Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kitchen Adventure: Banana Bread

 When you think about banana bread what comes to mind?

To me, banana bread's key qualities are it's moistness and richness of flavor.  When I bite into a piece of banana bread, I think it should be delicately moist with a delicious rich banana flavor regardless of whether it's fresh out of the oven or room temperature.

Read on after the break...

It's not a true bread, because it doesn't use yeast as a leavening agent, and only became an American cookbook staple in recent culinary history. It's a quick bread that became popular in the 1930s with the advent of chemical leavening agents such as baking soda and baking powder.  It's relatively simple and quick, and most people have had banana bread at some point in their life.

It's also an easy recipe to mangle by substitutions, or incorrect measuring.  This is the recipe from Baking Illustrated, which strangely, calls for plain yogurt.

Step #1: Collect ingredients
I was slightly impatient so you'll notice that my bananas are not quite as brown as you might expect. Browner bananas will provide a sweeter flavor and allow the recipe to come together better with slightly less fat.

Step #2: Grease and flour the loaf pan for easy bread extraction!

Bananas pre-mashing

Pureeing the bananas will cause your loaf to not rise as high, according to Baking Illustrated, so you want to hand mash them with a fork.  You want to strive for thick, but without large chunks of banana.

Bananas post mashing: I still have a few chunks, so this
could have been mashed a little more

Once the bananas are mashed, the rest of the wet ingredients are added to the bowl, and then they are gently folded into the dry ingredients until just combined.  This step is very important because overmixing the batter will result in gluten forming and your banana bread becoming tough. Not really the ideal banana bread!

Ready to bake!

Post cooling and cutting

I was not overly impressed with my results from this banana bread. The crust was too dry and the flavor wasn't strong enough for me. I'm going to chalk this up to baker error because my bananas weren't brown enough and I had to change the cooking time because my loaf pan was 8.5", not the required 9".

Perhaps in the future I'll attempt this recipe with some browner bananas, but for now it's time to move onto some more recipes in Baking Illustrated!