UFinlaystone and taken Lady M’s advice to become a journeyman cook apprentice. It was taken by my sister, Jane, who preserved for all time a photo of me, head down in utter concentration, hair wet, in a strange knitted dress and baking banana bread in our parent’s home in Alexandria, Virginia. At the time Jane’s nickname for me was “Earth-burr,” which referred to my penchant for no make up, Earth Shoes and health food.
Banana bread is healthy and it’s a quick bread, which might mean a bread that is not yeast-based and does not require hours of waiting and rising…or maybe it means something that gets eaten quickly.
But getting the banana bread just right–banana flavorful, light and moist with a good rise amidst toasted, crunchy walnuts in each bite–is actually not as easy as it seems. As I learned from countless mistakes, the secret to making great banana bread is in the greasing and flouring of the pan (for good rise) hand-mashing of the bananas (for added structure in the batter) and the quick folding in of the wet and dry ingredients (to minimize the development of gluten) as though you were making a muffin, but with no trace of flour or batter streaks.
I am indebted to the sweat equity that Cooks Illustrated put into testing this recipe, which I have only gently altered with the addition of orange rind. Also, for those of you living at high altitude, I have made no adjustments to liquid, sugar or soda and the bread was a success at 9,150 feet above sea level, and where–which is the other definition of a quick bread–it was quickly devoured!
Banana Bread is Our First Baking Adventure
Makes one, 9-inch loaf
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3\4 cups sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon orange rind, dried (if using fresh, mix into wet, not dry ingredients)
- 1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
- 3 very ripe, soft bananas mashed well by hand
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using butter, grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, orange peel (if dried) and walnuts in a large mixing bowl.
Mix bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, vanilla and orange peel (if using fresh) with a wooden spoon in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Lightly fold banana mixture into flour mixture until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 55 minutes, until the loaf is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let rest in baking pan for 5 minutes then remove from pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.