Banana Bread

Everyone needs a great recipe for banana bread, right?  Most people have one they turn to and mostly, they are good.  But I have to say, Cook’s Illustrated has worked their magic once again and taken this classic quick bread up a few notches.  Of course, as I joked to Ben, they also took the “quick” out of quick bread, but spending the few extra minutes and completing a few extra steps was well worth it in the end.

The unique step here that you won’t find in most banana bread recipes is removing the excess liquid from the bananas.  As I have found in the past with making tzatziki sauce, shredded zucchini, and eggplant parmesan, I find removing excess liquid from produce strangely gratifying.  This instance was no exception.  Bananas have a lot of juice!  I also think it was exactly the thing needed to take this classic from good to perfect.  Most quick breads with fruit, such as banana bread, may have a nice moist texture initially but seem to get almost soggy after a day or two.  This method ensures a perfect texture straight from the oven and every day after – tender, fluffy and moist but not stick-to-your-fingers wet.  For breakfast or an afternoon snack, this banana bread is a winner with us.

Banana Bread
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1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
6 large, very ripe bananas (about 2¼ lbs.), peeled
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Lightly spray a loaf pan (about 9 x 5 inches) with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; whisk together and set aside.

Place 5 bananas in a microwave safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and make several slits in the wrap to act as steam vents.  Microwave on high until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the bananas to a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes (you should have ½-¾ cup liquid).

Transfer the reserved banana liquid to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook until reduced to about ¼ cup, 5-10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  In a large bowl, combine the bananas and the reduced banana liquid.  Mash with a potato masher or whisk until fairly smooth.  Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the banana mixture.  Fold together gently, just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.

Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch thick slices.  Layer the banana slices along both sides of the top of the batter, leaving a couple of inches in the center to allow an even rise.  Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the assembled loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing.  Continue to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, July & August 2010

40 Responses

  1. I’ve never heard of this technique using bananas, but I am definitely intrigued! The bread looks delicious, and I’ll have to come back to this recipe next time I have a bunch of overripe bananas on my counter.

  2. So, are the bananas slices for decoration only, or does Cook’s add them for another reason?

    I’ll have to try this because I do hate the way that quick breads don’t keep very well.

  3. Who knew bananas had a lot of liquid!? That’s good to know…will have to try this recipe! We love banana bread…and it seems like such a perfect back to school food too!

  4. This seems so incredibly complicated, I wonder if it could really be worth it. Though I have to say, if you gave me a loaf, I’d happily gobblie it up 🙂

  5. This has been on my list to try since I saw it in the magazine. Glad you liked it!

  6. that banana bread looks so fresh and moist in the pictures… yum!

  7. What an unusual technique, I’ve never seen or heard of doing this before. I love love banana bread and yours looks so delicious!!

  8. I have noticed that all of Cooks Illustrated’s recent recipes call for draining out the extra juice from fruit and veg!

  9. So funny! I literally just made this exact recipe last night with some frozen bananas. I also wouldn’t call it too complicated, but it is vary “banana-y” for someone like me who has a love hate banana relationship=)

  10. I had been wanting to try this recipe out since I got that issue from Cook’s Illustrated! I’m so glad you made it and tried it out yourself. It sounded like extracting the liquid from the bananas intensifies the banana flavor. I could eat some right now!

  11. I saw that recipe and wondered if it would be an improvement! I thought the method of zapping the bananas was really unique.

  12. I love banana bread. My favorite has sour cream which keeps it really moist. I will be sure to try this one as well though!

  13. interesting! i actually prefer when quick breads are uber moist and a little soggy, but I’m weird…I should try this method and compare 🙂

  14. I think it’s time for me to give up the ghost and ask my husband for a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated for Christmas. I’ve never seen them make a loser recipe, and this banana bread recipe alone would be worth the cost of a month’s issue! Thanks for highlighting and sharing it! I think I’ll forgo the banana on my cereal this morning so I can make this later this week.

  15. I have a banana bread recipe that I really love, but was intrigued by this recipe when my CI magazine came out and wanted to try it. Glad to hear that it’ll be worth it!

