Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chunky Banana Bread

Who says you need overripe bananas to make banana bread?

Overripe bananas are not appealing to me. I like my bananas when they're nice and firm. A little green is ok. Brown spots are generally not. When a banana has accrued brown spots I consider it past its prime and won't touch it. Except for baking purposes, that is. But the idea of using a regularly ripe banana for banana bread didn't come from wrestling with my personal food philosophy. It was, like so many other kitchen discoveries, an accident.

The last time I made banana bread, I had two brown, mushy and thoroughly icky bananas to use up. And the recipe called for three. Of course I contemplated reducing all of the ingredients by 1/3, but the idea of calculating out 1 1/3 eggs was not appealing. My eyes wandered over to the bunch of new bananas sitting in the next room. I threw caution to the winds and tossed one into the bowl. Forty minutes later, I found myself with some of the best banana bread I'd ever had!

I think recipes call for overripe bananas because they devolve into a smooth mush without much trouble. The recipe I use, from the superbly creative Alton Brown, calls for using a potato masher to mash the bananas. Even firmer bananas mash down into a decently liquid pulp. Yes, there are some solid chunks left, but that's exactly what made the bread so good! This isn't your typical smooth batter bread - between the chunks of banana and the liberal sprinkling of miniature chocolate chips, it has character. And this character is quickly becoming a staple in my household.

Chunky Banana Bread
Lightly adapted from Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food.

Weights are included with the measures because Alton Brown believes that accurate measurement creates consistency, and weight is the only truly accurate way to measure most ingredients.

3-4 ripe bananas (340 g)
1 c sugar (210 g)
1 2/3 c flour (220 g)
1/3 c oat flour (35 g)  (I had a really hard time getting my hands on this stuff, but I have a suspicion that you can make it by grinding rolled oats to a fine consistency)
1 tsp baking soda (6 g)
1 tsp salt (6 g)
8 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (6 g)
1 c miniature chocolate chips (to taste, of course - this is a rather liberal amount of chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a miniature loaf pan (or a regular-sized one - this will change the baking time). Put bananas and sugar into a large mixing bowl and mash together with a potato masher until smooth. (You'll know when it's smooth - the mixture suddenly gets surprisingly goopy, like in the picture below.)

Combine butter, eggs and extract in a separate bowl, then mix with bananas and sugar. Whisk flours, baking soda and salt in another bowl, then add to the wet mixture. Stir until the batter just comes together. (Do not overmix! This will start to develop the gluten structure of the flour, creating a tougher bread.) Fold in chips.

Pour batter into pan. For mini-loaves, bake for about 30 minutes. For a regular-sized loaf, bake 50 minutes to one hour. Either way, the internal temperature should be 210°. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then move to a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.

I like doing the mini-loaves because they freeze well. I'll toss about half of them into tupperware and put them into the freezer. I started doing this because they tended to get moldy before we were able to finish a whole batch (a sad side effect of moist baked goods). Freezing them helps ensure they are still good when we want them. It can also be a nice surprise to come upon them in the freezer weeks later!

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Looks amazing! I want to try it!
    I love Alton Brown. :-)
    ~Christine A~