Better Banana Bread

banana breadAh banana bread, the ubiquitous go-to dessert of all home bakers- right after chocolate chip cookies.  Banana bread is great because it easy, beloved by all, and requires virtually no baking utensils.  The other great thing about banana bread is that it is easy to “play” with the recipe.

When people find out that I am a baker I almost always get this question, “So, uh, baking is really precise right?” After which said person usually explains to me that they love cooking because there is no precision and that baking requires too much technique.  Well, my friends, I beg to differ! Baking does require precision in its elements. (e.g. amount of liquid to protein to fat to sugar). But, if you understand how these ingredients interact with each other you can play with them all you like. I don’t want to make this post into a lengthy tutorial but I would like to briefly review the role each ingredient plays in banana bread.

SUGAR

Sugar is integral to a baked product in many ways such as adding flavor or aiding to build structure.  But the key thing to remember about sugar is that it is hygroscopic. This means that sugar attracts water.  Adding more sugar can think out a batter since the sugar pulls water away from other ingredients (like flours and proteins).   So you can remove sugar from a product for dietary reasons but remember that it will change the consistency of the product.

FAT

Fat helps to emulsify ingredients together and add flavor.  Butter, of course, is one of my favorite fats but fat can come from other places too like oils or nuts.  Butter also softens dough and develops the crumb or structure of the product.

FLOUR

Flour adds strength and bulk to a product. It absorbs liquids and adds flavor. Flour also adds gluten which can toughen a baked product.  Gluten is desirable in breads and less desirable in cookies and cakes where one would like a tender, soft crumb.

LEAVENING

Banana bread calls for baking soda so that is the only leavening ingredient I will discuss here.  Baking soda reacts with an acid when moisture is present and is a mild leavening agent.  In the case of banana bread, the baking soda is reacting with the mild acidity in the bananas.  (Bananas have a pH of about 5).  Be careful when playing around with baking soda- add too much and you coulld give your product a chemical taste.  If you want to create a super soft banana bread you can add 1/8 cup of buttermilk or two tbsp of sour cream.  These acids will react with the baking soda in the recipe resulting in a tender crumb.

Now that you know the basics, play around! And if you are looking for even more detail on baking terminology check out this site.  Below is my banana bread, created after some careful tweaking.  I would love to hear back from you about your experiments and adventures with banana bread. Message me and let me know what you have learned!

CHRISSY’S EASY MIX BANANA BREAD

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/2 cup nuts toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (optional)

Mash bananas and mix with melted butter, egg, vanilla paste, and granulated sugar. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into the wet (do not overmix).  Add your optional ingredients if you like at this time.  Spray or grease a small metal loaf pan.  Pour in banana bread batter and bake at 350 F for 40-50 minutes until golden brown.

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