Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ultimate Banana Bread by America's Test Kitchen

There are so many versions of banana bread it makes my head spin- each is wonderful in their own right. I've enjoyed making it with roasted bananas and pumpkin seeds, to lemon and olive oil. Heck, my mom used to make it all the time filled with chocolate chips. It's simply a matter of preference. What's your favorite banana bread recipe?

Naturally, my curiosity was piqued to see America's Test Kitchen's, "Ultimate Banana Bread." There are lot of claims on the internet for the "ultimate" or "best" of anything- but when it's from America's Test Kitchen, you have my attention. I watched part of the online episode and was intrigued by their method of heightening the banana flavor.

For starters, there are six bananas involved- SIX! That's a double the amount of most recipes. If you were to simply stuff all these in your standard recipe, you would essentially get banana brick bread. The texture becomes way too dense because there's wayyyy too much moisture in five bananas. So how do you make it more banana-y without adding more bananas? This is where the madness begins.

Using the microwave, a new-to-me method, you create what is essentially "banana juice" by extracting the liquid from five bananas. The microwave cooks from the inside out and it's quick so the flavor remains in tact. There's all that moisture that would otherwise weigh down the loaf. You reduce the banana juice over the stove to create about a 1/4 cup of concentrated syrup. Genius.

To top it all off, you add the sixth banana on top as a lovely lining in the pan. This really made my heart swoon because it's such a nice aesthetic compared to my usual, plain-jane sort of loaf.

In terms of flavor, this was the most banana-flavored bread that I've ever tasted. It stays true to its namesake because it's simple, there are no bells and whistles aside from toasted walnuts. Sneak in any other flavors you usually enjoy like chocolate chips or dried fruit. My only qualm is that I make banana bread when there are too many lying around on the verge of expiration. Generally you don't see six bananas on that cusp in our two person home.

This recipe is brought to you by America's Test Kitchen. It can be found on numerous sites and you can catch the video here!

Pro Tip: I finally learned the reason behind the age old requirement of using super ripe bananas: they have more sugar! The younger the banana, the more starch, which as it ripens, converts to sugar.