Everyone needs a good banana bread recipe. Here’s yours.
A good banana bread recipe remains the the country’s most popular baking recipe for a reason. Several, actually. Foremost, who doesn’t have overripe bananas sitting around from time to time? Too ripe and mushy to eat on their own, they also seem like a waste to throw out. Second, banana bread is easy to make and tastes homey and sweet, perfect for breakfast, dessert, snack, or (my preference) right out of the oven.
This banana bread recipe is adapted from the late Anna Pump, mentor to the one-and-only Ina Garten. Anna Pump owned the Loaves & Fishes gourmet store in the Hamptons, and published several lovely cookbooks.
Anna’s recipe calls for a 10″ springform pan. But I make two loaf cakes, two 8″ round cakes, or a big batch of muffins with the batter instead. This is a big recipe, but is easily halved.
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A Short History of Banana Bread
Banana bread first became popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Refrigeration technology allowed companies to import the tropical fruit more efficiently, helping to popularize this formerly exotic food. The increase in bananas converged with mass-produced baking powder; the Great Depression; and later, World War II.
The Great Depression was a time of immense thrift and food scarcity, and people were loath to waste any food — including overripe bananas. Further, overripe bananas taste very sweet. At a time when sugar was expensive (Great Depression) or rationed (World War II), a naturally-sweet banana helped reduce use of sugar. Baking powder provided the leavening.
Over the decades, banana bread evolved to what we know it as today: A cakey, homey, sweet quick bread that’s just about perfect.
Baking Notes for This Banana Bread Recipe:
- Brown, overripe bananas are essential to a good banana bread. Overripe bananas have a mushier texture, and thus better incorporate into the batter. They also have a higher sugar content than green or plain yellow bananas, which are starchy.
- This recipe calls for a little cornstarch. This lowers the protein level of the bread by subbing in for some of the all-purpose flour. This creates a more tender texture. You can also sub in cake flour.
- How to tell when muffins or the loaves are done: There’s always the reliable standby “Stick a toothpick in it and see if it comes out clean.” But you can also know when your banana bread is finished baking if you lightly press on the top and it feels softly firm (sorry, oxymoron?), springs back, and doesn’t jiggle or sink. Another way to tell if a cake is done is when the edges start to pull away from the pan.
Never let a brown banana go to waste again. Happy baking.
A Good Banana Bread
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar (Note: Do a scant 2 cups if your bananas are very ripe)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 4 very ripe bananas, peeled and fork mashed (Note: If you're using an electric mixer, you don't have to mash them. The mixer will do the work.)
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease two loaf pans or line muffin tins.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar on medium high until very light and fluffy, being sure to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
- Add the vanilla, eggs, and bananas, and beat on medium until fully combined. Scrape the bowl, and make sure everything is well mixed.
- Add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, milk, and nuts (if using). Mix on low for a couple minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice, until well combined.PRO TIP: I have mentioned scraping the bowl several times. This is because under-mixed and poorly-combined ingredients are among the top mistakes people make when baking. Everything needs to be thoroughly combined and emulsified.
- Divide the batter into the two loaf pans or muffin tins. If making banana bread loaves, smooth and even the tops using the back of a spoon or a spatula.
- Bake until nicely browned on top and a knife or toothpick comes out clean. Muffins will take about 25 to 30 minutes. Loaves, around 40 to 45 minutes.