Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Melanie J. Clarke
Recipe from Cooking Light

Category Winner: Desserts. "I have been baking banana bars with my mother since I was old enough to stir the batter, so I was pleased when I was able to lighten them for my family and still maintain the original flavor. I browned butter in a saucepan to enhance its richness, thus eliminating the need for full-fat cream cheese. This is a great way to use ripe, speckled bananas." —Lindsay Weiss, Overland Park, KS

Ingredients

  • Bars:
  • 2 cups sliced ripe banana (about 3 medium)
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 9 ounces cake flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Baking spray with flour
  • Frosting:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. 2. To prepare bars, combine banana, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes, stirring after 17 minutes. Cool slightly.
  3. 3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
  4. 4. Weigh or lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 9 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) flour, soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in another medium bowl. Place 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs to granulated sugar mixture; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  5. 5. Pour batter into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  6. 6. To prepare frosting, melt 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled bars. Sprinkle with pecans.
Lindsay Weiss, Overland Park, KS,
January 2009