Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Banana Bread v.2

This is the second version of banana bread I've ever made (haven't yet posted the first) and it's adapted from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2010. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but this is one of my all-time favorite cooking shows on PBS stations and I haven't made a bad recipe yet from their cookbook. It's their meticulous testing of each recipe that makes them near-perfect. 

My first banana bread recipe was an adaptation of Tyler Florence's and uses 4-5 bananas, 1 C. sugar, and 1 1/2 sticks of butter (a bit more of each of these ingredients than in this version). I also used chopped pecans instead of walnuts in the original. 

Anyways, I've found that there are two keys to making good banana bread: really ripe bananas (mottled blackened skin is A-ok) and folding the wet and dry ingredients together very gently and minimally. If you beat the batter to death, the gluten in the flour will overdevelop and you'll end up with one rubbery loaf. 

My adaptation of this recipe substitutes kosher salt for table salt, Greek yogurt for plain yogurt, and 1 cup of walnuts instead of 1 1/4 cups. Otherwise, it's the same.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I like to use Greek)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, toasted & chopped

1. With rack in the lower-middle part of the oven, preheat oven to 350F.

2. Grease & flour a 9"x5" loaf pan & set aside.

3. Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl. 

4. Mash bananas in a measuring cup to make sure you get about 1 1/2 cups. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat eggs.

5. Toast whole walnuts in a small non-stick saute pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent burning. Once toasted, remove immediately to a chopping board. When cool enough to handle, chop coarsely and set aside.

6. Combine mashed bananas, yogurt, lightly beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla together in a bowl. 

7. Using a rubber spatula, very gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chopped walnuts. 

8. Pour batter into loaf pan and smooth the top with the spatula.

9. Bake for about 50-55 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. Test with a toothpick or cake tester by inserting in the center of the loaf. If it comes out relatively clean (a little moist batter is ok), then it's done. Don't overcook or the bread will be on the dry side.

10. Let loaf cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then unmold and transfer to a wire rack.

12. Banana bread can be served warm or at room temperature. Once completely cooled, wrap tightly in aluminum foil and keep in a cool, dry place (not the frig). Banana bread actually tastes better after a couple days of "aging" when the banana flavor becomes much more intense and developed.  Great for breakfast with a cup of jo or some good quality Taiwan Kao Shan green tea.

Use really ripe bananas. These aren't even the ripest - the best contenders will look past their prime, with blackened, mottled skins.

Use 3-4 bananas for this recipe, depending on their size. I like to mash them directly in a measuring cup so I can tell if they amount to about 1 1/2 cups (a little more is ok).

Mashed bananas & 6 tbsp. of melted unsalted butter.

Toast 1 cup of walnuts over medium heat in a dry saute pan. 

When the walnuts are cool enough to handle, chop coarsely and set aside.

Lightly beat 2 large eggs. Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder) in a large bowl.

Stir together with a whisk.

Grease & flour 9"x5" loaf pan. I like to use butter to grease the pan. Make sure to shake out any excess flour.

Stir together wet ingredients (mashed bananas, lightly beaten eggs, melted butter, yogurt, and vanilla).

The banana mixture, blended together.

Very gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in chopped toasted walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared 9"x5" loaf pan. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes.

Should be nice and golden brown when done. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

After 5-10 minutes of resting in the pan, unmold the loaf and place on a wire rack. Once the loaf is completely cooled, wrap it tightly in foil and store in a cool, dry place. The banana bread will taste even better the next day, or the next...


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