That's right, I said Part III. And technically, it should be Part IV or V, but I haven't been keeping very good track. I obviously make a lot of banana bread. Specifically, I make a lot of Betty Crocker's banana bread, but certainly not because I'm stuck in a rut.
I tried a Jamaican Banana Bread with a coconut-rum glaze even before I started documenting my culinary adventures here. It was good. Then I tried Banana-Oatmeal Coconut Crumb Muffins. They were also pretty good. I've even made Bananas Foster Bread, which should have been the most incredible loaf ever but it was just ok. No matter what, I keep coming back to Betty's recipe because it's hands down, no contest the best I've ever had.
When I found this Ultimate Banana Bread recipe from America's Test Kitchen on The Feed, I began to wonder if they possibly could have topped my favorite recipe. And actually, since I worship at the ATK altar, I was sure they had. But sadly, that wasn't the case. I love you, ATK, but even with the innovative approach (microwaving bananas to release their juices?!) and the promising pictures, you couldn't beat Betty.
It's not that this recipe wasn't good. It's a perfectly fine loaf of banana bread. But it doesn't rise as high, it's not as dense and moist, and the crumb isn't quite as sweet as my go-to recipe.
Ultimate Banana Bread
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ripe bananas
1 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
Place bananas in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high until bananas are soft and have released their juices, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine mesh strainer, place over medium bowl, and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (You should have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid.)
Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle sugar evenly over loaf (I used a coarse vanilla-almond sugar I picked up on my last visit to the Mars Cheese Castle!).
Bake until toothpick (or skewer) inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 50 minutes (or 55 to 75 minutes if you have properly calibrated ovens like ATK). Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.