Monday, October 3, 2011

"ultimate" banana nut bread

I've tried dozens of banana bread recipes over the years, and honestly they've all been pretty good. Take a few speckled bananas, add sugar, flour, butter, a couple of eggs, and some leavener, and you're basically guaranteed to turn out something at least a little bit delicious. So when I saw America's Test Kitchen's recipe for "ultimate banana bread," I was skeptical. Could it really be that much better than your typical banana bread?

So I tried it, and it's definitely impressive. The title may have gotten my hopes up a little too high, but if pressed I can't recall a banana bread that I've enjoyed more than this one. I wasn't sure if the extra steps of microwaving the bananas and reducing their juice would be worth it, but actually the smell of bananas cooking in the microwave might have been my favorite part of the bread-making process!

The only step that I found unnecessary was topping the bread with sliced bananas and sugar. They're supposed to end up caramelized and crunchy, but honestly mine just turned out kind of chewy. Next time, if I'm feeling ambitious I'll try topping the bread with some honeyed walnuts instead. I'll include those in the recipe below, but my pictures have the banana topping. If you want to stick with that (it is pretty), just omit 1/4 c of the walnuts and the honey, slice an extra banana, and top the batter with banana slices and two teaspoons of sugar before baking.

P.S. - There is something weird going on with my formatting--the font size changed for this post, and I can't figure out why or how to fix it. This is driving me crazy, so if anyone has any words of wisdom please let me know!

"ultimate" banana nut bread
makes one loaf (about 12 servings)
per serving:  304.9 cal, 14.2g fat, 47.6g carb, 3g fiber, 5.1g protein, 8+ weight watchers

1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 large ripe bananas
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
2 large eggs
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)
1 tbsp honey (optional)

instructions (I pretty much copied them straight from ATK...too lazy to type my own version!):

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flours, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

Place bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic. Microwave on high 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, 10-15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher or fork until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in 1/2 c walnuts, if using. In a small bowl, combine other 1/4 c walnuts with honey. Scrape batter into prepared pan and top with honeyed walnuts.

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. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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