Banana nut bread didn’t always used to be in my kitchen’s rotation. For one, I didn’t particularly enjoy nuts growing up. Bananas haven’t always been my number one choice of fruit either. And, the banana nut loaves I have tried in the past tended to be overly dried, bready bricks. But with kids in the house, it seems fresh bananas are on the counter every week. Inevitably, some will start to turn brown. Well, waste not, right? So, we got to work on a banana nut bread recipe that would work for all of us.
Like other quick breads, banana bread is about as simple as it gets. Leavened with baking powder and the slight acidity of ripened bananas and tangy sour cream, this loaf really hits the spot flavor-wise. Time- and skill-wise it can’t get much easier. All it takes is a quick mix of dry and wet ingredients in their separate bowls, then adding the wet to the dry with a quick stir.
Because they’re so easy, quick breads are one of my favorite things to whip up in the kitchen. Some lite reading of the quick breads chapter in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio will have you feeling quick bread confident in no time! In general, there’s quite a bit of wiggle room, which is why I knew we would find a banana nut bread recipe we loved if we played around enough with the base. Here’s what we discovered!
Know Thy Oven
For some reason, I always forget my oven temperature is about 25 degrees off. Sigh. I blame parenthood.
The first batch of every recipe test tends to be undercooked as a result. As I try to commit this fact to memory, let me take the opportunity to issue a little PSA. Knowing your oven’s idiosyncrasies will save you some heartache.
For any banana nut bread recipe, texture is everything. Dry loaves leave you wanting. Soggy loaves just plain suck. Oven temperature has a lot to do with how your texture turns out.
So, if you haven’t already invested in an oven thermometer, now might be the time! In addition to making sure your oven is thoroughly preheated, comparing the selected and actual temp will help you make any necessary adjustments. Be sure to place your thermometer near the spot you’ll be baking your bread. You’ll want to gauge what the temperature is running where your banana bread will actually be baking. After all, ovens are notorious for hot spots!
Banana Nut Bread Vessel
As I’ve mentioned before in previous baking posts, selecting the right bakeware matters. A dark-colored loaf pan runs the risk of over baking the edges before the center of the loaf is cooked through. Since metals conduct heat more easily, metal pans of any kind also tend to produce overcooked edges and soggy centers.
This is why I prefer a ceramic loaf pan, which heats up more slowly for more even cooking. However, a light-colored metal loaf pan should also produce a very edible banana bread too. If all you have is a dark-colored loaf pan, try lowering the temperature a tad and upping the time.
As with most baked goods, the toothpick test (testing for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle and checking to see if it comes out clean) works well. Yet, most toothpicks can’t reach the bottom of a loaf pan. In this case, a wooden skewer may be the better bet. Don’t leave your loaf’s texture to chance!
Variations Worth Trying
Browned butter base? Greek yogurt? Sugar glazed nuts? Yes indeedy.
In my recipe testing, I experimented quite a bit with not only the basics but extra goodies as well. While my base recipe is shown below, I encourage you to experiment around like I did to find your favorite spin on banana nut bread!
I did go a little nutty over the specialty nuts I picked up from some local vendors. This included glazed pecans from Dust and toffee toasted pecans from my grocery store. They certainly gave toasted walnuts a run for their money, so definitely make the swap if you have a hankering.
As for the browned butter and Greek yogurt varieties, I barely noticed a difference. But feel free to try it for yourself, and by all means, use a full-fat Greek yogurt if you don’t have sour cream on hand!
I should also note that in most of my baking, I’m particular with salt (go figure!). This is why my recipe calls for both coarse and fine sea salt. The fine sea salt disperses and flavors the loaf more evenly, but the coarse sea salt creates little bursts of salted sweetness with each bite. If you find that’s not quite for you, then feel free to omit the coarse sea salt and up the fine sea salt to one full teaspoon.
At a minimum, there are just a few things that really help to elevate the base recipe and really are worth a try.
- Lightly toasting the nuts of your choice opens up a whole new world of nutty flavor. Trust me, it is worth the 5 minutes it takes to heat them in a sauté pan. Just be careful not to burn them!
- Throw in some cinnamon or nutmeg (or both!) into the dry ingredients before mixing. I’ve really enjoyed Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon in this loaf for its strong cinnamony presence.
- Topping the uncooked batter with cinnamon sugar, or brushing on some melted butter towards the end of the cooking time will boost not only flavor but browning.
- And finally- don’t skip the opportunity to whip up a little honey butter and slather it on a warmed up slice. It’s as easy as bringing 1/4 cup of salted butter to room temperature, adding a few tablespoons of your favorite honey on top, and whipping the two together with a handheld mixer.
I’ve written up my favorite banana nut bread recipe below. Voilà! No more wasted bananas!
Want to check out another quick bread favorite? Head over to my how-to on making perfect southern cornbread!
Looking for other sweet treats? Try these related recipes!
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar firmly packed
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts plus extra for topping
- powdered cinnamon to taste
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
- 1 1/4 cup mashed bananas very ripe (about 2 large bananas or 3 small to medium bananas)
- 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a ceramic or light-colored metal loaf pan.
- In the microwave or on the stove over low heat, melt the stick of butter. Set aside to let cool slightly.
- In a small sauté pan, toast the walnuts over medium-high heat until fragrant but not burned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
- In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and toasted walnuts. Stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the cooled melted butter, mashed bananas, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. With a spatula or spoon, even out the top of the batter and sprinkle any extra toasted walnuts or cinnamon sugar if desired.
- Bake on the center oven rack for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
- Allow the loaf to cool slightly before cutting. Serve warm with honey butter, vanilla ice cream, or chocolate fudge sauce!
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