Best banana bread ever

Most banana bread recipes go something like this: Smash up some bananas with eggs and flour and bake for a while. That approach works well enough, I suppose, but that’s what everybody does. Don’t you want to be a different? Of course you do. The recipe I am posting here adds a few more steps, but those steps are very much worth it. Out of all the different banana bread recipes I’ve tried, this one produces the best results. There are easier recipes to make and ones that mess up fewer dishes in the process, but if you want truly amazing banana bread then look no further. There are many versions of this recipe posted around the interwebs, but the original recipe was apparently published in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine at some point in time I can’t be bothered to look up.

Skip to the short version

Spots = sweet = delicious.

Spots = sweet = delicious.

” Ten pounds of bananas stuffed into a five-pound sack “

Before we get into the details of the other ingredients, obviously you are going to need bananas. Good, ripe ones, maybe even over-ripe. Sometimes it can be a challenge to collect exactly the correct number of correct-ripeness bananas precisely when you want to make banana bread, so anytime you end up with an uneaten banana on its last legs, peel it and throw it into a bag in the freezer. A few iterations of this and before you know it you’ll have a half dozen nicely ripened bananas ready for bread making. If this strategy sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because I follow the same process with the ingredients for my chicken stock recipe, which you have undoubtedly already read. Right? *wink wink*


Ingredients

  • 6 large bananas (insert “large banana” jokes here)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tsp granulated sugar


Other stuff you’ll need

  • a large microwave-safe bowl
  • a saucepan
  • a mesh strainer
  • a loaf pan of some kind, 8 1/2″ will do
  • patience
  • trust (Some of the steps are odd, but I promise it’s worth it.)


Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Take one of your six bananas – a decent-looking one that isn’t too mushy – and set it aside. Take the remaining five bananas, frozen or otherwise, and put them into a large microwaveable bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, poke a few holes for ventilation, and microwave for five minutes, six if some of the bananas are frozen. While you wait for the microwave, put your mesh strainer over your saucepan and get out some hotpads. When the microwave beeps, you will end up with a weird, discolored lump of banana goo floating in clear stuff the same temperature as the surface of the sun.

Fact: Bananas are lethal when microwaved for five minutes.

Fact: Bananas are lethal when microwaved for five minutes.

CAREFULLY remove the plastic wrap, doing your best not to sustain permanently disfiguring facial burns from the steam, and pour/dump the mess of superheated banana material into the mesh strainer perched atop your saucepan. Leave it there for 15 minutes.

I bet you didn't expect this step.

I bet you didn’t expect this step.

While the banana magma drains, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. When the 15 minutes are up (yes, you really have to wait the whole 15 minutes), remove the microwaved bananas from the strainer, put them in a medium-sized bowl, and set aside. In the saucepan, you should have collected 1/2 to 3/4 cup of clear liquid. This is pure, unadulterated banana essence (sometimes also called “juice”), and we are going to turn it into banana syrup. Oh yes, we are.

It will thicken up a bit when it's done.

It will thicken up a bit when it’s done.

Simmer the banana juice over medium-high heat until it’s been reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes or so. When it’s done, pour it into the bowl with the bananas. I know this seems stupid, but what we’ve effectively done here is concentrate all that awesome banana flavor into a smaller, more intense package. It’ll be great, really it will.

It tastes better than it looks.

It tastes better than it looks.

Add the melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla and stir well. Before you add the eggs, make sure the mixture isn’t too hot; nobody likes cooked egg bits in their banana bread. Stir in the eggs, then pour the whole mess into the flour mixture and fold everything together, being careful not to over-mix.

If you want to ruin everything, add chopped walnuts at this time. When you’re done with that, you might as well pull the wings off a few butterflies and then go kick a puppy. In case it’s not clear, I recommend against this step.

Walnuts are gross.

Walnuts are gross.

Lightly grease your loaf pan and pour the batter in. Take that last banana, slice it, and lay the slices on the top of the loaf along both sides. Leave a gap in the middle to allow the bread to rise as it bakes. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the top.

