I could present this without comment. And I really should, as nothing I write will ever live up to, and is bound to only undermine the perfect simplicity that is this banana bread.
But you know I’m still going to harp on and proclaim my love for the humble yet majestic banana bread. It was the first baking effort I truly nailed, way back when I was first attracted to baking. 5-6 years ago (I really thought it’d be longer than that) my mum bought me a ‘Baking for Beginners’ cookbook, one of those all-encompassing, baking for dummies instruction manuals. I no longer reach for it as my appetite has expanded beyond the basics, but it’ll always have that special place on my bookshelf. The banana bread recipe was the first of many recipes I tried from that book, and as amateurish as I was then, it satisfied me that it was so simple yet always produced a consistent result – clean, simple, fragrant banana bread.
Flash forward to now, it’s still the most requested bake as we always have bananas around. Dad simply cannot survive one day without eating one – he calls it his nerve-calming food. Sometimes it almost seems boring and ‘not enough of a challenge’ when someone mentions I should make banana bread again, but as I venture out every time to find yet another new recipe (because you can never try too many) the excitement is reignited.
As alluded to in the brown butter pear loaf post, I’m in an affair with brown butter as it adds such depth of flavour and fragrance to anything it touches. It is no exception in this recipe – it simply surpasses bread made with regular butter or oil by leaps and bounds. That said, I have no problem whatsoever with healthier versions made with oil, whole wheat flour and natural sugars (which I’m sure I’ll post about one day); but sometimes none other than the full-on, unadulterated, ultimate version will do, you know?
What makes this my absolute favourite? It’s due to the fact that every single component just comes together in a harmonious way, some of which include:
- the banana flavour: everyone knows that you have to use ripe bananas in baking. Honestly, you can get away with a little less ripeness with adjustments in sugar, but nothing will come close to a disgustingly-black, ripe-to-the-max banana in terms of fruity sweetness. Nowadays I like to store overripe bananas in the freezer – which turn coal-black – then roasting them in the oven or microwaving them if I’m in a pinch before use. Concentrated. Banana. Puree.
- the fat: brown butter, duh. It’s almost like banana fosters cake with the toffee-like character it lends.
- the sugar: as I use the absolute ripest bananas possible, this bread is just the right sweetness with less than 1/2 cup of added sugar. Experiment with different sugars, too. I used raw sugar and molasses this time but brown sugar would be wonderful as well.
- the dairy: many recipes call for milk or buttermilk. As we don’t tend to keep the latter around, I use a combination of cream/milk and Greek yogurt. The acidity and the baking soda help with rising as well as the self-raising flour.
- mix-ins? This obviously comes down to personal preference. I’m not one to shy away from adding dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips etc. to my batter. However this time I went for a pure batter with almond and coconut topping.
- spices? Many a times have I sprinkled in a little cinnamon into my batter, even a chai-inspired mix of spices. It does add certain warmth in the same vein as comfort food. I find they go more hand-in-hand with oil-based recipes though, as they tend to overwhelm the buttery flavour. That said, I pretty much add earl grey to everything and anything.
With that rant out of the way, here’s my favourite (for now, the experimenting never ends) recipe for the purest and softest banana bread a.k.a. BBBB. It’s perfect for breakfast with tea, even a sneaky during-class snack.
The glorious BBBB (makes one large 9″ loaf)
100g unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp molasses (omit if using brown sugar)
30g milk/cream + 30g full-fat plain yogurt / 60g buttermilk
3 medium ripe-to-death bananas or ~300g peeled, mashed
250g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4-1/2 tsp spices e.g. nutmeg, cinnamon, loose leaf tea
up to 1/2 cup mix-ins
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare a loaf tin by buttering and flouring the sides, and lining the bottom.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, molasses and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add in dairy and the mashed bananas and mix till combined. Add browned butter and stir to homogenise.
Sift the remaining dry ingredients together and fold into wet mixture. Pour batter into prepared tin and sprinkle on topping if so desired. Don’t pre-toast your nuts if you’re putting them on top as they’ll toast further in the oven. Bake for approx. 35 mins or until the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Best served warm.
Couldn’t work out a subtle way to include this disclaimer, but the new blog logo/graphic is very much inspired by Tom Hovey’s work for the GBBO. I used it as a reference and drew it myself, then – wait for it – coloured in in Paint. Paint. That is the extent of my artistic skills. Actually moderately pleased with it if I ignore that the blue strokes are obscuring the black lines.
*First exam is done! Super knackered, more from the heat than actual energy depletion. Slightly less awful photo quality this time as I got up early to make this in time for breakfast as opposed to staying up late.