Why Is Everyone Baking Banana Bread?

It’s the food of the moment

Seems like everyone is making banana bread — it’s easy, it’s healthy(ish), and it uses up those speckled brown bananas taking up space on your counter. But is it even good? Or merely an acceptable food for the moment? Heated’s editors hashed it out.

Melissa: People are talking in Medium Slack about why banana bread is THE food of the quarantine — and there are shoutouts to it everywhere. I’m not really a fan of bananas or banana bread, though. Thoughts?

Kerri: Banana bread is probably a thing because bananas are inexpensive, kids like them, it’s easy to make, and keeps for days. It’s what you make the other 10 months of the year when you don’t feel like eating pumpkin bread. But actually, Mark would probably say, if you can find fresh or canned pumpkin, make that instead.

Kate: I hate bananas but love banana bread. A lot of people have been posting their Bittman banana bread, though.

Daniel: If you replace half of the bananas with chocolate chips and criminally underbake it, that’s my jam.

Annie: I love banana bread, but banana bread without nuts is disgusting. Even fully baked, banana bread often seems underbaked. I feel like a crunchy element is essential.

Kerri: I love this thread! If you’ve got any cranberries left from the holidays taking up valuable freezer space, pulse them in the food processor (or chop them up a bit) and use them in place of some or all of the bananas. If you don’t like tartness, up the sugar ¼ cup.

Mark: The thing is that because bananas are good, cheap, ubiquitous, and still in good supply (does anyone hear Chiquita or Dole complaining?), and because we almost always buy more bananas than we eat … there’s almost always a good reason to make banana bread. (Come to think of it…) It’s twice as good with coconut in it.

Banana Bread

Makes: 1 9-inch loaf
Time: About 1¼ hours

The best banana bread is a balancing act: It requires a fair amount of fat to keep it moist and lighten the crumb, and just enough sweetness without overpowering the super-ripe fruit. This version — from my late dear friend Sherry — has fabulous crunch if you add the walnuts and coconut, which I usually do. Or try other nuts or chopped dried fruit or raisins. It keeps better than most quick breads, though it probably won’t be around too long.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened, plus more for greasing
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Mash the bananas with a fork in a medium bowl until very smooth. Mix in the butter. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Stir this into the dry ingredients, just enough to combine everything. Gently fold in the nuts and coconut if you’re using them.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost entirely clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully turn the pan upside down to release the loaf. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Honey Whole Grain Banana Bread

Substitute 1¼ cups whole wheat flour and ¾ cup oat bran for the all-purpose flour. Reduce the sugar to ¾ cup, and add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Add ¼ cup honey to the banana along with the butter in step 3.

Pumpkin Bread

Instead of the bananas, use 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine). Whisk 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, and ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves into the dry ingredients.

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.

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