This recipe is pure reto-classic straight out of 1950. No fancy additions. Nothing but sweet, mushy, over-ripe bananas, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, salt and baking soda and that’s it. I’m not joking, this really is Mom’s Best Banana Bread recipe, unaltered for that true down-home flavour.
Perhaps that’s the draw in these times, as we turn inward. A little taste of home.
The Beauty of Banana Bread
The true beauty of banana bread is that it takes produce past its prime and transforms it into something wonderful.
Growing up we wasted nothing, and I do mean NOTHING. Between the chickens in the backyard and the compost pile, everything organic that was not consumed by humans became a part of the food chain in one way, or another.
Bananas were not something we had every day, just sitting in a fruit bowl. Bananas were a planned purchase. Mom bought a BIG bunch of bananas once a month. First we ate them fresh in lunches and on our morning cereal until they began to brown. Then Mom might whip-up some Caramelized Bananas for dessert and serve it with vanilla ice cream or treat Dad to a Banana Milkshake. The next day or two any lingering bananas found their way to the freezer, where they would remain until it was time for her Best Banana Bread.
Mom’s Secret: Frozen Bananas
Mom’s secret isn’t so secret anymore. As a kid I always thought Mom put the bananas in the freezer to hold them until she was ready. Or because maybe she didn’t have enough bananas to make banana bread and needed to wait for the next round of bananas. While both reasons were legitimate, it’s not the whole story.
Freezing bananas helps to break down the starchy flesh of the fruit and make it sweeter and slightly syrupy. This intensifies the banana taste and makes your banana bread moist and deeply fragrant. More “banana-y” if you will.
If your banana bread BARELY tastes like bananas, could be your bananas simply are not ripe enough.
Which banana is the right banana?
If your bananas are slightly green, or just barley yellow, and firm; these are good bananas for school lunches and snacks, smeared with peanut butter.
If your bananas are yellow, and starting to get brown spots, and slightly soft; these are good bananas for Banana Cream Pie, Banana Nice Cream and more snacking. The brown spots indicate that the sugars are starting to become more prevalent.
If your bananas are mostly brown, with streaks of yellow and SOFT; these are prime bananas for banana bread! This is when I freeze.
Thaw. Measure. Mix. Bake.
The rest is pretty simple. No need to go into a long banana-fueled soliloquy here. Just thaw, measure, mix than bake.
This is a quick bread that relies on baking soda for its lift and that makes it INCREDIBLY forgiving. Butter and sugar minute kind of lumpy? Meh. Just a few “sugar nuggets” in your bread. (Personally, huge fan of the sugar nugget!) Little extra banana? No biggie. Bake longer. Richer, denser Banana Bread. Bananas not mashed very well? OH BOY, BANANA NUGGETS!
Relax. It’s not brain surgery, it’s Mom’s Best Banana Bread.
Pre-heat oven to 350⁰F (175⁰C). Prep two – 9 x 4 loaf pans with non-stick spray or smear liberally with butter. As an added measure to protect the bottom from burning, line with parchment paper.
In a bowl cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.
In separate bowl combine dry ingredients; flour, salt and baking soda. Measure and mash bananas separately and reserve.
Add dry ingredients to creamed sugar mixture – one third at a time – alternately with mashed bananas. Fold gently to mix.
Scoop into prepared bread pans, to approximately ¾ full. Sprinkle with course sugar if using. Bake at 350⁰F (175⁰C) for 40 – 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan. Once cool enough to handle remove to wire rack to cool completely before cutting. (If you can wait that long!)
If you like big, ballsy domed banana bread by all means use just one pan (preferably 9 x 5). Be sure to include the parchment paper on the bottom and place it to bake on a cookie sheet to further protect the bottom from scorching. Tent the pan with aluminum foil at the 40 minute mark, then return to the oven for another 20 – 25 minutes, to protect the top and sides from browning too quickly. Burnt crust will make your banana bread bitter on the outside and distract from your amazing baking skills. Bake well!
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.