Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cook's Country Ultimate Banana Bread?

I am always on the lookout for a good quick-bread recipe, especially banana bread. I LOVE banana bread. I am crazy for bananas. To me, they are the perfect snack or add-in. I love mixing them into my oatmeal and cereal. I love blending them into my yogurt. I love them in a peanut butter sandwich. I love them in pancakes and muffins, so it is not a stretch to see me mixing them up in a good ole fashioned bread recipe. Recently, I came across Cook's Country Ultimate banana bread recipe. While it did call for a little more work than I am used to for a banana bread recipe, I just had to try it. After all, they hailed it as the best recipe of the best. Plus, it called for caramelized bananas on top! Say, what? Yes, test kitchen folks, you have my attention.

So I planned to bake this banana bread to beat all banana breads this overcast and subdued Sunday. It just felt right. I wish I could tell you that upon baking this little bundle of buttery banana goodness that the heavens opened up, the angels sang, and all became wonderfully bliss in the world, but it didn't. The baby was fussy. The toddler was acting the diva. The young son had his video game blaring. All this, while I was in the middle of baking. I hear you asking yourselves, was the bread worth it?

First, let's take it from the top.

1. Start off with 5 VERY ripe bananas, as any self-respecting baker of banana bread knows; the darker the banana, the sweeter the fructose. You microwave them until they get very soft and a pool of juice collects at the bottom of the bowl. Strain the bananas through a fine-mesh strainer (or totally forget to, like I did). Then, reduce the banana juice to a 1/4 cup over medium heat on the stove. 

 2. Then, mash the bananas with NOT a pastry cutter as shown in this picture, but a potato masher (which I eventually used) until they are nice and smooth. Then, proceed to whisk in the melted, slightly cooled butter, eggs,  vanilla, and brown sugar.


 3. Once it is all whisked together, add it to the flour portion of the recipe that is in a separate and bigger bowl. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda before you begin with the banana mixture. Just combine it until only streaks of flour are showing. Do NOT over-mix. Fold in walnuts here.

 * - See the streaks of flour? 

4. Finally, pour and even out the batter in an 8"X4" pan that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. I use a wooden spoon to smooth over the top. Then, add banana slices from ONE FIRM banana (1/4" thick apx.) to the sides of the bread. Leave the center free of bananas to ensure that it rises properly. These test kitchen people are really smart!
I had an awfully small firm banana. It only did a row on each side. Next time, I will try to make two rows for each side.

5. Sprinkle the top of the batter, especially the bananas, with granulated sugar. I used a pinch of leftover brown sugar. Waste not, want not.

6. You are ready to bake. After baking for 55-75 minutes ( I know right? Check.Check. Check.), your bread will come out looking just lovely. Just look at those banana slices! Nice touch. Love it!

7. Allow bread to cook on a rack. Then, slice.

The verdict:

While I did love the caramelized bananas on top of the bread, the bread was just so-so for me. Don't get me wrong, I will still eat it, but I think when you claim something is the ULTIMATE of anything then it better know your socks off (okay, I was barefoot, but you know what I mean). This  recipe didn't do that. It was not popping with the banana buttery goodness I am used to. In fact, my favorite go-to recipe is still safe, because not only is it easy, but it bursts with banana buttery flavor. I do love the caramelized bananas on top, though. I am going to incorporate that part into my recipe. I just don't want to go through the extra trouble that the Cook's Country recipe calls for. If it was the ULTIMATE, then I would, but it's not, in my ever-so humble opinion.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think. Maybe, it was just me. Nah.

J/K. Let me know.

Until next time, good people.

1) I should have used my frozen blackened crazily speckled bananas. They may have boosted the banana flavor more than the overly-ripened ones I had in the fridge.  See the Cook's Country note regarding this in their recipe. 
2) I used my grandma's old loaf pan. It is better than ANY pan I have in my kitchen. Bar none. Bread slides out easily and bakes perfectly every time. 
3) A lot of baking recipes call for "bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean". I usually under bake by a FEW minutes than this. The pans stay warm for a while, so the bread (or baked good) is still baking even while it is cooling. I proceed with the cooling instructions as written though.
4) In retrospect, I think I should have toasted my walnuts a little more...


Shelby said...

I like the concept! The bananas and the sugar topping :) However, if you say the flavor of the bread wasn't ultimate - I would believe you! :) You should try this with your favorite banana bread recipe! The topping part is pretty original. I haven't seen that one yet!

Dragana said...

I would like you to try my recipe I adapted from my mother-in-laws. It's really good and not half the trouble as this one!