I know, I didn't sprinkle the sugar evenly. So sue me.

I know, I didn’t sprinkle the sugar evenly. So sue me.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55 to 75 minutes. Insert a toothpick or wooden skewer into the center of the loaf; when it comes out clean, the bread is done.

This is ten pounds of bananas stuffed into a five pound sack.

This is ten pounds of bananas stuffed into a five pound sack.

Allow to cool for at least 7 or 8 seconds, cut some slices, and bask in delicious banana glory.



Yes, I do put butter on everything.

Yes, I do put butter on everything.



tl;dr

Best banana bread ever

Ingredients

  • 6 large bananas
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tsp granulated sugar


Other stuff you’ll need

  • a large microwave-safe bowl
  • a saucepan
  • a mesh strainer
  • a loaf pan of some kind, 8 1/2″ will do


Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Take one banana, slice, and set aside. Microwave the remaining bananas for 5 minutes. Place in mesh strainer and allow to drain for 15 minutes. Pour resulting juice into a saucepan and reduce to 1/4 cup volume over medium heat, then recombine with microwaved bananas. Add melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Whisk together dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients and mix well. Add walnuts if desired. Pour batter into lightly greased loaf pan, lay sliced banana on top and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 55 to 75 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean.



See also


Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


Buttermilk drop biscuits

Everybody loves biscuits. There’s no arguing with this statement. I’m not talking about the flat, sweet, crunchy things that folks on the other side of the Atlantic call biscuits (although those are good too), I’m talking about flaky, buttery, American-style biscuits. If you’ve never had one of these fresh out of the oven, you haven’t lived.

Skip to the short version

THESE are biscuits. End of story.

THESE are biscuits. End of story.

I’ve made a lot of rolled biscuits in the past, the kind where you roll out the dough and cut circles out with a cutter, but lately I’ve taken to drop biscuits. They get their name from the fact that are formed by taking rough scoops of dough and dropping them onto a sheet or pan; no rolling pin necessary. Drop biscuits require less work and therefore less handling, which – for me at least – results in a lighter texture. They are also more versatile than their rolled cousins, and they do rather well with additional ingredients mixed in like cheese or hunks of bacon.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk …give or take a bit. More on this later.


Directions

” If Satan has a favorite drink, it’s buttermilk “

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. If you happen to be using a cast iron drop biscuit pan, preheat it with the oven. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Now we need to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients, probably the trickiest bit of the whole process. The most straightforward way to go about it is just to plop the butter as-is directly into the flour mixture and go to work with a pastry blender. If you don’t happen to have one of these (and even if you do), this step can be a pain in the arse. You can try chopping up the butter before dumping it into the flour and using table knives or forks to work it in, but it’s a tedious process. Or………


Optional super-cool way of doing things

Put your 1.5 sticks of butter in the freezer and leave them there for several hours, preferably overnight. Put a cheese grater in there as well.

Yes, you read that correctly. Put a cheese grater in the freezer. I’m serious.

Guess what we're going to do next.

Guess what we’re going to do next.

When the butter is frozen solid, carefully remove it from the wrapper, handling it as little as possible. Using your icy-cold cheese grater, quickly grate the butter into the dry ingredients and mix them together. If you have trouble with the butter clumping together, put your dry ingredients in the freezer for 30 minutes first.

I bet you've never seen grated butter before, have you?

I bet you’ve never seen grated butter before, have you?

Regardless of which method you use to get the butter worked into the dry ingredients, you should end up with a coarse, crumbly-looking mixture with pea-sized lumps of butter. If you want to include additional ingredients (e.g., cheese), now is the time to add them. If this is your first time making drop biscuits, I recommend sticking with the basic recipe to get a better feel for things. Either way, it’s now time to add the buttermilk.

It's not an exact science. Just get your dry mix to look more or less like this.

It’s not an exact science. Just get your dry mix to look more or less like this.

