I am, without a doubt, my mother's daughter. I am like her in so many ways, it's frightening. One of my favorite traits that I've inherited from my mom, is my undeniable desire to always play the role of the hostess. Not that I'm perpetually throwing fabulous dinner parties (though I see plenty of those in my near future), no, it's more about playing that "Suzy Homemaker" role and accommodating my guests. So when I received the joyous news that my best friend was coming to visit me in New York for a long weekend, I of course felt the urgent need to bake something from scratch- something that we could nibble on in the mornings when we were too, um... tired (certainly not hungover) to go out and grab breakfast. I always enjoy trying different bread recipes, but banana bread is by far my favorite. It's hard not to like it; banana bread is one of those classic, comforting crowd pleasers.
I go through these phases where I become obsessed with a particular type of food. Last winter it was coconut macaroons, this summer, barbecue. This past spring, however, it was all things banana. I think it all began with that fateful first bite of banana cake from Billy's Bakery. Seriously, I can not stress enough to you the divine essence of this cake. No joke, it made me weak in the knees, most likely due to the pillow of cream cheese frosting that sat upon it. If any of you reading this are from the New York area, you MUST go to this bakery. (I actually think their plain vanilla cupcakes are better than the ones at Magnolia, hands down). Anyways, throughout the course of my banana obsessed phase, I made several versions of banana bread- I don't know if I've ever actually made the same recipe twice. I guess I've been searching for that one perfect recipe, the one that beckons me every time I feel the craving for homemade banana bread coming on.
Now, I wish I could say that my quest for the perfect banana bread was over. But if I'm going to be completely honest with you, and I will always try to be, I'll have to admit that chances are, I will be googling "banana bread recipes" again at some point. Don't get me wrong, the recipe below is definitely worth trying. It has a chewy, sweet crust and dense, moist center, with plenty of banana flavor to go around. It was incredibly easy to make too, which is always a bonus. Maybe the problem doesn't lie within this particular recipe at all, or any of the other banana bread recipes I've tried this year for that matter. Maybe the issue here is that the banana cake from Billy's Bakery has set the bar too high, at heavenly standards, and perhaps, I should bring my expectations back down to, say, a humanly accessible level.
Banana Nut Bread
Recipe adapted from All Recipes
Tip: This bread is better the day after it's baked.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (try substituting 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour for a healthier option)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp, plus 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used a mixture of both)
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with the 1 tablespoon of butter. In a small ramekin, mix together the 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle the buttered loaf pan liberally with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and bananas. In a separate, smaller bowl, sift together the sugars, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir to combine. Add the nuts and stir again.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
Makes 12 servings