The bananas in the fruit bowl always seem to ripen faster than we can eat them. Personally, I like a slightly overripe banana, one with lots of brown speckles on the skin. But once the ratio of yellow to speckle tips in favor of the latter, then it is time to make banana bread.
Let me say right off the bat that I am using the term ‘bread’ loosely. What I mean, more accurately, is cake, baked in a loaf pan. It’s a lovely cake, too; moist and tender, with a soft crumb and a rich, banana-spice flavor.
I suppose I have my husband to thank for the original version of this recipe, which comes from Mollie Katzen’s “Moosewood Cookbook.” He came to the marriage with a 1977 edition — in addition to his grandmother’s three beautifully seasoned cast-iron skillets and a pasta machine. (I hit the jackpot.)
I’ve made some changes to the banana bread over the years. Katzen’s recipe calls for melted butter; I use vegetable oil, which is (somewhat) more healthful, and, in my opinion, yields a lighter crumb. Katzen also coats her greased loaf pans with sesame seeds. I like sesame seeds but I find them intrusive here, so I leave them out.
But I do love Katzen’s inspired touch of adding one cup of strongly brewed coffee to the batter. You can’t taste it, yet it makes the cake really tender, and it adds a rich, round toffee flavor.
Do I need to toss in a bag of milk chocolate chips as well? Probably not, but boy do they complement that toffee flavor. I probably shouldn’t serve this to the kids for breakfast on school days, either, but I sometimes do; on those occasions, it becomes convenient to refer to it as bread rather than cake.
It’s an indulgence, I know, but at least it’s a homemade one.
See the recipe on the next page.
Domenica Marchetti is the author of “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” (Chronicle, June 2011) as well as “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy” (Chronicle, 2006) and “Big Night In: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian-Style” (Chronicle 2008). She blogs at DomenicaCooks.com.
Makes two loaves (24 slices)
My son, Nick, was a toddler when he first tasted this tender banana bread. He's about to turn 15, but this is still one of his favorite things to eat for breakfast or as an afterschool snack. This is a generous recipe, yielding two large loaves. Still, if you have a teenage boy in the house don't count on them lasting long.
Serve warm, with butter or apple butter. To drink: Cold milk, of course.
MAKE AHEAD: Serve one fresh and let the other cool completely, then wrap it tightly in aluminum foil, seal it in a resealable plastic food storage bag and freeze it for up to 3 months.
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pans
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (may substitute 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 cups whole-wheat flour), plus more for dusting the loaf pans
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup strongly brewed black coffee
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
12 ounces milk chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some oil to generously grease two 5- by 9-inch loaf pans, then dust them with flour, shaking out any excess.
Whisk together the 4 cups of flour, the salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
Stir together the mashed bananas and coffee in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
Combine the 1 1/2 cups of oil and the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well blended, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
Gradually and alternately add the flour mixture and the banana mixture to the beaten egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour one. Do not overmix, or the batter will be tough. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans, smoothing the surfaces. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before removing the bread from the pans.