Today I saw three sad-looking bananas on the counter, and my first thought was banana bread. Specifically riddled with chocolate chips and topped with browned, crunchy walnuts. Just take a moment to picture that.
So I consulted The Cabinet, basically the home for all recipes and cookbooks and food magazines that make their way into the house. It’s usually a terrible mess.
The blue binder on the top shelf that you can’t really see is for all sorts of loose recipes that are organized into handy categories (thanks Mom). We have a bunch of bread recipes: zucchini, cranberry orange, breakfast breads, dinner rolls, the list goes on. But there is a specific banana bread recipe we always use. Since we first discovered it, we’ve barely used any others. And we’ve annotated it a bit.
The original recipe reads:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light butter, softened Cross out “light”
1 2/3 cup ripe banana (about 3 bananas) Preferably VERY ripe*
1/4 cup skim milk Use whatever kind of milk you want
1/4 low fat sour cream **
2 large egg whites Two eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour Plus 1/4 cup
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt Just a pinch
Cooking spray I prefer butter, empty wrappers work wonderfully
(Our modifications are in bold to the right side)
*When it is perfect for banana bread, the peel should be a little more yellow than brown, lots of brown spots, pretty squishy–the banana itself should be fairly limp when you peel it. I find that these bananas are far easier to mash than bananas ripe for eating. You can also freeze bananas at this stage for later (there are lots of recipes that call for ripe bananas), but PEEL THEM FIRST!!! Once they’ve been frozen, they’re very difficult to peel, mostly because you have to wait forever… Put the bananas in a plastic bag, preferably a freezer one, and remove all the air so they don’t get freezer burned.
**I think sour cream is good on chili. That’s about it for me. Especially in recipes, I much prefer to use plain Greek yogurt, which is great for all kinds of things.
Avoid using salted butter because I find it to be very salty in a recipe. If you are using it in baking, void the usual amount of salt the recipe calls for.
If you’re using stone baking-ware, you don’t really need to grease the pan, but I put a bit of butter on the bottom and sides just as a precaution.
And now to the actual preparation of the bread.
Preheat oven to 350°
Combine butter and sugar in bowl (I love my KitchenAid) and blend until combined. Mash bananas. Stir in milk sour cream/Greek yogurt, and eggs (egg whites if you prefer). Add these to mixer and blend well.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, soda, and salt. For any kind of mixing, I love this spoon:
It’s really wonderful. Anyway, then mix the dry ingredients into the banana mixture and beat until fully blended. Here’s where you can add anything you want. I usually put chocolate chips in. But any kind of nut (I think pecans and walnuts are best for this) is good as well. I usually put walnuts on top.
Spoon or pour the batter into four mini loaf pans*** coated with butter/cooking spray. Bake for about 7-10 minutes so the top is just barely firm on the edges and sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. I put them in after the bread has baked for a while so they don’t sink in as much. Return the bread to the oven for another 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The bread is done when a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean or with crumbs on it.
Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes then take the loaves out and cool them completely on a wire rack.
***If you don’t have four mini loaf pans, a 9 inch loaf pan works fine. Bake it at 350° for an hour and 10 minutes. You can do two 9-in loaf pans as well, the bread will just be a little squat. For two pans, take 15-20 minutes off.
I have this really nifty mini loaf pan thing from Pampered Chef that is awesome.
I like baking with stoneware best, and they have really nice pans and utensils there.
The original recipe is called “Mom’s Banana Bread” and the recipe is from Cooking Light. I now realize that I should have tested both versions of the recipe for you guys… But I didn’t, so next time I have sad-looking bananas on hand, I will do that for you.
Anyway, another thing I love doing with overripe bananas is banana ice cream. It’s a raw vegan thing, but it’s super delicious nonetheless. All you have to do is freeze a few bananas completely, then blend them in a food processor or blender until smooth. It’s good plain, but I love swirling in Nutella and/or almond butter, or topping it with good quality cinnamon and cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are a Mayan superfood, crunchy bits of raw chocolate that are good by themselves in small portions. They’re bitter, so be warned.
I also looked up things to do with leftover banana bread. Some cool ideas I saw were trifles, banana bread pudding, baking them into biscotti, and my personal favorite, banana bread French toast. I’d love to hear about your experience with any of these recipes in the comments below. Happy baking!