Banana Nut Bread
As I thought about writing this post, I wondered what the point was of publishing yet another recipe for banana bread. There are recipes for it everywhere in books, online and in our memories. Many of them, like mine, were handed down from someone in the family, in my case, my grandmother. It was a good recipe that I made many times before it morphed into my recipe. I’m torn to have to say this, but I think now it is better than the original (sorry grandma). But anyway you slice it, it’s still just banana bread. However, when it comes to the topic of banana bread, I have something I need to get off my chest. It’s just my opinion, and many are going to disagree with me, but I don’t use overripe bananas, and I don’t think you should either.
Before you start throwing rocks let me try to explain. My grandmother, like everyone else’s, used overripe bananas. In her case they were beyond overripe; they were so completely black that they took the term rotten to new heights. I can still picture them sitting on her counter (blech!). Still, in doing research for this post, I came across recipe after recipe emphasizing the importance of overripe bananas. I believe that this notion must go back to the depression when banana bread became popular in America. It was these depression era bakers that didn’t want anything to go to waste. Using “overly ripe” bananas in banana bread was a way to utilize them after eating them was out of the question. I spent a lot of time trying to find some evidence that would back up this theory of mine without any luck. Likewise, I was unable to find a single good reason why they must be overripe. Most of the reasons I did find were feeble at best. “They are easier to mash”, said some (as if ripe ones were difficult). Many remind us that they are sweeter (as if one cup of sugar and three bananas wasn’t sweet enough). For many it was simply because “that’s how my grandmother always made it”. All are good reasons, but insufficient in my mind. So for lack of any evidence to support my position, I am just going to present my case.
What exactly is going on under the peel as a banana ripens? In a nutshell (or in this case, a banana peel) the banana’s starch is converting into sugar. That is why overripe bananas are sweeter, so much so that they are even higher in calories. Eventually they become a dense, gooey sweet mass of goop. I am of the opinion that this extra sweetness is not needed and the texture is not welcome. I also think you lose some of the ‘banana flavor’ if they are overripe. I have a sense that a ripe banana in all its starchy glory is going to give you better texture and flavor. And when I say ripe I am referring to a banana that is completely yellow and is just starting to develop freckles, but no further. That’s it: that’s my big bombshell (AKA my opinion)… if you disagree, you can start throwing rocks now. If you can’t find any rocks just throw some of your grandma’s banana bread made from overripe bananas…that should do it! But seriously, as always, I welcome opposing viewpoints. If you would like to leave some feedback in the comments section below I would love it.
Now getting back to the recipe, there are a couple of nuances that my grandmother included in her banana bread that I love! For one thing, she always made two loaves (great for sharing or freezing one for later). If you want one loaf, you can easily divide this recipe. I’m of a mind that too much of a good thing can be wonderful! The other thing that my grandmother did was add a well-drained can of crushed pineapple. It adds some nice flavor and sweetness. She also included cinnamon that I love in there as well. Where I stray from the original is that I use softened butter instead of oil or shortening. I also prefer pecans to walnuts. Finally, I add some chopped dried apricots. I love the added flavor and color, and I think that the tartness balances out some of the sweetness.
Whether you stick to your time-honored practice of utilizing overripe bananas, or you reach for something a little less far-gone, I do hope you enjoy this recipe.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 sticks of butter, room temperature
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups mashed bananas (about 6 bananas)
- 1-8 ounce can crushed pineapple, well drained
- 1 cup chopped dried apricots (3 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Grease two loaf pans and set aside.
- Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl, mix well and set aside.
- Add the sugar and softened butter to a large mixing bowl and mix well until light and fluffy.
- In another bowl mash the bananas (a little lumpy is ok). Add the drained crushed pineapple, apricots, chopped nuts, and vanilla to the bananas and blend thoroughly.
- Combine the dry ingredients and the fruit along with the eggs to the butter and sugar, and stir until evenly mixed. Do not over stir.
- Pour evenly in the two loaf pans.
- Bake at 350°F for 50-55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool 10 minutes before removing from the pans to cool on a rack.