Monday, September 7, 2015

What's Baking: The Ultimate (aka High-Maintenance) Banana Bread

The Ultimate Banana Bread || A Less Processed Life

I am a huge fan of banana bread. Dare I say, I go bananas for banana bread? No, I dare not. Oops, I just did. But, I digress ...

The Ultimate Banana Bread || A Less Processed Life

When I came across a recipe for the ultimate banana bread by America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country, I was immediately intrigued. And then I looked at the recipe. And it kind of looked like a major pain. But ... I couldn't get it out of my mind. Would all those extra steps -- extracting the juice from the bananas and cooking it down to a syrup -- really result in the best banana bread ever? I had to find out.

So, with the help of a long holiday weekend, I set to work yesterday making this bread. Now, this isn't quite the quick bread recipe I'm used to, but it didn't take all that much longer than your typical "toss these ingredients together and stir to combine" quick bread instructions.

And, I'm sure you're wondering ... is it the best banana bread I've ever eaten? I will say that it definitely has a bit more of a concentrated banana flavor. The addition of banana slices on top combined with a sprinkling of sugar also provides a deeper, caramelized flavor to the bread. Long story short, it is really good ... but given the extra steps, I'd probably reserve baking this bread for a special occasion.

The Ultimate (aka High-Maintenance) Banana Bread (printer-friendly version)
makes 10 servings

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
1 large ripe banana, peeled
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. Place 5 peeled bananas in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap cut with a few slits for venting, and microwave until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer the cooked bananas to a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. (You should end up with 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid.)
5. Place the liquid into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the banana syrup over top the bananas, and stir to combine. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
6. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Carefully fold in the walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally into 1/4"-thick slices. Shingle the bananas on top of the batter in two rows, leaving the center empty. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over top the bananas and batter.
7. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 55-75 minutes (my bread baked for about 65 minutes). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate.

(lightly adapted from this Cook's Country recipe posted on Cookistry)

The Ultimate Banana Bread || A Less Processed Life


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