Banana Bread, the trilogy

skanky-bananasWhen I posted this picture of banana bread, I had no idea that it was going to lead to a series of posts! In fact, I snapped this pic just to use as an example of how I had cleaned out my freezer!

That post led to requests for the recipe (which I didn’t have since I hadn’t really measured when I made the loaf). So, I headed into the kitchen and came up with this recipe. Then banana bread lover and perfectionisto Adrian sent me a list of questions about the recipe. Since they are rather good questions I thought I’d post them (and my answers since that just seems fair) here in case anyone else had similar queries.

Adrian asks: My bananas took forever to go over-ripe. They went black but were still pretty firm inside. Weird. I wonder: do organic bananas ripen differently from conventional?

Dana answers: Beats the heck out of me.

Adrian asks: I went without nuts or chocolate chips for my first time, and it tastes really good – not too sweet, buttery, very moist, but with a solid crumb; chopped nuts are next but I was thinking about peanuts or even peanut butter (I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches) – is it possible to add peanut butter? Would that affect the volume of brown sugar?

Dana answers: I think adding peanut butter would be delicious but I can’t test it at home without killing Martin (he’s allergic to peanuts). Peanut butter is sweet so I would take the sugar in the recipe down slightly but the banana is what you’ll need to reduce so that the batter bakes to a nice crumb. I recommend trying half cup of each banana and peanut butter and reducing the butter to 1/2 cup and the sugar to 1/3 cup. If you try it, let me know how it works out!

Adrian asks: I think my oven is too hot – is that why the top of the loaf cracked? To be honest, it looked good – the crust had a lovely golden brown, toasty colour, and the crack gave it a very rustic look.

Dana answers: Ovens can be wonky and too much heat could cause the batter to heave. Buy yourself an oven thermometer at the grocery store and test it out. Then you can adjust the temp easily to match the new and reliable gadget.

Adrian asks: Does banana bread freeze well? It’s very moist, with a dense crumb so it probably should, right?

Dana answers: You are absolutely right. I double wrap each loaf in plastic wrap for extra protection.

Adrian asks: Can the recipe double? And will that affect the cooking time?

Dana answers: It’s easy to fit double the batter in the same bowl but it may be difficult not to over mix the ingredients (which will lead to tunnels and a poor crumb texture). As long as your oven is of normal size you should be able to bake two separate loaves in the oven at one time. Baking one big loaf would be risky.

Adrian asks: How long do I really have to let it cool? Honestly, the smell was driving me crazy…

Dana answers: You and Martin both! He was dying to cut the banana bread when it was still hot. You should let it cool to room temperature all the way through before you slice it. Otherwise, steam will escape from the inside and the loaf won’t be as moist.

Eight minutes later (after he ate a piece of banana bread, perchance?) Adrian wrote back:

Adrian asks: Oh! oh! oh! I have one more question! Can you make the batter ahead? I’d like to prep the batter before making dinner, throw the loaf in after I’ve cleared the oven and then let the bread bake over dinner. Would that work?

Dana answers: The only risk is that the baking powder will poop out if the batter sits too, too long. Or, it could form air holes and make the texture too ‘open’ if it just sits too long. I’d make the wet portion of the batter and then combine the dry ingredients in another bowl and just blend them at the last minute when the oven becomes free. I think that’s the safest bet.

Thanks for your great questions Adrian! If anyone else has questions or tips and advice they’d like to add, please do so.

9 Responses to Banana Bread, the trilogy

  1. Elra says:

    Very good questions indeed, Dana!
    Adrian’s first question, I always put them in brown paper back, it will ripen fast enough, about 2 days. But, if I’m in a hurry, I’d sink my bananas deep into my rice (raw), it will only take a day to get ripen. Of course you have to have a big sack of rice, otherwise it won’t work.

    About the freezer, I am lucky enough to have gardener and cleaning lady, they both always happy to have what ever it is that I bake. Since, my family can’t really eat most of my baking stuff, I always half them, and give the rest to my cleaning lady, or my gardener. That way, I don’t have freezer full of left over food.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Wow, this is great! Do we have to ask you about banana bread, or can I ask how you get your hair to be so shiny? (I’m kidding, though your hair really is shiny.)

    My real comment is that my banana bread cracks on top, too, and I know there’s nothing wrong with my oven. I think banana bread is supposed to crack on top…

  3. I’ve actually never thought that much about banana bread. Love it when the top cracks. If you find someone’s pulled the crust off when you weren’t looking, it was likely me.

    I’ve never thought about putting peanut butter in banana bread but it makes sense.

    My only tip is that I mix the baking soda into the mashed bananas and set them aside for a while. This liquifies the bananas and they blend into the batter evenly — no lumps.

  4. Ciao Dana.
    I was thinking about those organic bananas and I think that what may be happening is that the bananas are ‘ungassed’. Typically commercial bananas are picked green and then gassed when they arrive at their destination to encourage ripening. An ungassed banana can be yellow and brown spotted while still very firm fleshed. They are also supposed to have a richer flavor, but I’ve never done a side by side, or banana by banana taste test!

    I’m wondering about the cracking, that happens with bread when you don’t have proper hydration. Could have something to do with how the flour is hydrated. For that you need a good scientist in the house.

  5. Natashya says:

    Mmm, I love banana bread – especially with fresh whole cranberries in it.🙂

  6. danamccauley says:

    These are great comments! Sorry I was out of the conversation yesterday. I was in travel and TV mode. In fact, I taped three shows yesterday before 12:30 in the afternoon and then flew home to Toronto from Calgary. To say it was a full day is an understatement.

    Char: love that idea about the baking soda – I will try it.

    Judith – thank goodness you are back from Italy and have a proper internet connection again. You are brilliant. I’m sure you’re right about the gas.

    Elra – I’ve never heard that tip about rice. Good to know!

    Regarding cracking – I think a few shallow fault lines in a loaf are nice, too. It’s deep fissures that make me worried about a recipe.

    As for my shining locks, I think my high fat diet helps. Seriously!

  7. adrian says:

    Amazing what happens when your internet goes down for a few days – I come back and I’m all over your blog! Thanks for the great replies and suggestions. Nothing like practical experience to refine the process.
    I’m certainly going to try the peanut butter version and the addition of cranberries is a terrific idea. (Do they have to be fresh? Could thawed frozen berries work too?) And that’s an interesting point about the organic bananas – they definitely brown more slowly.
    Right – I’m going to give the peanut butter version a go this weekend. I’ll report back. And I won’t sweat the cracked top.

  8. I simply can’t get enough banana bread. My favorite is with walnuts and cherries.

    I will give your recipe a try this weekend!

  9. danamccauley says:

    Cherries – yum! Let me know how you like this version.

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