Buttermilk Banana Bread

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:-)

2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 C chocolate chips (optional)

6 tbs butter melted and cooled
2 extra large eggs room temperature
1/3 C buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3 very ripe bananas
juice of 1/2 a lemon

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.

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ Elra

    Hmm, pistachios will be good!
    Look delicious Marc.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com Elra

    Hmm, pistachios will be good!
    Look delicious Marc.
    Cheers,
    Elra

  • http://www.slim-shoppin.com/ Jennifer

    Marc, I just tried making a new version of banana bread yesterday and it was a complete flop! Here was my recipe:

    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 egg whites
    1 container of yogurt
    1/4 cup ground flax seeds
    1/4 cup ground wheatberries
    2 TB. canola oil
    salt
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup chocolate chips

    I like banana bread like you, I prefer moist over chewy. This turned out chewy, almost hard! I actually threw it out. Now that I think about it, I didn’t add any baking soda, I wonder if that made a difference??

    Anyway, I will try to make yours!! It looks fantastic!

    • marc

      The lack of baking soda/powder is almost certainly the reason why your bread was so dense. While you have some egg in there, it just isn’t enough to raise a bread/cake with this much fruit in it.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that the more you mix it the more gluten will form which means it will be more chewing/tough. For banana bread (like pancake batter), you want to mix until it’s all moistened and there are no huge lumps of flour, but it should still be very “chunky”.

      • http://www.slim-shoppin.com/ Jennifer

        Thanks for the tips Marc! I’m going to redo the recipe now!

  • http://www.slim-shoppin.com Jennifer

    Marc, I just tried making a new version of banana bread yesterday and it was a complete flop! Here was my recipe:

    2 cups all purpose flour
    2 egg whites
    1 container of yogurt
    1/4 cup ground flax seeds
    1/4 cup ground wheatberries
    2 TB. canola oil
    salt
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup chocolate chips

    I like banana bread like you, I prefer moist over chewy. This turned out chewy, almost hard! I actually threw it out. Now that I think about it, I didn’t add any baking soda, I wonder if that made a difference??

    Anyway, I will try to make yours!! It looks fantastic!

    • marc

      The lack of baking soda/powder is almost certainly the reason why your bread was so dense. While you have some egg in there, it just isn’t enough to raise a bread/cake with this much fruit in it.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that the more you mix it the more gluten will form which means it will be more chewing/tough. For banana bread (like pancake batter), you want to mix until it’s all moistened and there are no huge lumps of flour, but it should still be very “chunky”.

      • http://www.slim-shoppin.com Jennifer

        Thanks for the tips Marc! I’m going to redo the recipe now!

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Not a banana fan, but we used to make a lot of banana desserts at the restaurant, so I sort of had to suck it up! Anyway, Throwing the whole bananas in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and then using the pulp really intensifies the flavor:)

    • marc

      Great idea Jenni, kind of like roasting mid-winter tomatoes:-)

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Not a banana fan, but we used to make a lot of banana desserts at the restaurant, so I sort of had to suck it up! Anyway, Throwing the whole bananas in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and then using the pulp really intensifies the flavor:)

    • marc

      Great idea Jenni, kind of like roasting mid-winter tomatoes:-)

  • http://www.sevenspoons.net/ tara

    Gorgeous texture on your bread; and as bananas are a favourtite around here, I will be trying this one this weekend. That roasting idea from Jenni sounds interesting too.

  • http://www.sevenspoons.net tara

    Gorgeous texture on your bread; and as bananas are a favourtite around here, I will be trying this one this weekend. That roasting idea from Jenni sounds interesting too.

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ pigpigscorner

    I love banana bread! And great tip on the ripening.

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com pigpigscorner

    I love banana bread! And great tip on the ripening.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    There are so many recipes for banana bread out there that I’m ken to try them all. I like the addition of buttermilk…at some point I need to try this. Thanks Marc.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    There are so many recipes for banana bread out there that I’m ken to try them all. I like the addition of buttermilk…at some point I need to try this. Thanks Marc.

  • http://www.veggiebelly.com/ veggiebelly

    Very nice! I love the buttermilk in this.

  • http://www.veggiebelly.com veggiebelly

    Very nice! I love the buttermilk in this.

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com/ Daily Spud

    Lovely version Marc – I’d love some for breakfast (and, hey, you still have the option of dousing it in rum if you like :) )

  • http://www.thedailyspud.com Daily Spud

    Lovely version Marc – I’d love some for breakfast (and, hey, you still have the option of dousing it in rum if you like :) )

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com/ Hayley

    This bread sounds wonderful, and exactly how I like it. I will definitely try that roasting tip. Thanks!

