Banana bread is actually a bit of a misnomer as it's made with a baking soda-leavened batter, not a yeast-leavened dough. These are commonly known as quick-breads.
The riper the bananas are, the higher their sugar content, which minimized the amount of sugar you need to add. Ripe bananas are also going to give you a more intense banana flavor which is important because the other ingredients dilute the intensity of the banana. At a minimum, you want your bananas looking like the ones on the left, and as long as they don't have mold growing on them, even the ones on the right are fair game.
Like any cake, banana bread is a mixture of flour, sugar, fat, a liquid, and a leavening agent. For my recipe, I like using an all-purpose flour with relatively low gluten content. I used one that's 9% gluten; this gives you a little more leeway to mix the batter without making it tough. For the sugar, I use evaporated cane juice, which has a lot more flavor than granulated sugar.
Butter is my fat of choice for banana bread because it imparts a marvelous flavor, but vegetable oil or coconut oil would work as well. There's also a bit of fat in the yogurt and egg yolks which work together with the butter to keep the cake moist.
For the liquid, I use a combination of bananas, yogurt, and egg. If you've ever mashed up a banana, you know it's not really a liquid, but this is another reason why it's important to use overripe bananas. As the banana ripens, the starches turn into sugars, which frees up water molecules. This is just a fancy way of saying ripe bananas are more liquidy than unripe ones. The yogurt not only serves as a source of water, but it also adds flavor and helps leaven the batter (more on this later).
Finally, my banana bread is leavened with baking soda with a boost from the eggs. Unlike baking powder, baking soda needs an acid to react, which is where the yogurt comes in. This is the reason why a lot of biscuit and pancake recipes call for buttermilk (though I usually use yogurt instead).
When trying to give your banana bread a tender crumb, there are two important things to take into consideration. The first is that you need to add enough fat to the batter. In this recipe, the fat comes from the eggs, yogurt, and butter, but if you decide to substitute out these ingredients be sure to substitute them for other forms of fat (such as coconut oil).
The second thing is that you need to be careful not to overmix the batter. Once the wet ingredients are in, the gluten in the flour will start to form long chains, which is exacerbated by mixing the batter. Overworked batter will make a tough and chewy loaf of banana bread. This is why it's important to make each stroke of your paddle count as you fold the ingredients together.
Chocolate and bananas are a match made in heaven, so I love loading up my banana bread with chunks of chocolate. I also sometimes add cocoa powder to the batter to make a double chocolate banana bread.
I don't like nuts in my banana bread, but some people like to add chopped walnuts or pecans. This recipe can easily be converted to Banana Nut Bread by adding your favorite nut in place of, or in addition to the chocolate.
For the final variation, you can add some more fruit. Some ideas are sliced bananas, raisins, blueberries, or strawberries.
- ½ tablespoon cultured unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar
- 325 grams all-purpose flour (~ 2 ½ cups)
- 100 grams granulated sugar (~ ½ cup)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 160 grams chocolate chunks
- 85 grams cultured unsalted butter (6 tablespoons)
- 350 grams very ripe bananas (3-4 large bananas)
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
- Grease the inside of your loaf pan(with 2 teaspoons of butter or vegetable oil. Be sure to get into the corners. Add a tablespoon of sugar and shake it around to coat the bottom and sides of the pan evenly.
- Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together into a bowl and whisk the ingredients together.
- Microwave the butter on low power until it's barely melted. Make sure you don't boil the butter.
- Add the peeled bananas, yogurt, eggs and vanilla to a blender (or you can use a bowl and stick blendeand blend until smooth. You can also mash the bananas in a bowl and use a whisk to incorporate the other ingredients.
- With the blender running, pour the melted butter into the other wet ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold the mixture together until it's mostly wet.
- Add the chocolate and continue folding until there are no large clumps of flour. Be careful not to overmix the batter, or your banana bread will end up tough.
- Dump the batter into the prepared loaf pan(and flatten off the top.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out more or less clean.
- Transfer the banana bread to a wire rack and cool until you can handle it without mits. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool to room temperature on the rack.
My favorite variation: add a tablespoon or two of mild miso to the batter!
I love the taste of this but for some reason it always turns out extremely dense for me 🙁 The first time I thought maybe I put in too much banana (4 medium very ripe bananas, almost exact weight as mentioned (for 8 slices) but weighted without the peel).
This time I did everything exactly to measure again but put less banana in than last time. The batter was definitely thicker than it was last time. But- it turned out exactly the same again.
What could it be that I'm doing wrong? I'm careful about the folding as to not overmix the batter. I use a stick blender for the wet ingredients, and I weight the flour in grams and then sift it alongside the other dry ingredients, following the recipe to a T.
Admittedly I'm cursed when it comes to baking, but I wonder if there's something beyond that which I'm doing wrong?