Foolproof Banana Bread

Banana “bread” has always felt like a misnomer to me because its basically cake without the frosting. And I’m not complaining. I absolutely love banana bread and other quick breads which give you all the satisfaction of cake with a little bit less of the sugar and fat.

Beyond just being a delicious treat, banana bread is a great way to go about using bananas that would otherwise be destined for the bin. I really only eat green bananas, so the second they start turning brown, I leave them be and prepare to have some delicious banana bread about a week in my future.

This recipe has evolved since I’ve been out of the house – surprisingly my mom’s recipe never made it into my cookbook so I’ve made some adaptations over time based on memory until ultimately finalising this version which is easy to measure and mix. Now this is not going to make a huge amount of bread, so I recommend using a small baking dish or loaf pan to maximise its height. While it can be made into banana muffins, I have a different recipe for those which help it maintain more moisture at the smaller size.

You’ll need two bananas for this recipe, and they’ll need to be ripe to the point of being mostly brown. You can cheat your way to ripe bananas by placing them in the oven at 300F (150C) for 10-15 minutes away from the heat source.

Place these bananas in a medium size bowl and mash with a fork or spatula. To this bowl you’ll add your wet ingredients, including the sugar which is treated as a wet ingredient in making cakes and quick breads. This is added with the wet because it absorbs the water before the flour is added, preventing said water from being able to develop a lot of the gluten proteins once flour is introduced (which would make the texture tough and chewy). Beat these together with your electric mixer to make sure everything is fully incorporated.

There are many recipes which argue that you should separately sift and combine your dry ingredients in a different bowl for the most even distribution, but as a home cook, it’s not really a worry. In the old days you would need to sift your flour to remove the bugs and animal droppings that may be inside, but modern production and hygiene standards make this step unnecessary. So what I do is add your flour to the bowl first, scooping it gently so it doesn’t compact, and sprinkling it over the batter. Then add your other dry ingredients right on top. Take your spatula or fork and gently stir just the dry ingredients first, then start to gently mix the wet and dry together until just combined and no more flour is visible. We don’t want to be vigorous or over-mix it as it may cause gluten to develop and toughen the final product.

At this point you can fold in any additional ingredients you want to include like chocolate chips, cinnamon, nuts, or dried fruit that has been partially rehydrated.

Transfer the batter to your greased baking dish and bake for around 40-50 minutes. Check on it after 30 minutes to see if the top is getting too brown – if so, you can cover it with another dish or a piece of foil to stop it from burning.

While the smell should be able to tell you when its done, you can check by gently shaking the bread: if there is any wobble in the middle leave it in for longer; or you can gently press on the top which should have a springy consistency and not leave a dent when you take your finger away. The knife method doesn’t work great on banana breads due to the fact that the bananas are so soft and could stick to the knife making you think it’s not ready even when it’s fully cooked.

Allow the bread to cool for a few minutes out of the oven, and go ahead and scrape the sides with a knife at this point to help the trapped steam escape. Once you feel confident handling the pan, transfer the loaf to a wire cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. Though waiting while it smells so good is excruciating, if you cut into it while it is still hot, it will fall apart, leaving you with a bunch of crumbs rather than an actual slice.

My mom and I both tend to underbake the loaf on purpose leaving the middle slice just a little bit gooey, and there have been a few arguments over who gets this piece. But for the rest of the loaf, I love it topped with just a little bit of butter while its still warm (15 seconds in the microwave if eating it cool).

This banana bread will keep for several days at room temperature, just make sure it is covered with a lid, clingfilm, or foil to keep the air from drying it out.

Foolproof Banana Bread

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A moist, small batch banana bread that comes out perfect every time.

– 2 ripe bananas
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 3/4 stick (75g) butter, melted
– 1 cup plain flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt

Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg; 1/2 cup chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or rehydrated dried fruit (i.e. rehydrated raisins)

1. Set oven to 350F (180C) and leave to preheat.
2. Peel and mash bananas in a medium bowl, and add wet ingredients. Beat with electric mixer until fully combined (chunks of banana are okay).
3. Add dry ingredients to bowl, flour first, followed by baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently combine dry ingredients together before incorporating wet ingredients. Mix just until no more flour is visible.
4. Fold in any optional ingredients.
5. Transfer to a small baking dish or loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, covering top with foil if necessary.
6. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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