The Best Banana Bread….ever….seriously

So, I wish I could take credit for this recipe, as it is the best ever, but I can’t.  The brilliant chefs at Cook’s Illustrated are responsible.  Why is it the best?  Well, if you like a banana bread that has intense banana flavor, a wonderful texture, and is relatively easy to make, it fits the bill.

I mean, look at those deliciously caramelized slices of bananas?  Can you imagine just how scrumptious they taste?  Can you?  Incredible!  The light dusting of granulated sugar prior to baking is just enough to take the shingled slices to sublime and provides a satisfying little crunch, too. 

And, the texture!  Not oily or wet.  Nope, it’s perfect and studded with toasted pecans, it’s well, I don’t know what’s better than perfect, but if you do, then that’s the description!

Another shot of those incredibly delicious caramelized shingled banana slices….mmmm.  Oh, the flavor!  Can’t forget the most important element!  How to intensify banana flavor –  bananas are microwaved, juices reserved and reduced to a concentrated banana syrup and added to the batter, and another banana is sliced and layered in shingle pattern on top of the loaf, where they bake into luscious caramelized slices….can you tell I’m obsessed with the caramelized bananas?

If you have over-ripe bananas, make this…today.  If you have none, buy some, let them ripen, and make it soon.  Enjoy!

The Best Banana Bread

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 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.
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.
Bake loaf 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.
 
Source: Cook’s Illustrated, July 1, 2010
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