potato masher until fairly smooth, or desired consistency.
4. Into the banana mixture, whisk butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. 5.  Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
6. Slice remaining banana (do not use a previously frozen banana, it will be too soft.) diagonally into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1 1⁄2-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
7. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.
Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.

as seen on Food 4 Wibowo, originally from America's Test Kitchen

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