I get really excited about bake-offs and recipe challenges. I just love the idea of pitting one recipe against another, in an attempt to try and find the very best outcome. Though, at the end of the day, these things are subjective and always come down to a matter of taste; too moist, too firm, too salty, rare, al dente, crispy edges, chewy middles, good texture, nice crumb, the list goes on and on.
Have you ever googled “Banana Bread Recipe”? or how about “Best Banana Bread Recipe”? The awesome people over at Food 52 decided to have a “best banana bread recipe” bake-off and documented the entire thing in this delightful post. So many websites and food blogs overuse the word best along with a recipe title so it will show up well in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings – making it more likely to be found when people search those exact key words in google. But there are a lot of mediocre banana bread recipes out there and I just don’t have the time, the will, or the emotional resilience to work my way through them, I want to cut the crap and just jump straight to the best one. Don’t you?
As it turns out the best one, or one of the best ones might just be this recipe from Bon Appetit. In the Food 52 write up they described it as the most homely looking loaf of the bunch, squat and dense. Even though it sounded really sad looking and unlikely to be very photogenic, I went ahead with the recipe anyway, because I just need some good banana bread in my life right now. Something must’ve went wrong (and I have a few ideas about what) because I ended up with a beautiful loaf. It’s all the things I want a banana bread loaf to be; moist, dense, studded with chocolate chips, and enclosed in a wonderful crust. However I find its banana flavour subtle. I think the reason why I got a beautiful but not very banana flavoured bread is due to the fact that I thawed my bananas on a plate for a few hours and didn’t use any of the “banana juice/water”. I suspect it would have made a more ugly, dense, full-flavoured banana loaf had I have incorporated it. I also didn't use an electric mixer, I did it all by hand.
Either way, this recipe is totally worth making. It’s likely my new go-to recipe.
Best Banana Bread
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
⅓ cup mascarpone, plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, or sour cream
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
4 large very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1½ cups)
½ cup chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (optional)
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat 8½x4½" loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on long sides. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar, sour cream, and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition and scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Add bananas and mix just until combined. Fold in chocolate and/or walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake bread until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 60–65 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let bread cool in pan 1 hour. Turn out bread and let cool completely (if you can resist) before slicing.