Build a Better Banana Bread

what did they compare to before sliced bread?

I like to look at magazines while standing in line at the grocery store.  I like to see what’s going on in the world, get an idea of the general gossip, see the current fashion trends, etc.  I admit it.  I’ve flipped through glossy pages, drawn in by the irresistible headlines splashed across the front, with their tawdy taglines and giant airbrushed pictures.  “Classic Roman Food!”  “Healthy, Quick Recipes.”  “Decadent, Dark Chocolate Delights!”  “5 Million Ways to Make Chicken Taste Less Like Chicken and More Like Something You Want to Eat.”  SaveurEating WellCooks Illustrated.  And, previously, Gourmet.  I’ve thumbed through all of them.  I’m not ashamed.

I usually don’t buy them, though.  Let’s face it, I’m part of the reason print media is dying because I’m not going to shell out $5 or $8 for a magazine, glossy and beautiful though it may be, when I can find the same recipes online.  However, occasionally, I can’t help myself.  And by “I can’t help myself,” I mean that “Josh sees me staring and pressures me into buying something for myself even though I feel guilty about paying $8 for a couple dozen recipes I could find online for free.”

This is one of those instances.

The magazine?  The healthy recipes edition of Cooks Illustrated, which is the magazine for staunch food geeks, run by Christopher Kimball who, I imagine, is much like the intimidating, giant green head version of the Wizard of Oz.

In this issue, the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen basically took a bunch of common dishes and “healthified” them.  That’s my wording, not theirs.  Obviously.  It included things like oatmeal raisin cookies, brownies, spinach lasagna…and banana bread.

Banana bread.

I don’t like banana bread.  I like bananas.  I like bread.  But I don’t like them together, see.  I guess you could call me a bread segregationist.  I like bananas on bread.  But not even that much.  In fact, I think we should just call the whole thing off.

But Josh loves banana bread.  And so I feel compelled to make it for him, the same way that he lovingly and patiently tolerates my FoodTV obsession and my inability to fix my own computer.  The problem is, I don’t feel like I make good banana bread.  I mean, sure it’s probably passable.  But it’s not great. (This is the part where Josh adorably defends my banana flavored endeavors and reminds me that all I have to do is practice.)

Practice, eh.

So I’m making an effort to master the art of banana bread.  I figured that starting with a recipe from Cooks Illustrated wasn’t a bad way to begin, especially if it was a healthier bread.  One of the things I enjoyed about this recipe, besides it being pretty easy and quick to make, was that it called for roasting the bananas, which is something I wholeheartedly agree with, if you remember back to my roasted banana bars and roasted banana frosting.  The bread came out..actually, pretty well.  Had a good texture, good crumb, great color.  Not being an expert on flavor myself, I asked Josh—he loved it.  He thought the roasted bananas packed a much bigger punch than non-roasted ones and happily nom’d down a slice with a bit of butter on top.

Can this recipe be improved on?  Will it be out-awesomed by another recipe?  Stay tuned to find out.

Banana Bread
from Cook’s Illustrated Light and Healthy 2010, p.55

vegetable oil spray
4 large ripe bananas
2 large eggs
2 tsp  vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. unbleached flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
2 ounces fat free cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces and chilled

(the directions have been slightly paraphrased by me)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 325F.  Coat a loaf pan with the vegetable oil spray and set aside.

Bake bananas on a rimed baking sheet until the skins are completely black, about 20 minutes.  Set bananas aside to cool to room temperature.

Peel the bananas, then mash them with a potato masher in a small bowl until smooth.  Measure out 1.5 cups of the banana and discard the rest.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside.  In  large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together on medium-low speed.  Add the oil and cream cheese 1 piece at a time and mix about 1 minute further.  Slowly beat in the egg mixture and the mashed bananas until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 50-60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack and let cool 1 hour before serving.  It can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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2 thoughts on “Build a Better Banana Bread

  1. monet

    looks great! I’m a big fan of banana bread and I have a favorite recipe already, but I am also a big fan of all things CI. I’m going to try this – it’s definitely healthier than the one I make right now. Less fat and a whole lot less sugar.

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