Spring is in the air! Birds are chirping again and the cool breeze coming in through the open windows is so refreshing. A new season is still a month away and the mounds of snow have not melted, but you can feel the shift. Yesterday I demonstrated uncharacteristic restraint by not going to the massive cookbook sale at Appetite for Books, opting for some early spring cleaning instead. I’ve been splurging on books lately and I told myself I would curb the urge to purchase some more at least until my semester is done. I have more than enough recipes to try out from the many cookbooks lining my shelf.
This banana bread is a moist and tender loaf that showcases the fruit. There are no distractions like chocolate chunks, scoops of peanut butter, or dollops of Nutella (personally, I prefer banana breads with chocolate chunks of course). The beautiful golden loaf rises well. The nutty richness of the butter is enhanced by the toasted walnuts that add some crunch to the texture (though I opted not to add them to the batter for personal taste). The vanilla plays off of babanas’ boozy, rum-like flavour. Slices of caramelized banana are layered on top of the loaf as a finishing touch. I should sprinkle more granulated sugar onto the banana slices since they did not all end up caramelizing. I was thinking I could use the blowtorch for crème brûlées to caramelize them next time.
The best way to ripen bananas, encouraging the conversion of starch to sugar according the Cook’s Illustrated: “Enclose them in a paper bag for a few days. The bag will trap the ethylene gas produced by fruit that hastens ripening, while still allowing some moisture to escape. Since fully ripe fruit emits the most ethylene, placing a ripe banana or other ripe fruit in the bag will speed up the process along by a day or two.”
Recipe Source: Cook’s Illustrated
Yields 10 slices
8 3/4 ounces (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large very ripe bananas (2 1/4 pounds), peeled
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse (optional) (I did not use any.)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1) Preheat the oven to 350F.
2) Butter a 8 1/2-inch by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper.
3) Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
4) Place 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 5 minutes, until they are soft and have released liquid.
5) Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Stir the bananas occasionally, allowing the liquid to drain for 15 minutes. You should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid.
6) Pour the liquid in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.
7) Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the liquid into a bowl with the bananas. Mash them until smooth.
8) Whisk the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla into the bananas.
9) Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until incorporated.
10) Gently fold in the nuts if using.
11) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
12) Slice the last banana diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
13) Placed the slices of banana on either side of the loaf, making 2 rows, leaving a line down the middle.
14) Sprinkle the granulated sugar on top of the loaf.
15) Bake for 55 to 75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
16) Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
17) Turn the banana bread out onto the wire rack and let cool completely.
Store at room temperature tightly covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.