Everyone Loves Classic Banana Bread—But Here's How to Make Yours Even Better
It’s not called a “quick bread” because it’s challenging to make. Banana bread is a relatively simple baking project that cooks of all skill levels can tackle. Of course, there’s a difference between a loaf of banana bread that’s technically not burnt and, by all accounts, edible—and banana-laden loaf that’s moist, tender, and generally delightful. A world of difference.
I’m no stranger to a dense, chewy, less-than-delightful brick of banana bread. I’ve produced my fair share of such loaves, because as easy as banana bread is to make, it’s also fairly easy to overlook the nuances that distinguish great loaves from the rest. And that’s not entirely your fault; there are a few keys that aren’t always written (or written clearly) into your favorite banana bread recipes. In some cases, it’s one of those “if you know, you know” situations.
That said, it’s high time we all knew.
The Keys to Great Banana Bread
Room Temperature Eggs
This is one of those cases where if the recipe calls for room temperature eggs, you should abide. And if your recipe doesn’t call for room temperature eggs, use room temperature eggs anyway. (Just take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes beforehand.) Eggs fresh from the refrigerator are going to be more difficult to mix homogeneously into your batter. Which could lead to overmixing…
You’ll often see this written into the headnote of quick bread recipes—and there’s a reason. This is the fastest route to an unpleasantly pliable quick bread. I don’t mean to be alarmist, I just mean to say, be conscious of this and mix your dry ingredients in by hand, versus using a hand or stand mixer.
Sift Your Dry Ingredients
This isn’t exactly essential (I realize, it’s an extra step that will slow down your quick bread), but it sure can help in your efforts to avoid overmixing, especially if you aren’t baking all too often. If you’re an infrequent baker, the chances that your flour and baking soda are a bit more tightly compacted and prone to clumping are higher. Not a huge deal, but if you’re noticing flour clump-age happening as you’re adding the dry ingredients into your batter, you’re more likely to address this issue with some heavy handed whisking to break everything up, so that it is evenly incorporated. That said, I bet you’ll break out that fine mesh sieve and aerate your dry ingredients next time around, Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Don’t Go Bananas With the Bananas
When it comes to the amount of banana you mash for your bread, try to stay as close to what your recipe calls for as you can. If your recipe calls for 3 large bananas (with an approximate cup-measure listed), and you add 3 ½ or even 4 medium bananas, it’s likely not the end of the world. However, if your recipe calls for 3 large bananas but you happen to have 5 or 6 overly ripe nanners sitting on your counter attracting fruit flies… I fully understand the temptation, but just don’t. Adding more bananas may deliver more moisture, but baking is an art of ratios. And when you add a load more moisture and sugar without adjusting anything else, you’re probably not going to end up with the results you’re hoping for.
Use the Correct Sized Loaf Pan
Do you know what size your loaf pan is? For the longest time, I didn’t. And as it turns out, it was a 9 x 5 x 2 ½-inch pan, which is 15% larger than what’s generally considered the standard size for loaf pans in the U.S. (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½); thus, it was generally always larger than what was called for in many recipes. And I always wondered why my banana bread turned out flat and meh while the loaf in the recipe photo had a beautifully risen, domed top. If you’re not sure about yours, bust out the measuring tape.
Do Not Overbake
We’re not talking chocolate chip cookies here, and nobody wants an underdone center when it comes to banana bread. That said, you also really want to keep an eye on your loaf in the last little bit of its bake time so that you can pull that sucker out the minute it’s ready. (A few moist crumbs sticking to your skewer are fine; as long as there’s not liquid batter, you’re golden.)
One trick I’ve found particularly handy, having never been a person who’s felt inclined to calibrate a rental oven: If you know/even suspect your oven runs hot, bake the bread at a lower temp for a little longer. This will allow the bread to bake through without over-browning the top and sides.
How to Bake It Up a Notch
OK, now that you know how to make a superior loaf of basic banana bread, let’s take it next-level. There are plenty of delicious ways to customize a loaf of banana bread, but these days, the following effortless additions are my go-to route:
GET THE RECIPE: Turmeric Banana Bread with Golden Turmeric Butter
The earthiness of this powerhouse spice is honestly just so right paired with densely sweet banana and a little bit of fragrant cardamom. This combo lifts banana bread’s comfy-cozy factor to impressive new heights, it’s as simple as that.
Nothing fussy here, just a sprinkling of lightly toasted nuts to add a little crunch, nutty flavor (imagine that), and visual intrigue. Mixing up a glaze is pretty and all, but a little more effort than I’m usually willing to invest once a loaf of banana bread is out of the oven. A sprinkling of nuts baked into the surface of the loaf is the perfect topper as far as I see it. I opted for pine nuts as a nod to sfouf, a Middle Eastern turmeric cake that often features pine nuts, but you could use any nut you like. Chopped almonds, pistachios, or pecans would all be tasty.
Golden Turmeric Butter
This gloriously hued, spiced compound butter was a suggested addition made by one of our incredibly talented test kitchen chefs, Liz Mervosh, when the recipe was cross-tested. And it’s such a worthwhile accouterment. It’s not required, but if you’re serving your Turmeric Banana Bread for company or taking it to a brunch, the Golden Turmeric Butter is an easy way to take your next-level loaf to an even higher plane of existence. Your company will be blown away, and—savvy cook that you are—you probably made a double batch because you have the foresight to know people are gonna want to slather this stuff on everything.