Ultimate Banana bread

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Want to fill your home with a warm scent  without candles?  Bake some homemade banana bread.  I made this in the evening, and I cannot describe how wonderful my house smelled as the banana was baking in the oven.  I can always tell when the bread is done.. just follow your nose!  I had 4 black bananas in the freezer and a recipe I have been dying to try.  Alright, so the ripe black bananas out of the freezer did not look very pleasing, but that is the kind of ripe bananas you want for making a good banana bread.  Sometimes I would buy extra bananas just so that I have a few left over to make bread.  So, I know you’ve got some a few tired looking bananas on your kitchen counter right now;  toss them in the freezer and when you have about 4 or 6 of them..make this!

I have tired countless of recipe.  Some of my favorite uses sour cream, but who has that handy whenever you need it?  When it comes to using up old bananas, you have to whip it up with simple ingredients.  My past results did not have enough banana flavor but was moist since used vegetable oil.  I wanted a recipe with a blast of banana flavor and chunks of it.  But I also wanted it to be moist.  The recipe from America’s Test Kitchen had the flavor I wanted but it was not as moist and I would like.  Next time, I  will try to substitute half of the butter with canola oil used in the recipe.  Hey, I like my butter since I don’t like greasy banana bread.  But guess what else is in the bread?  only a handful of dark chocolate chips.. hey, this monkey needs her chocolate.  Also, I put slices of bananas on top of the bread banana so you know what you are eating.  So, bananas on top of banana bread is like a red cherry on top of a delicious dessert.

Ultimate banana bread (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 ¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Place 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in the plastic with a paring knife. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cups liquid).

3. Transfer the liquid to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it’s reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir the reduced liquid into the bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in the walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle the banana slices on top of both sides of the loaf, leaving a 1½-inch-wide space down the center to ensure an even rise. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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