From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Coffee Break Sweets
Recipes for ultimate banana bread abound, but because they include an overload of bananas for flavor, the bread’s texture is often soggy. We wanted a moist, not mushy, loaf that tasted of banana through and through.
To impart lots of banana flavor, we needed to use a generous amount of bananas, but we needed to rid them of excess moisture. We turned to the microwave to help us out. We piled as many bananas in a bowl as we dared and zapped them in the microwave. Then we drained the now-pulpy fruit and mixed the fruit into a batter. We didn’t want to toss the flavorful liquid, so we reduced it and added it into the batter as well. Like a mock extract, our reduction infused the bread with ripe, intensely fruity banana flavor.
With the flavor problem solved, a few minor tweaks completed the recipe: We exchanged the granulated sugar for light brown sugar, finding that the latter’s molasses notes better complemented the bananas. Swapping out the oil for the nutty richness of butter improved the loaf further. We also added toasted walnuts to the batter, finding that their crunch provided a pleasing contrast to the rich, moist crumb. Wondering if the crust might benefit from a little embellishment, we sliced a banana and shingled it on top of the batter. A final sprinkle of sugar helped the buttery slices caramelize and gave this deeply flavored loaf an enticingly crisp, crunchy top.
Makes one 9-inch loaf
Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even black) bananas in this recipe. This recipe can be made using 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they can bypass the microwaving in step 2 and go directly into the fine-mesh strainer. Do not use a thawed frozen banana in step 4; it will be too soft to slice. Instead, simply sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar. The test kitchen’s preferred loaf pan measures 8½ by 4½ inches; if you use a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, start checking for doneness five minutes earlier than advised in the recipe. The texture is best when the loaf is eaten fresh, but it can be stored (cool completely first), covered tightly with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days.