ultimate banana bread

I know, I know, you don’t need to tell me that there are already four banana bread recipes on this site, plus four additional banana cakes, and that’s probably enough, right? Genuinely, I believed I was done too, that the Banana Baked Goods course at SK University* had been completed. But then a few things happened. After creating the pumpkin bread of my dreams and what I hope will be the last zucchini bread recipe you’ll ever need over the last couple years, it began to bother me that the banana bread recipes on the site lacked what these have: a towering height and a crunchy top that will be hard not to lift off in one giant tile and swiftly coat the underside with salted butter. So, I created one and I’ve been keeping it to myself for over a year because, see above: SK is probably at Banana Bread Capacity. But over the last few weeks of, well, not doing a whole lot else, I can’t help but notice that we’ve all been making a whole lot of banana bread. And I think you might like this one instead.

what you'll need, and yes, that's five bananasit will mash down to much lesstwo heaped cups of mashed bananasadd sugar, then eggswhisk in dry stuff, then flourfilled almost to the brim


Now, here’s the deal: You’re going to need 5 bananas. You might only use 4 but we are going to need 2 heaped mashed cups and that, for me, usually required part or all of the 5th banana. You’re not allowed to balk at the recipe using a full cup of sugar or two additional tablespoons on top — when you make a banana bread that’s 1.5x the volume of most, you need more of each ingredient (crazy, I know). You’re going to need to take a risk, that is to fill an exactly 6-cup (9×5-inch) loaf pan nearly to the brim and watch as the banana bread climbs to and even a little over it while it bakes. I’ve made this a few times and it’s never spilled over — you might want to put a tray underneath the first time, to play it safe because no matter how bored you are, I bet you’re not scrub-the-oven-just-because bored. You’re going to need to bake this for an hour, during which it will get quite dark on top but I promise, it will not taste burnt. And if you can bear it, you should wait until tomorrow to cut into it. It’s fine today but it’s excellent tomorrow. The top is as crunchy as a pretzel, the inside is plush and perfectly-crumbed, yet less squidgy than previous iterations. I can’t wait to make more.

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* Please note additional appendices of Banana Tarte Tatin in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Banana Bread Roll in Smitten Kitchen Every Day. No banana word yet on this baby.

Previously

Six months ago: Chickpea and Kale Shakshuka
One year ago: Essential French Onion Soup
Two years ago: Asparagus and Egg Salad with Walnuts and Mint
Three years ago: Cornbread Waffles and Mushroom Tartines
Four years ago: Sesame Soba and Ribboned Omelet Salad and Apricot Hazelnut Brown Butter Hamantaschen
Five years ago: The Consolation Prize (A Mocktail) and Baked Chickpeas with Pita Chips and Yogurt
Six years ago: Whole-Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Seven years ago: Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini
Eight years ago: Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toast Soldiers
Nine years ago: Spaetzle
Ten years ago: Irish Soda Bread Scones and Spinach and Chickpeas
Eleven years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Sauce and Bialys
Twelve years ago: Caramel Walnut Banana Upside Down Cake and Swiss Easter Rice Tart
Thirteen years ago: Mixed Berry Pavlova

Ultimate Banana Bread

Very key here is the size of your loaf pan because this will fill out every speck of it before it is done. Mine holds 6 liquid cups; it’s 8×4 inches on the bottom and 9×5 inches on the top. If yours is even slightly smaller or you’re nervous, go ahead and scoop out a little to make a muffin or two on the side. When making this for the first time, place a sheet pan underneath, just in case it spills over but I can promise you that in several tests, mine never has.
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup (190 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 slightly heaped cups (1.5 pounds or 680 grams) of mashed banana (from 4 large or 5 medium-large bananas)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) raw or turbinado sugar (on top)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 6-cup (9×5-inch) loaf pan (see note up top if yours is smaller) or coat it with a nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Melt butter in a large bowl and whisk in brown sugar until smooth, then stir in mashed banana. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Sprinkle the surface of the batter evenly with salt, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), baking soda, and baking powder, and whisk until the ingredients are fully dispersed in the batter, and then whisk 10 more times around the bowl because it’s better to be overly cautious than to end up with unmixed pockets. Add flour and stir until combined. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. It should come to just over 1/2-inch from the top rim. Sprinkle the top of the batter with the raw sugar; it will seem like a lot but will bake up beautifully.

Bake banana bread for 55 to 65 minutes. It is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted into the bread is batter-free — be sure to check the upper third as well, near the rim of the pan; that’s where I’d find the unbaked pockets of batter hanging out. The bread will get very dark but will not taste burnt.

Let cool in pan. This banana bread is good on the first day but exceptional on the second and third, if you can bear to wait.

To store: Leave the banana bread in the pan, uncovered. Once cut, press a piece of foil against the cut side of the remaining loaf but leave the top uncovered — you worked hard for that crunchy top and should not sacrifice it to humidity. It keeps for five days at room temperature, possibly a week in the fridge, but it vanishes in two to three days, max, so you, like us, might never find out.

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