Before we go any further, let me just say that buttermilk is NASTY. Don’t ever try it straight up. My friends and family will tell you that I’m grossly exaggerating things, but don’t listen to them. Buttermilk is one of the most horrific things I have ever tasted – my first tentative sip gave me nightmares for a week. It’s like rotten milk mixed with motor oil and rattlesnake venom. If Satan has a favorite drink, it’s buttermilk, I’m sure of it. It’s a mystery to me how such a repulsive ingredient can make such delicious biscuits, so I’m just going to chalk it up to magic and move on with my life.

Earlier, in the ‘ingredients’ section, I mentioned that you should use one cup of buttermilk, give or take a bit. What I mean by this is that the exact amount of liquid you should use cannot be easily determined ahead of time. When it comes to recipes like this one, it’s far more important for the dough to have the right consistency than to use a precise measurement. As my grandmother used to say when teaching me recipes, “Add enough until it’s right.” So, one cup of buttermilk is probably about the right amount, but don’t be alarmed if you need to add a bit more to make the dough firm up correctly.

Use a measuring cup if it makes you feel better, but I don’t even bother with one. Pour some buttermilk into the dry mix and stir it in gently, being careful not to over-work the dough. If you mix the bejesus out of it, your biscuits will turn out chewy and manhandled instead of flaky and light, so use a gentle hand. It will soon be apparent if there is not enough liquid in your dough because it will be powdery in areas and won’t want to hold together. Add another splash of buttermilk – no more than a tablespoon at a time – and turn over the dough a few more times with your mixing spoon. Keep adding liquid as necessary until you get a single, sticky mess of thick dough that stands up all by itself in the center of the bowl.

And this is what biscuit dough should look like.

And this is what biscuit dough should look like.

Now comes the fun part. Drop quarter-cup lumps of dough onto a baking sheet (or your preheated drop biscuit pan) and bake for 15 minutes.

They don't have to be pretty. In fact, it's better if they aren't.

They don’t have to be pretty. In fact, it’s better if they aren’t.

When the tops of the biscuits are golden brown and toasty, they are ready to consume. Serve them hot and with plenty of butter, sausage gravy, honey, jam, or whatever your heart desires.

It's all worth it for this one buttery moment.

It’s all worth it for this one buttery moment.




tl;dr

Buttermilk drop biscuits

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1-1.5 cups buttermilk


Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Incorporate butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or by grating butter while frozen. Add buttermilk until all dry ingredients have been incorporated. Drop quarter-cup lumps of dough onto a baking sheet or preheated drop biscuit pan and bake for 15 minutes.



See also


A bacon and cheese variant I made recently. They did not suck.

A bacon and cheese variant I made recently. They did not suck.


Standard Recipe Disclaimer
I don’t come up with a lot of my own recipes (unless you count my own personal milk-to-Grape-Nuts ratio), and chances are the recipe posted above belongs to or was inspired by a person other than me. So if you’re wondering whether or not I ripped somebody off, I probably did. Don’t get out the pitchforks and torches just yet though! I want to make absolutely sure I give credit where it’s due, so if you think someone deserves recognition for something that I haven’t already called out FOR CRYING OUT LOUD LET ME KNOW. Thanks, I appreciate it. Here’s a cookie.


Pumpkin butter cake

I like to think of this recipe as a redneck twist on pumpkin pie. In truth, it’s a holiday twist on a popular redneck recipe, but let’s not split hairs. This decadent, gooey, decidedly bad-for-you dessert has become a holiday favorite among my friends and family, and it’s well on the way to becoming a tradition. Butter cake really isn’t a cake at all, more like a dense cake-pie hybrid; not even the most stoic pumpkin pie loyalists are immune to the allure of this stuff.

Skip to the short version

“Throw the box away, directions and all. Feels good, doesn’t it?”

