adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
- 1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled (see note)
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, middle oven rack in place. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Place 5 of the bananas in a microwave-safe bowl, covered with plastic wrap and poke a few vent holes so the steam can escape. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released their liquid — about 5 minutes. Strain the bananas thru a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl so they can drain, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until you have 1/2 to 3/4 cup banana juice.
- Transfer the banana liquid to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it reduces to 1/4 cup, about 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how much liquid was released). Remove pan from heat and stir the reduced banana liquid into the microwaved bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined, with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally unto 1/4-inch slices. Shingle the banana slices on top of either side of the loaf, leaving a 1 1/2-inch-wide spice down center to ensure an even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the top of the loaf.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in teh center of the loaf comes out clean — this can take between 55 – 75 minutes. Cool the banana bread in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan and continue to cool on the wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. The preferred loaf pan measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.