A few weeks ago I saw some discounted ripe bananas at the grocery and I knew they were destined for greatness. In front of the overripe banana display, I had a vision of creamy loveliness, enrobed in hot fudge sauce, draped with sticky caramel, fluffed with whipped cream and crowned with a fresh cherry. These bananas, on their last leg, were elected on the spot for Roasted Banana Ice Cream.
Alas. Cherry harvest came. Payroll came. I had to wash my hair. I had to rearrange my sock drawer. I had to do anything and everything besides make ice cream. And then, this morning, underneath the pitch-black bananas, there was an oozing puddle of banana juice. Something had to be done, and quick.
I'm sorry, but once an overripe banana has been chosen for something as exalted as Roasted Banana Ice Cream, I can't doom it to ordinary banana bread. So I scanned the blogosphere for a new and exciting recipe.
As usual, Annie's Eats came through with another Cook's Illustrated recipe.
The case for perfection:
Exhibit A: Caramelized banana slices framing the sides.
Exhibit B: Domed perfection and tender crumb in the moist interior.
Exhibit C: Butter's perfect companion.
Slathered dripping melting soaking butter.
Just the facts, Ma'am.
Exhibit D: Crispy sugared crust, counterbalancing the rest of the chewy slice.
But the taste? The taste?
Well, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it tastes like...
It's much more beautiful, much more intensely banana-y, and has a much nicer texture than "ordinary" banana bread, so I've entitled it "Banana Bread Deluxe." At the end of the day, however, it's still banana bread.
This is the version I'll use for company because it does have an extra "oomph" that my usual recipe is missing. But while the two extra steps involved in this recipe kick it up a flavor notch, they also add a half hour or so worth of work (and a few extra dishes) to a normally "quick and easy" recipe. Perfect for company, frivolous for weekday breakfasts.
But ain't it purty?
Banana Bread Deluxe
Cook’s Illustrated, July & August 2010 via Annie's Eats
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
6 large, very ripe bananas (about 2¼ lbs.), peeled
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Lightly spray a loaf pan (about 9 x 5 inches) with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; whisk together and set aside.
Place 5 bananas in a microwave safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and make several slits in the wrap to act as steam vents. Microwave on high until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes (you should have ½-¾ cup liquid).
Transfer the reserved banana liquid to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to about ¼ cup, 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. In a large bowl, combine the bananas and the reduced banana liquid. Mash with a potato masher or whisk until fairly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the banana mixture. Fold together gently, just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.
Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch thick slices. Layer the banana slices along both sides of the top of the batter, leaving a couple of inches in the center to allow an even rise. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the assembled loaf.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing. Continue to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.