Cook’s Illustrated and Gourmet Magazine are two of my favorite cooking resources. After being in print for sixty-nine years, Gourmet is now only available on-line. Cook’s Illustrated holds the primary position in my subscription library, offering trusted advice and inspiration to refine life-long favorites. The Ultimate Banana Nut Bread that graced the latest issue caught my attention since bananas do not have much lifespan in August. I have to agree, they nailed it, and it’s the best I’ve tried. It will take one or two extra steps than the Banana Nut Bread recipes you are used to seeing, but the flavor and texture make it worth the effort.
As trustworthy as Cook’s Illustrated is, I rarely find a recipe I don’t imagine altering in some way, so adjustments ensued. Because my “test kitchen” is at altitude, there is tinkering necessary for baked goods to turnout. My alterations include adding King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour (making up a little more than half of the flour), dark brown sugar instead of light, doubling the vanilla extract, raw sugar to sprinkle on top, and more walnuts. The original recipe called for six ripe bananas. I only had five readily available, deciding to forgo the sliced banana on top (6th banana), but still included it in this recipe.
My version of this ultimate quick bread is posted below, you can find the original recipe at www.cooksillustrated.com. Membership is required to view on-line recipes; a free 14-day trial is available.
Banana Nut Bread Supreme
Yields one 9-inch loaf
Note: The bananas for this recipe need to be very ripe, even dark brown to produce a rich banana flavor. Frozen bananas work well too, just skip the microwave process and put them in the mesh strainer to release the liquid, once defrosted. One, non-frozen banana will be needed for the sliced banana on top (6 bananas total).
1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ rounded teaspoon salt
6 large very ripe bananas
½ cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
¾ cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ heaping cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons raw sugarDirections:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper and spray loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and fold one edge back to allow steam to release. Microwave on high until bananas have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to a mesh strainer placed over bowl. Allow the bananas to drain, stirring occasionally.
While bananas are draining, combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; melt butter; chop nuts.
Once bananas have released their liquid, transfer liquid to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat to reduce. You should end up with about ¼ cup. Put bananas in the bowl that held the drained liquid. Stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined.
Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir only until the flour is moistened. Gently fold in walnuts and pour batter into prepared pan. Slice 1 banana into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on either side of loaf, leaving a wide space down center of the loaf. Sprinkle raw sugar evenly over the top.
Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 50 to 65 minutes. Begin checking loaf at 45 minutes–depending on the size of loaf pan, the cooking time will vary. Cool in the pan on wire rack 15 minutes before removing loaf. Continue to cool on the wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.