Max places his freshly washed hands upon the flour and measuring cups. I, still in the kitchen, type in “banana bread recipe” and watch from the corner of my eye. I’m expecting a definite go-to recipe to pop up at the top of my search results, much like it always does for classics like rice krispy treats or blondies.
He decides it’s time to get the eggs out from the refrigerator, which he does. He then looks over and waits patiently at the table as my eyebrows furrow and I squint at the ambient glow of my laptop screen. Did I type that wrong? I sift through and click and re-sift, then search once again and get nothing but flooded with random excessive information.
I mean, it’s not that complicated. It’s a quick-bread, for goodness sakes! And just because a recipe is deemed “standard” doesn’t mean it isn’t exceptional. Or perhaps being standard is the exception with recipes, currently.
I mutter, “I mean, really… How can there be this many variations on such a simply delicious thing like banana bread?”
Max has flour in a bowl, and I hear *whap* as he cracks the egg and drops it effortlessly into the mixing bowl. I quickly snap to attention, though slightly impressed by his skills (he’s only four and not a single shell). I move to him and pick one recipe at random based on basic (awful) search engine results. We begin testing.
Naturally this turned into a banana bread baking excursion.
The most frustrating portion of this particular project is that the differences are slight between recipes: vanilla or no vanilla, cinnamon or no cinnamon, nuts or no nuts, brown sugar or white sugar, 325 degrees or 350. Just between us, though, I think that last difference has to do with someone’s oven running a bit hot or perhaps them baking on a low oven rack. Or, maybe they used a different type of baking pan (glass versus nonstick yields a big difference, as you know). It happens, though. Back to testing.
I deciphered the recipes and compared the ingredients and quantities of each late at night. I have baked and tested those recipes worthy of breaking a few eggs, based on known working ingredient ratios for sweet quick breads.
We taste and rate the results.
I also gave a few recipes extra points for nuts and chocolate chips (That’s totally fair).
The resulting standard banana bread is soft, fragrant with bananas and has just a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. It doesn’t require any distinctive ingredients or fancy supplies and it allows room for further adaptation. It’s adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence and upon testing three times, has never done me any wrong, despite my inquisitive nature. It works no matter if I add one or two small handfuls of chocolate chips or a dash of chopped mixed nuts. It even works when I let Max measure my flour (use discretion there, though, I did help a little).
It works wonderfully every single time and it will always be delicious with unfailing certainty, which is all I ask of a banana bread recipe.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 (very) ripe bananas
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup nuts or chocolate chips for topping
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving
- Place oven rack in top third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly grease, or spray with cooking spray, a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
- Prepare dry ingredients: In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small bowl mash 2 bananas with a fork and set aside.
- Prepare wet ingredients: In a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer bowl), add remaining bananas and sugar. Whip bananas and sugar together using an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk for at least three minutes. Add butter, eggs, and vanilla, and cinnamon, mixing after each addition, scraping down sides as needed.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three additions, gently mixing until just combined after each addition.
- Fold in fork-mashed bananas, gently but evenly.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Give the pan a good rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.
- Bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
- Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes or so, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
Note: Serve slices lightly toasted and warm with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar