Comfort food for the middle of winter comes in many forms. You might think of beef stew or creamy oatmeal, macaroni and cheese or a savory pot roast, just to name a few. Perhaps one of the most delicious comfort foods is in the form of dessert, but a dessert that is not too heavy and can be eaten at breakfast, for a snack, or as an after-dinner delight. That comfort food, in my mind, will always be an aromatic, moist, tender banana bread.
Feb. 23 is National Banana Bread Day. If you’ve never baked a banana bread before, it is easy for beginners, and if you’re a pro, you can try different combinations to bring your banana bread to the next level.
Thanks to Pillsbury and their 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook, banana bread came onto the American baking scene with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder. During the Great Depression, frugal households did not throw food away, so baking banana bread from overripe bananas became part of the thrifty household.
The “banana baton” was eventually passed to Chiquita Banana where the recipe for banana bread gained more attention in their cookbook released in 1950, making its way into the American baking lexicon.
Banana “bread” is typically baked in a loaf pan, giving it the shape of a loaf of bread. It is shaped like bread, but it doesn’t use yeast to rise, like a true bread. Baking powder and baking soda does the work of rising the dough.
The recipe of the month is, of course, banana bread. This tasty recipe comes from the archives of King Arthur Flour.
– 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
– 2/3 cup light brown sugar or dark brown sugar, packed
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 ½ cups bananas, mashed
– 3 tablespoons apricot jam or orange marmalade (optional)
– ¼ cup honey
– 2 large eggs
– 2 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
– ½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, beating until smooth.
3. Add the mashed bananas, jam, honey and eggs, again beating until smooth.
4. Add the flour, then the walnuts, stirring until smooth.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
6. Bake the bread for 45 minutes, then gently lay a piece of aluminum foil across the top to prevent over-browning.
7. Bake an additional 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven; a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean, with a few wet crumbs clinging to it. The tester shouldn’t show any sign of uncooked batter. If it does, bake the bread an additional 5 minutes or until it tests done.
8. Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Remove it from the pan and cool it completely on a rack.
– To make this recipe gluten free, substitute King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour for the all-purpose flour. Be sure to bake thoroughly. Gluten-free baked goods need a bit more time in the oven.
– Use ripe bananas – bananas with bright yellow peels and no green showing and are starting to turn brown. For a deeper banana flavor, use extra-ripe bananas.
– The easiest way to mash bananas is to peel and cut them into chunks, placing them in a zip-lock plastic bag, leaving ¼” open at the top of the bag for air to escape. Gently knead/flatten, squash the banana chunks with your fingers.
– For a reduced-sugar version of this recipe, cut the brown sugar in half to 1/3 cup. For even greater reduction, use just 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
– Each version of this banana bread recipe will retain its moist texture and taste wonderful. It will simply be less sweet and burst with more banana flavor.