  16. I don’t think I make anything more often than banana bread…. I have never heard of this technique before, but in the pictures it looks really delicious and moist so it must have some effect! I think I will try it the next time I make banana bread. Thanks for sharing!

  17. What a timely recipe! I was just getting ready to look for a good “quick bread” recipe when I came to your blog!

    When I was talking with my 91-year-old father this weekend, he had just taken a loaf of banana bread out of the oven — he lives alone and cooks for himself and he was telling me that he usually cuts the loaf in half and puts one-half in the freezer so that he can alternate between different breads (banana, zucchini, carrot, green tomato, etc.) and not have the same thing day after day after day after day. But he was excited because his “lady friend” had told him that she made french toast with her left over breads! We both agreed that it sounds yummy and are going to try it!

  18. I just made this! But I added peanut butter chips…mmmmmmhhh. Perfect!

  19. I love learning new banana bread recipe. I’m always looking out for one better than mine. I’ll give yours a try!

  20. what a unique idea. i had no idea you could drain liquid out of bananas. i’ll have to try this 🙂

  21. Banana breads do always become very sticky! Congrats on that idea of getting rid of the excess liquid. I think that would really solve the problem!!

  22. I am eating it right now – it is delicious!!!

  23. Fantastic recipe – I just made a loaf this morning and we are so enjoying it!! I think the extra two steps are definitely worth it. It really isn’t that much more work – I will be doing it this way from now on.

  24. Annie, I have a question ….. I’d like to make this recipe into muffins rather than a loaf – school starts this week and I’m looking for new lunch box ideas. Do you think that this would work and if so, how long should I bake them for? Thanks.

    • I’m sure you could make it as muffins, but I’m not sure on baking time. Usually for cupcakes I start at 18 minutes, but this has a different consistency so I’m not sure. I do also have banana crumb muffins in the blog if that is easier.

  25. I made this yesterday and it was great! I used frozen bananas (I always peel and freeze the ones that get too ripe to eat) and it worked like a charm. Everyone commented on the banana flavor and loved it. My only complaint is that the sliced banana on top (I used a fresh, ripe banana for that) turned brown during baking and didn’t look nearly as appetizing as yours. Did you toss the slices in lemon juice first to preserve their color?

    • No, I didn’t do anything special but if you used frozen banana slices for the top that is probably what caused it. Banana that has been frozen tends to turn brown.

  26. I made this yesterday and it turned out beautifully. The extra steps were worth the effort as it resulted in an intensely flavored banana bread. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet and the texture stayed moist and not overly dense. Next time I will add chopped walnuts. Since I live in Denver (high altitude), I set my finish time to 45 minutes and checked for doneness. It was perfect at that time. I didn’t have to make any adjustments with flour. So for those living at around the 5280 ft to 5600 ft altitude, that’s my 2 cents!

  27. I’m in the process of making this banana bread right now. Any idea why my bananas are not producing any liquids after being microwaved?

  28. Thanks for the quick response. Maybe my banana weren’t ripe enough. They were brown on the outside but maybe not enough on the inside. I have to say though, this was still the best banana bread I’ve ever had!!! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Ok, maybe a dumb question… but I don’t bake much – can you make these as muffins? Would the recipe need to be altered ?

    • You could, though I have banana crumb muffins posted which are great and probably would be easier. But yes, this could be baked as muffins. You would just have to shorten the baking time.

  30. Thanks for the quick response! I made them as muffins and they came out perfect. Baked for 20 min. This is an awesome recipe!!

  31. will the bread stay moist if i make it the night before and serve it the next day? sometimes i know things can dry out a bit.

  32. I’m currently making this as I type. I never heard about this technique but as soon as I saw it, I HAD to try it! I’m draining the bananas right now and I am honestly intrigued by how much water is in bananas! *giggles* Will get back to you once I’m done.

  33. Made this for the 2nd time this evening. First time I wasn’t paying attention and the liquid got to a lot less than 1/4 cup. This time it was perfect – absolutely delicious! Have also made your banana crumb muffins and those a always a HUGE hit in this house!

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