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com Hayley

    This bread sounds wonderful, and exactly how I like it. I will definitely try that roasting tip. Thanks!

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/oohyum Kristina

    Yummo, this looks fantastic! I absolutely adore the banana-chocolate combo. I wonder if it would work if I used 3 tbs of regular butter and 3 tbs of peanut butter?

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/oohyum Kristina

    Yummo, this looks fantastic! I absolutely adore the banana-chocolate combo. I wonder if it would work if I used 3 tbs of regular butter and 3 tbs of peanut butter?

  • http://maplencornbread.blogspot.com/ Jennifer

    I love a good banana bread and like you only use super/over ripe bananas!

  • http://maplencornbread.blogspot.com/ Jennifer

    I love a good banana bread and like you only use super/over ripe bananas!

  • http://www.foodgal.com/ Carolyn Jung

    I’ve heard about the banana in the bag trick. But never heard about the alcohol part. Very interesting!

    If I have a bunch of bananas that get too ripe, I usually freeze them, peeled, in plastic bags. That way, I always have a ready supply for baking banana bread or for making killer, creamy smoothies. Yum!

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    I’ve heard about the banana in the bag trick. But never heard about the alcohol part. Very interesting!

    If I have a bunch of bananas that get too ripe, I usually freeze them, peeled, in plastic bags. That way, I always have a ready supply for baking banana bread or for making killer, creamy smoothies. Yum!

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    I love bananas and chocolate!

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    I love bananas and chocolate!

  • http://www.kibelesofrasi.com/ banu gökşin – tule – istanbul

    cake delicious looks…

  • http://www.kibelesofrasi.com banu gökşin – tule – istanbul

    cake delicious looks…

  • http://www.whatdoiwant2cooktoday.blogspot.com/ Jan

    Banana bread sounds and looks good! Chocolate makes it even better!

  • http://www.whatdoiwant2cooktoday.blogspot.com Jan

    Banana bread sounds and looks good! Chocolate makes it even better!

  • http://www.palatetopen.com/ Jen

    SO many good tips in this feature! May I please have a slice with my morning tea?

  • http://www.palatetopen.com Jen

    SO many good tips in this feature! May I please have a slice with my morning tea?

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com/ The Duo Dishes

    That’s it! We’re making banana bread stat!

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com The Duo Dishes

    That’s it! We’re making banana bread stat!

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com/ Stacey Snacks

    Marc,
    You bake too?
    Your photos are amazing lately.

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com Stacey Snacks

    Marc,
    You bake too?
    Your photos are amazing lately.

  • Pingback: Ultimate Buttermilk Recipe Repository « Pink of Perfection

  • http://www.bestbreadmachines.org/read-this-breadman-tr2500bc-review-before-you-buy.html Karen19

    I really love banana stuffs and I like your recipe.

  • Sari

    mmm I'm eating the fresh results!

    I added 1/4 c plain yogurt and 1/4 c ground flax seeds; skipped the chocolate but added 1/4 c chopped pecans. I also added a bit too much soda & powder – 1 tsp each (I grabbed the wrong measuring spoon) but there doesn't seem to be a negative result here.

    I also baked the bananas slightly, 20 min at 250 (was cooking something else at that temp) on advice of an earlier poster; I think that really did bring out the banana-yness! Love it!

    The flax adds a nuttiness I like. I think next time I might try 1 3/4 c flour + 1/2 c ground flax. Has anyone tried whole wheat flour with this recipe, or other types of flour in general?

    • http://profiles.google.com/mikeross48 Michael Ross

      Sari – Did you add the yogurt in addition to the buttermilk, or instead of it? If you tried the 1-3/4 flour + 1/2 cup ground flax, which proportions of buttermilk and/or yogurt worked best?

      Many thanks,

      — Mike in San Jose, Calif.

  • norecipes

    Thanks for the great ideas Sari! I've never tried flax in it but it sounds
    delicious. As for whole wheat flour, I have done it, and it get a nice nutty
    flavour.

  • KD

    Gomensai..I was for sure doomed from the get go: oven decided to go into clean mode; it’s time to replace said oven. There I was w/banana bread in hand & no oven (unless I wanted charred banana bread). I was not happy.
    Lo! My toaster oven saved the day.Good results, altho I had to stay present & monitor the oven, testing to make sure it was done. Delicious….Question Sensei: why separate the eggs?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yikes! sounds like a harrowing experience. Glad to hear it all worked out in the end! The reason for separating the eggs is because the yolk is a natural emulsifier (allows oils and water to mix). By combining the yolk with the butter and then adding the mixture to the buttermilk, it allows you to distribute the butter more evenly rather than having it all clump up and separate.

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