Like chocolate chip cookies, banana bread has adherents of several schools of thought. On one hand, there are those that believe that a good banana bread should be more like a bread: dense, slightly chewy and not very sweet. On the other end of the spectrum there are those that like a sweet, moist, cake-like crumb. That's not even getting into all the things people add, like nuts, chocolate and dried fruit.
For me, the perfect banana bread is very moist, with a dense, tender crumb that actually tastes like bananas. Because I tend to eat it as a breakfast food, I don't like the bread to be too sweet, but I do love having sweet morsels of chocolate tucked away in the bread just waiting to be discovered.
To get the great banana flavor with mild, natural sweetness, I always use very ripe bananas with only a small amount of dark brown sugar. I actually hate eating the fruit once they develop even one brown spot, so I often only have 1 or 2 off the bunch before I'll stop eating them. Given the natural ripening proecss of bananas they quickly become suitable banana bread material.
If you're impatient and want to make them ripen faster, dab a bit of alchohol on the cut stem then put them in a brown paper bag. This promotes the natural accumulation of ethylene gas emitted by the ripening bananas which further accelerates ripening. This gas is so effective you can actually hasten the ripening of other fruits and vegetables by adding them to the bag with the bananas.
To get a nice dense crumb that's not too heavy, I use more bananas, less butter and a buttermilk/baking soda combo for some extra lift. Together with the lemon juice mashed with the bananas, the buttermilk not only helps the bread rise, but it also adds a mild tang that I like. The other benefit of adding the lemon juice is that it keeps the bananas from turning the cake an unappetizing gray color.
The chocolate is of course optional, but for me it's what makes the cake. I'm not a huge fan of nuts in baked goods, but if you love walnuts of pecans or even pistachios, have at it:-)
- Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and sugar a 9" loaf pan.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips together in large bowl
- In a medium bowl, melt the butter and allow it to cool a little. Measure out the buttermilk and vanilla into a small bowl. Add the egg yolks to the melted butter and the egg whites to the buttermilk. Whisk each seperately until smooth and creamy. Add the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture and whisk to combine.
- Mash the bananas with the back of a fork with the juice of half a lemon. Add this to the liquids and stir to combine.
- Dump the liquids into the dry ingredients then gently fold it all together until most of the big lumps of flour are gone. You don't want to over-mix it and it's okay if there are some small bits of flour left. Put it in your loaf pan and gently even off the top.
- Put it in the oven until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Allow it to cool on a rack in the pan.