The culinary staff of America’s Test Kitchen amazes me. Seriously, they are like magicians in the kitchen! Case in point, banana bread. Did it ever occur to you to cook the bananas before adding them to your batter? Yes, cooking them, more specifically, microwaving the bananas, releases the liquid that makes for a dense banana cake. Never ones to be wasteful, the liquid is then reduced to a syrup and added to the batter for additional flavor! Seriously, this is one special banana bread, well-deserving of its ultimate name.
I chose to make these into muffins because I was short of time, and the muffins cooked in 21 minutes. While the banana bread has an extra banana sliced and shingled down the sides, I chose to sprinkle on a bit of sugar on all of them and add a pecan half to a few of the muffins.
Unfortunately, my attempts of making this gluten-free have all fallen short of the original, so I don’t have a gluten-free option for you….yet, but it’s only a matter of time before I get the proportions correctly. The husband, who is not the biggest fan of banana bread, gave them a thumbs up, high praise from a selective eater. Andrew said I was the best baker-mom ever. So, if you want to be the best baker-mom or dad or whatever else, make a batch of these – they are definitely the ultimate!
Ultimate Banana Muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a loaf pan or 18 cupcake liners with non-stick spray (Loaf pan size is 8½ by 4½-inch).
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
Place 5 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 nuts, if using.
Scrape batter into prepared pan or portion into liners.
*If making a loaf, slice remaining banana and shingle slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise; sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.
*If making muffins, sprinkle on sugar and decorate with pecan or walnut halves, if desired.
Bake loaf until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.
Bake muffins for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
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.
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