Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pick Your Favorite Banana Bread

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am loving Joanne Chang's cookbook,  flour. Her banana bread recipe never disappoints.  The first few times I made it, I followed the recipe as written.  It was perfect as is, and there was really no reason to change it.  One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, we were headed into the city to see Melissa and Mike, so I decided to bake some banana bread.  I pulled out the recipe and began to assemble the ingredients.  I had four large bananas to use up, so I had to adjust the amounts of the other ingredients, producing more than enough batter to fill a single loaf pan.  I decided to bake it in mini loaf pans, allowing me to customize the add-ins.  Since I was adjusting the ingredients, I made a few other alterations to the recipe.   One thing I would not deviate from is Joanne Chang's technique of mixing the ingredients.  I think her technique is what sets this recipe apart from all the others.  She beats the eggs and sugar together for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy before adding the canola oil.  This is a key step.  Using a stand mixer makes the task a breeze.  If you follow the mixing technique, you will have the most perfectly textured banana bread that you have ever eaten...I promise.   

Melissa likes chocolate chips in her banana bread, no nuts.  Mike and Paul are very open minded, welcoming both nuts and chocolate chips.  I like nuts, no chips.  Mini loaves were definitely the way to go.  Everyone was happy.  I made them again this morning.  Over-ripened bananas tends to prompt banana bread baking around here.  Again, I went with mini loaves, this time adding a Nutella swirl loaf.  Since these loaves are baked in 6 x 2 1/2 x 2 inch paper molds, they are perfect for 2 people.  This recipe makes 4 loaves so you can share a loaf or two, or wrap up them up and freeze them for anytime that "I need a piece of banana bread" mood hits you.  Just take a loaf out of the freezer and allow to thaw about an hour before serving.  If you are wondering where you can get these nifty little paper cake molds, I purchased mine at Home Goods.  You can also find them at Sur La Table, King Arthur Flour or even Target.  An added bonus if you use paper need to grease the pan, just mix up the batter and pour it into the mold and bake.  I put the filled molds on a jelly roll pan to make it easier getting them in and out of the oven.  Just leave enough room for the air to circulate around each loaf.

Mini Loaves of Banana Bread
An adaptation of Flour's Famous Banana Bread Recipe

Makes 4 mini loaves, 6 x 2 1/2 x 2 inch molds
Bake at 325 degrees

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed 
  • 3 tablespoons plain, non fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Add ins, you need 1/3 cup of any combo or 1/4 cup of single ingredients per loaf:
  • chocolate chips 
  • toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
      or 1 heaping tablespoon of Nutella 

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place rack in the middle of oven 
  2. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, on medium speed, beat the eggs and the sugars together until light and fluffy.  This should take about 5 minutes.  If you are using a hand held mixer, it will take longer.  Don't try and take a short cut here.  This step is crucial.
  3. While the eggs and sugar are whipping, take another bowl and sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together, set aside.
  4. In a third bowl, mash up the bananas, add the Greek yogurt and vanilla- combine with a spoon and set aside.
  5. After the egg-sugar mixture is light and fluffy, slowly drizzle in the canola oil, continuing to beat on low speed.
  6. Next, add in the mashed banana mixture, continuing to beat on low speed.  Mix only until combined.  
  7. Remove the mixing bowl from mixer and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  If you are using all the same add-ins for all your loaves, you should fold them in now as well.  If you are making different loaves, just add the sifted dry ingredients.  Do not over mix, it will toughen your batter.  Just gently fold until flour is combined with wet ingredients.  
  8. Make a choice:   A)  If making the loaves all the same, divide the batter between the 4 molds, filling each mold 2/3 to 3/4 full.   B)  If you are making different loaves, fill each loaf 1/2 full with batter,  sprinkle add-ins over batter (distribute evenly with the end of a knife if necessary) and pour a little more batter over the top, making molds about 3/4 full.   C)  For Nutella loaf, fill 3/4 full, and swirl Nutella over the top and gently push into batter with the end of a knife.
  9.  Place molds on a jelly roll pan and bake on center rack of 325 degree oven for 50 minutes - test for doneness by pressing finger gently on top of loaf.  If it springs back, it is done.
  10. Remove from oven and cool loaves on rack.  
  11. Banana bread will last 3 or 4 days at room temperature, wrapped in plastic. To freeze, wrap them tightly when cooled, and freeze up to 2 months.
You could also bake this in a prepared 9 inch loaf pan for 1 hour and 10 minutes and make a few extra muffins.  Bake the muffins for approximately 35 minutes.

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