I have eaten a lot of banana bread in my life. A ridiculous amount. I think it may have been one of the first things I learned to bake from scratch. This is a good one to ease into if you have a fear of baking. Couldn’t be simpler.
Everyone seems to have a recipe for the “best” banana bread. Are they really the best? Who can say. What I do know is that mine is pretty good and I’ve tried a lot of recipes. My two chief criteria are: is it moist? and does it taste like real bananas? Enthusiastic YES on both counts. Many recipes add a lot of dairy which poses a few challenges for me. I find that a lot of dairy – like creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt – tends to muddle the banana flavor. Also, what I love about this type of recipe is that is quick to pull together with ingredients you typically have on hand. Who stocks creme fraiche? (If so, I want to hang out at your house.) When bananas are ready to go, which means overripe and I can smell them from the other end of my apartment, I gotta move. Now. Which is why I always come back to my basic recipe. It’s simple (one bowl!), I always seem to have all the ingredients on hand (flour, butter, sugar, eggs!) and it’s tasty (most important!)
The bananas need to be super ripe – soft, lots of black spots and extremely fragrant. If you don’t have enough or don’t have time to deal with them – don’t toss them! They freeze perfectly. If you’re lazy, like me, just throw them in the freezer as is, peel and all. When needed, use a sharp knife to trim off the blackened peel. Or if you’re a tiny bit motivated, peel them and put in ziplocs in 3 banana increments. Just pull the baggie from the freezer and let it defrost a bit. If the bananas are too cold, you may want to zap them a bit in the microwave to warm up. If they’re too cold, they will solidify the melted butter makes for a greasy bread which is kind of a drag.
As I said, this recipe is really easy – 1 bowl and a wooden spoon. Over the years, I’ve tweaked it a bit and this is my current favorite. I like to brown the butter for a some extra nutty flavor and add a little fresh nutmeg and dark rum. I love dark rum and use it quite a bit in place of vanilla. It seems to add a little deeper flavor but you can easily skip it. Brown butter is really easy to make and seems to be the current darling of the blog and food mag world and for good reason – it’s delicious. If you want to skip this step entirely – no worries, just use regular melted butter. But hear me out – since you’re melting anyway, what’’s an extra minute or so?
To brown butter, melt it over low heat and keep it going for a few moments. It’ll start popping a bit as the milk solids cook and brown at the bottom of the pan and will have a wonderful nutty smell. I always strain out the milk solids – a habit I picked up in pastry kitchens – but you don’t have to. One tip that makes browning butter a tad easier – use a stainless steel bottomed pan so you can easily see what color the butter is at any time. See photo below.
As for eating, it’s usually pretty hard to resist cutting off a chunk right out of the oven but I like mine in a thick cold nutty slice with butter slathered on top. I can easily down several slices this way. De-li-cous. Since this is so easy, make a batch with the kids. They love to mash and stir and are so proud when it comes out of the oven. Good times.
BROWN BUTTER BANANA BREAD
Makes 1 loaf or 12 muffins
3 large, very ripe bananas
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon dark rum (optional)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- With cooking spray, lightly grease a loaf pan or muffin tin (or use muffin papers.) I usually line loaf pans with a bit of parchment paper too just to make it easier to remove from the pan. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low melt the butter and then let slowly cook until the milk solids begin to brown and the mixture smells nutty. Let it go until the milk solids become a very dark brown. Take off the heat, strain into a bowl to remove the darkened milk solids and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mash the bananas.
- Add the sugar, egg, browned butter and rum (if using) to the bananas and mix to combine.
- Add the flour; sift in the salt, baking powder, baking soda (just to eliminate any lumps), nutmeg and nuts.
- Stir to combine.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan or fill muffin cups ¾ full.
- Bake: 20-25 minutes for muffins or 40-45 minutes for a loaf. Test for doneness – a toothpick or skewer inserted just off center should come out clean with no traces or wet batter and the top(s) are golden brown.
- Banana bread will keep, tightly wrapped, for a few days or freeze for up to 1 month.