I know, I know, we’ve all got a banana bread recipe, and who REALLY needs another one? That was pretty much my attitude when I came across this recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I’m all for trying endless versions of macaroni and cheese, but banana bread? I was content with my plain old tried and true version. But then Cooks Illustrated did what they do…they promised they had the best banana bread recipe on the planet, and they said it involved microwaving the bananas to get some banana juice going (banana juice?) and then they went and called the recipe ULTIMATE Banana Bread, and I was a goner.
Because I always do have bananas lying around. For this recipe, you want the really ripe and squishy ones, not well-behaved yellow ones like these three. I just figured the world could live without a picture of brown squishy bananas.
Anyway, you DO get to microwave bananas for this, and they DO make a kind of juice when you do that, and it DOES make an amazing banana bread. Amazing. Maybe even Ultimate. And who could resist that? Not me!
Adapted ever so slightly from Cooks Illustrated
- 1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
- Place bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).
- Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
- Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
- Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.