What to do with all those brown-speckled bananas sitting on the counter top? Why, make Banana Bread of course. Now, before you start groaning, hear me out. How many of us have made banana bread that comes out heavy, dense, with very little banana flavor? I know I'm guilty of it. I usually slather the dry bread with butter to mask the blandness of it.
This banana bread is so moist and tender, there's no need for butter. The banana flavor is throughout the bread and it has a sugary, crisp crust that is incredibly delicious. And it makes a gorgeous loaf as well. The secret to great banana flavor all over this bread? Two things - using the banana juice as a flavor syrup instead of watering the loaf down, and placing banana slices on top of the loaf, which caramelize and intensify in taste after a stint in the oven.
So throw out your old recipe for Banana Brick and try this one. You won't be disappointed.
1-3/4 c. (8-3/4 oz.) flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. table salt
6 large ripe bananas (even black ones)
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 c. (5-1/4 oz.) packed light brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 t. sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Pre-heat oven to 350*. Spray 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. You may also use a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
Place 5 peeled whole bananas in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and poke several steam vents with a knife. Microwave until bananas are soft and have released some juice, about 5 minutes. Place bananas in a strainer set over a bowl and let drain, about 15 minutes, stirring every so often.
Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together.
Pour banana juice into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mash together the bananas and reduced liquid with a potato masher. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Add flour mixture to banana mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into loaf pan.
Slice remaining banana diagonally into 1/4-inch slices. Shingle slices on either side of the loaf, making sure to leave the center open. Sprinkle granulated sugar over loaf evenly.
Bake 55-75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If using a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness after 45-50 minutes.
Cool in loaf pan on wire rack 15 minutes.
Remove loaf from pan and cool on wire rack.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated recipe for Ultimate Banana Bread.