Having been born and (mostly) raised in California, I had never heard of butter cake before a few years ago. All desserts in California are strictly forbidden by law to have flavor or calories, and they must also include organic agave syrup, Brussels sprouts, and lima bean flour. My spouse, a proud Texan, set me straight and introduced me to butter cake, and I have been a huge fan ever since. This particular recipe is essentially the same as Paula Deen’s, but with a couple of minor tweaks.


Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 box of regular old yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1 egg

Filling

  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 box (or bag) powdered sugar (16 oz)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg


Other stuff you’ll need

  • an electric hand mixer
  • a large mixing bowl
  • a 13×9 baking dish
  • insulin


Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Open up the box of yellow cake mix and dump the contents into the mixing bowl. Throw the box away, directions and all. Feels good, doesn’t it? It’s fun being a kitchen rebel. Melt the stick of butter (30 seconds in the microwave will do the job), pour it into the cake mix, and give it a quick spin with the mixer. Add the egg and mix well. On a quick aside, you need to be careful anytime you are mixing any hot ingredients with raw egg. If you add one directly to the other, you run the risk of partially cooking the egg before it can get properly mixed in. Anywho, when you’re done you should end up with a bowl of thick yellow stuff the consistency of cookie dough. Lightly grease the 13×9 baking dish and press the cake mixture into the bottom in an even layer. You don’t need to be gentle – just smash the hell out of it and make sure it gets all the way into the corners.

It looks like cake batter, but it's oh so much better.

It looks like cake batter, but it’s oh so much better.

Now it’s time to start working on the filling. It’s very important to make sure the cream cheese is room temperature at this point – it won’t mix right when it’s cold. You can attempt to carefully microwave it if you so desire, but I never like how it turns out. If you’re working with refrigerator temperature cream cheese, really your best bet is to just leave it out on the counter and go do something else for 45 minutes.

Mix the (now softened) cream cheese and the pumpkin until well blended and silky smooth. Melt the butter and add it to the mixture along with the vanilla and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon – feel free to double up on the cinnamon if you like. I find that nutmeg tends to clump, so make extra sure there aren’t any nuggets of the stuff lurking around in the sugar mixture. Biting into a powdery pocket of nutmeg is similar to eating underarm deodorant; avoid this if you possibly can. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, taking care not to fling powdered sugar into the farthest corners of your kitchen.

Pumpkin pie, eat your heart out.

Pumpkin pie, eat your heart out.

Pour the pumpkin mixture on top of the cake layer. Using the back of a spoon, “coax” the pumpkin mixture into the corners of the pan and make sure the whole thing is nice and level. Carefully place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes.

When the timer goes off, take the cake out of the oven. Don’t think, just do it. The cake will appear to be very liquidy, but don’t panic. Trust me. The first time I made this I thought I had completely screwed it up, but this is how it’s supposed to be. If you are using a glass pan, you will be able to see that the cake is nice and toasty brown on the bottom – that means it’s done. Resist the urge to bake it for longer and just let it cool for a while. It will set up nicely over the next hour or so.

Nomming will happen very soon. Oh yes, very soon indeed.

Nomming will happen very soon. Oh yes, very soon indeed.

Slice it into squares, serve it with ice cream or Cool Whip or however you like it, and enjoy. You may never buy another pumpkin pie again.

I'm going to skip dinner and just have more of this.

I’m going to skip dinner and just have more of this.



tl;dr

Pumpkin butter cake

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 box of regular old yellow cake mix
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1 egg

Filling

  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 box (or bag) powdered sugar (16 oz)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg


Other stuff you’ll need

  • an electric hand mixer
  • a large mixing bowl
  • a 13×9 baking dish


Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine cake mix, 1 egg, and 1 stick of butter, melted. Press mixture into the bottom of lightly greased baking dish. Mix cream cheese and pumpkin until well blended. Melt remaining stick of butter and add to pumpkin mixture, along with vanilla, and 3 eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet, stir until evenly blended. Pour into baking dish on top of cake mixture. Bake for 50 minutes. Center will appear runny but will solidify as cake cools. Slice and serve once completely cooled.



See also