Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Best Banana Bread

I know you're thinking, the best banana bread? Really? Ok, well the real best banana bread is my Grandma's. But I don't want to make my Grandma's banana bread, because it never comes out the same. I swear she has some special Italian baking magic in her hands. And I can't teach you to make my Grandma's because, well, you'd need to know my Grandma.

So today we will discuss the best banana bread that I have made, to date. I really like banana bread because it is both delicious and resourceful. In my house, we buy bananas every week. I don't particularly like raw bananas. I try to convince myself that they taste good and are good for me, but I just don't like them. Maybe that's because I see what they could become if I leave them in the bowl until they are brown. And that is, delectable banana bread.

First, a tip. Let's say you have all these brown spotted bananas and you are like, there is no way in hell I am turning on the oven in this heat to make banana bread. Well that's ok, because you can just toss them into the freezer, and use them whenever you do feel like making banana bread. Do not get frightened when you open up the freezer later and they are totally black; the inside will be just fine once it is thawed.

Ok, so back to the actual bread. I love sweet banana bread; I want it to be sugary, and I don't want to have to add anything to it when I eat it like butter or jelly or whatever. And if you know me you know that I love anything sugary. So this recipe for banana bread, with Cinnamon Crumble Topping is exactly what I like; and I'm willing to bet it will be exactly what you like too. I got this recipe from Bon Appetit, by way of the fabulous food blog, Orangette. It is moist, sweet and easy to bake. So here we go.

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (3 should do the trick)
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water

For topping:
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350° F. You will want an apx 9X5 inch bread pan for this. If you go larger, the loaf will be a bit shorter; don't go smaller, or it will overflow. Spray this with cooking spray, use parchment paper, or if you want to get really fancy, coat with butter and then flour. (I really don't like this technique, but I suppose it is the "proper way").

Now you have your typical "wet" ingredients in one bowl, "dry" in another. This is pretty common in baking, and it's always good to recognize patterns. So, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In different bowl, whisk together the banana, eggs, oil, honey, and water (this bowl will be holding all your ingredients, so make it big). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir well. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. This batter will be pretty liquidy, like a cake batter.

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle them evenly over the batter.

Bake the bread until a tester inserted into its center comes out clean, about 1 hour for a metal pan, give or take a little (I had to take about 15 more because my pan was ceramic). Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then carefully remove the bread from the pan, and be careful of the topping. Cool completely before slicing.

The thing about banana bread is, there are only a few rules you need to follow, and really everything comes together on its own.

Rule 1: Do not mash bananas until they are banana juice. Just, mashed bananas.
Rule 2: Do not overmix the dry into the wet. Of course, you want to see no evidence of flour or other dry ingredients, but don't go whisking it up til you see bubbles.
And, the hardest rule of all...
Rule 3: WAIT. You just have to wait until it cools, or everything will go terribly wrong. I have definitely ruined a loaf by waiting say, only ten minutes before trying to take it out of the pan. I have ruined another by trying to cut it when it is "nice and hot" because it might taste better right? Wrong. Let it cool. Reheat it later if you want. The reason? Well, one, it will fall apart and you will cry because all of your hard work is in pieces, and two, it won't taste quite right. It's got to all settle and assimilate together. So let it.

As you can see from the picture below, this banana bread (on the right) is slightly darker than most, so don't worry if it is dark, that does not mean you burned it. It means success! Delicious sugary banana success!

So go ahead, let those bananas in the fruit bowl go rotten. Everyone, even Grandma, will thank you later.

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