You can learn a lot about a person from their taste in banana bread. There’s a certain nostalgia attached to this American staple; our pasts are marked by memories of the iconic quick bread. Some grew up baking it with grandparents. Others recall wafts of toasting walnuts or other creative additions. There are favorite bakeries we’ve visited. Favorite cookbooks we’ve perused. Favorite recipes we’ve stumbled upon or created. Admittedly, I’ve met a person or two whose taste for the stuff was lacking, but there, too, lies unique character. I’ve decided to make it my mission in life to understand where we banana bread-eating freaks are coming from.
These days, I take full ownership of the fact that I am always trying to find a way to make the recipe interesting. Over the last few years, I’ve shared with you a few of my own ventures: there has been Banana Almond Butter Cake, Jumbo Banana Muffins with Coconut, Pecans, and Chocolate Chips, Marbled Banana Walnut Loaf, and, for those less attentive to my overripe banana-inspired woes, Baby Banana Cardamom Pancakes and Banana Coconut Oatmeal Cookies. Things you have not been exposed to include, but are not limited to: Elvis Blondies, Spiced Coconut-Banana Bundt Cake, and that time I tried to make vegan ice cream and forgot, for a week, about the mixture that needed to chill for only an hour or so.
So here I am, calling myself out publicly, offering the base of all banana bread recipes, with suggestions for additions and mixtures of additions, in the vain hope that I might, in the future, thwart my own advances to share anything further on the banana bread front. I’ve made my love for the stuff known, and I’m starting to think you need me to talk about something else. In case it isn’t already apparent, though, I would like to make clear that this post is a reflection of the fact that I simply cannot just abandon you and your respective loaf pans. I had to leave the topic with one last, sweet parting gift: a prescription to set you up for banana bread-baking success.
This, my friends, is how I always make it, how I always will make it, how I honor and obey the whims of the yellow arcs rotting into speckled brownness in my fruit bowl. There are still secrets to the art, like always referring to the acidic tartness of full-fat buttermilk; like using my homemade brown sugar; like baking with my favorite pure vanilla extract and, more importantly, avoiding the imitation stuff like the plague. At the end of the day, the thing that sets the recipe I’ve cultivated apart, however, is purely the fact that-with memories of my grandmother’s Mennonite Cookbook, which houses the first recipe I ever baked; of my mother teaching me to mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy; of the classic, sweet wafts that emerge from the oven; of the times I’d have to deliver a slice or two to the friends I’d accidentally mentioned a fresh batch to-I always, always, only ever bake it with love in my heart.
If only that part could be translated into a recipe.
Classic Banana Bread
Makes one bundt cake, one 9 x 5″ loaf, or about two dozen muffins
coconut oil or butter, for greasing
4 overripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Any mixture of possible additions (optional): 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (toasted or otherwise), 3/4 cup toasted, chopped nuts (favorites include: pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts) 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup smooth almond butter, 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, 1/2 cup crushed pineapple (drained), 3/4 cup nutella
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or line a muffin tin, a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, or a bundt pan with coconut oil or butter. In a medium bowl, mash together bananas, sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, then set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter with brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs separately. Add dry ingredients in halves, alternating with banana mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in any of the additions. Favorite combinations include: coconut/macadamia nuts/pineapple, coconut/pecans/chocolate chips, and chocolate chips/almond butter.
If using a muffin tin, please note that you will have to bake in batches. Use a 1/2 cup measure to scoop batter into the tin. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, with moist crumbles.
If using a loaf pan, pour batter into loaf pan (it will be pretty full), then bake for 50-60 minutes, until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, with moist crumbles.
If using a bundt pan (I use this one), ensure the batter is evenly distributed. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until tester inserted into the center comes out clean with moist crumbles. Note: it is helpful to insert the tester in a couple areas of the cake when using a bundt pan, to ensure even baking.
Let banana bread cool completely before inverting pan(s) and serving. Bread is best when it has had a chance to rest for a few hours, or overnight. To store, cover in plastic wrap, or keep in an airtight container. Banana bread will last up to 5 days.