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
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
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
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 400°.
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.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
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.
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.
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.
These bars are delicious. The browned butter icing really added a deep rich flavor. They came out just slightly dry, next time I will check them at 18 minutes, and maybe roast an additional 1/2 cup bananas. The edges were more cake-like and the center pieces sweeter and more condensed which was actually a good thing for our different taste preferences. The icing seemed a little too thick and difficult to spread but it was sufficient to cover the bars. I will definitely make them again.
Overall, not bad, but not really what I wanted. To me, a "bar" indicates a dense cookie-type dessert to eat with your fingers. This was much more like a banana cake. It was tasty, but pretty much like banana bread with frosting. I was searching for a recipe to use up ripe bananas besides our usual go-to banana bread and muffins. Considering the time involved in roasting the bananas (which didn't make a difference in banana flavor that I could tell), I won't make this again.
Only made the cake, as I ran short on time. Used canned frosting, which was okay. Cake was quite delicious. As others have noted, roasting/carmelizing the bananas really adds to the flavor. Will definitely make again, but with modifications to try to reduce the sat. fat content. Just too high for our family!
SO GOOD. OH MY GOSH. I would eat these everyday if I could. So yummy and banana-y. My only complaint is that by the time you cut the pan up into 24 pieces, the bars are TINY. I am so glad the calories are so low, but it's probably because the bars are so small!
Unbelieveably rich & delicious; the end result tastes like butter pecan ice cream in cake form! Please note, a "bar" usually suggests something a little more dense, but these bars are really a banana cake through and through. That said, I thought the dish was excellent, but very rich so a little goes a long way. My only negative (not enough of one never to make again) was the number of bowls / pans this one took to make from start to finish so there was a lot of cleanup involved. I also needed to sub out two items: 1) I didn't have enough cream cheese (only ~1.5 ozs leftover) so I just added some extra (probably about 2-3 tbsp of low-fat buttermilk) to thin out the frosting in order to spread on the cake, and 2) I don't purchase premade powdered sugar (I make my own in a grinder). I didn't see any issues with either substitution for flavor / textue and the cake is truly stunning in flavor. More of a fall / winter dish, I will keep in mind for the colder months for sure. Enjoy!