The Best? really? Well, the food department at Epicurious thinks so. The cooks began with a handful of tried-and-true recipes; they tested, tasted, adjusted, retested, ... and kept at it until this revision emerged as the test kitchen favorite, their so-called "frankenrecipe". What?? Weird label, but intriguing nonetheless. I'll admit, I was curious to see what the fuss was all about. Banana bread has been around for eons, what could possibly set this recipe apart?
The Epi kitchen noted four changes that seemingly made all the difference between good banana breads and "The Best".
- Sour cream replaced one recipe's mascarpone for a hint of tangy flavor and extra moistness. (Mascarpone is too pricey an ingredient to casually toss into any ordinary quick bread, so I like this sour cream swap out.)
- Dark brown sugar, rather than the usual white granulated variety, brought extra richness to the mix.
- Four ripe, really ripe bananas guaranteed maximum banana flavor.
- Walnuts added some essential nutty crunch to each bite. The tasters were evenly split over adding chocolate bits, but nuts alone made the final cut.
These four elements are not earth-shaking revelations, but together they did produce a tasty loaf. Moist but not soggy in the middle, each bite or slice held together nicely on the fork or in the fingers. The essential banananess was taste forward, in a good way, and brown sugar provided hints of molasses without overpowering the flavor.
Was this loaf "The Best"? Who cares? My five kitchen tasters agreed that it was damned delicious and the entire loaf disappeared in less than 24 hours. I'll use this recipe again; it was worth messing around with three separate mixing bowls.
The Best? Banana Breadrecipe from epicurious.com
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature (plus more for pan)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for pan)
4 medium very ripe bananas (about 13 oz), peeled and mashed
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, (packed)
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts
A 9x5" loaf pan
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5" loaf pan with butter and dust with flour, tapping out any excess. (The paper wrapper from the cube of butter works well for this.)
Combine banana, sour cream, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed in yet another large bowl until light and fluffy, it will take several minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed until fully combined, about a minute each. Add the banana mixture and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, beating on low after each addition, scraping down the sides of bowl if necessary, until fully incorporated. Use a spatula to fold in the walnuts.
Transfer the mixed batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until the batter is set, the top is a dark golden brown and starting to crack, the sides start to pull away from pan, about 60–65 minutes. Use a tester inserted into center of bread to check for doneness; bake until it comes out clean. (My oven must run cool, it took 72 minutes.)
Remove to a wire rack and cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, then tap pan gently on its side until the loaf releases. Let cool completely on a plate or cutting board before slicing.