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My Ultimate Banana Bread

August 29, 2006

Banana Bread

I have been diligently working out this month. This means one thing: Food Network TV! Yes, I only get to watch cable at the gym. I try to plan my treadmill time around Good Eats, but I'll watch pretty much anything on FoodTV. Except Rachael Ray. I tried to give her a chance, but the perkiness, the perky, perky acronyms - it's too much. Bobby Flay is an incredible jerk but just watchable, and I admit I find Emeril rather charming. Sandra Lee is a slow, mesmerizing train wreck of entertainment, and Ina Garten is sweet. Michael Chiarello is a little insufferable, but I can't help but love his menus. Even dumbed-down food programming is enough to keep me going at the gym; it gives me something to work out for!

And then a couple days ago I saw Tyler's Ultimate for the first time, immediately enchanted by the huge honkin' meatloaf he was putting in the oven, lovingly lingered over by the camera. The camerawork on that show is lovely and cinematic through whorls of steam and filtered sunlight, and I am in love with that blue brick wall in his kitchen. Kitchen porn, that's what this one is.

But as luscious as Tyler's meatloaf looked, I found it typically grating of the Food Network to have a show called "Ultimate" anything, where their poor star has to come up with an "ultimate" recipe every single episode. How can you call anything the "Ultimate," in the world of cooking and taste? My ultimate anything is just that - mine. Might not be yours. Just mine.

I had that in mind yesterday as I was working over my recipe for banana bread. Some people think the ultimate banana bread is simple and wholesome - bananas, whole wheat flour, no sugar. Just plain bread. Others feel it should be super sweet like a cake with a light, fine-crumbed texture.

Banana Bread

None of these for me. No sir. In the world of banana bread, my ultimate is the heavyweight version, the one so loaded with banana it's more properly a banana loaf, heavy with the weight of mashed fruit. It's the gussied-up version, with two kinds of flour, two kinds of sugar, pineapple, cream of coconut and roasted nuts. It's buttery and soft with a caramelized outer crust. No butter needed with this bread; a slice will hold you all morning.

This is my ultimate banana bread. What's your ultimate - banana bread or otherwise?

Banana Bread

I am giving you a pretty big quantity, here. This makes three generous loaves, suitable for eating out of hand, freezing, or giving away to people you really, really like. Since it's so moist it will keep for a few days.

Faith's Ultimate Banana Bread
Original recipe based on Mark Bittman's in How To Cook Everything. Many alterations have subsequently occurred, obviously.

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 eggs
4 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 scant teaspoons salt
6 teaspoons baking powder
10 very ripe bananas
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple
1 15 oz. can cream of coconut, like Coco Lopez
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups of roughly chopped toasted nuts - I use mostly hazelnuts, with some pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease three standard 9x5 loaf pans.
2. Toast the nuts, if you haven't already.
3. Cream butter and sugars in a large bowl.
4. Mix in eggs.
5. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
6. Mash bananas thoroughly in a third bowl and stir in pineapple, cream of coconut, and vanilla.
7. Fold the contents of all three bowls together in the largest bowl you're using.
8. Fold in the nuts.
9. Pour batter into the prepared pans.
10. Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes.
11. Let the bread cool on a rack and turn out of the pans after about fifteen minutes. Let cool almost completely before slicing. The bread will be very dense and moist.

Posted by Faith at 29 August 2006

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This looks incredible. I very much in favor of the coconut and I love the idea of the pineapple. My version of banana bread includes macadamia nuts and is baked in the form of muffins, rather than a loaf, however I think the muffins are prone to winding up too dry. I may have to loaf it the next time.

Question. Exactly how ripe are your bananas? I ask because several years ago I heard a theory from someone who insisted that unless the skins are completely black, there is no point. This person was adamant that the bananas are completely mushy. I've been saving bananas that turn black in my freezer and when I get enough I plan to experiment.

Posted by: Grant at August 30, 2006 01:21 PM

I've been always reluctant towards banana cakes but this time I will surrender:)

Posted by: gagatka at August 30, 2006 01:25 PM

Thanks Grant! These particular bananas were very, very, very ripe. Mostly black. One might even have gotten a little sour - which is not so good. I like bananas that pretty much mash themselves. I dump any that get overripe in my freezer, too, and when they've grown into a heap I make a big batch of this.

gagatka, I am glad that it might overcome your reluctance... ;-)

Posted by: faith at August 30, 2006 01:34 PM

Oh my lord, that looks absolutely amazing. I'm right there with you on the moist, dense, nutty banana bread. Next time I have a bunch of overripe bananas, I'm going to make some and freeze it in individual slices. I don't even want to begin to imagine the nutritional stats on this recipe. Any idea how many slices you get out of a loaf??

Posted by: Becke at August 30, 2006 09:13 PM

Becke, the nutritional stats on this would be quite outrageous, I think. Saturated fat out the wazoo.

So individual slices are a great idea. Cuts down on temptation... I think I got about 10 slices out of each loaf; they don't have to be too thick.

Posted by: faith at August 30, 2006 09:50 PM

She really, really likes me!

Thanks for the bread, no, you're right, the loaf, Faith.


Posted by: Ann Rannebarger at August 30, 2006 11:45 PM

Lots of drooling. Faith this is soooooooo good. Ill definately try it this weekend.I have made bananna bread with nuts but adding pineapple seems a good idea. One thing I want to know is how to store this bread. I mean not for long duration. I dont want to freeze. I want to know how you would store this bread for say 2-3 days. ;) dont think it will last that long. Do I store it in an airtight container on normal temperature or in fridge. I live in a moderately cold area.

Posted by: shi at August 31, 2006 01:38 AM

Hi there
I finally made this bread but with few modifications. Since I could not find coconut cream I used coconut milk and also used crushed dark chocolate in place of the nuts. it turned out good. Thanks for the recipe. I have stored it in an airtight container in the fridge.

Posted by: shivani at September 6, 2006 04:25 AM

I bought bananas on Sunday, and have been letting them sit all week ripening - waiting patiently, oh so patiently, just so I can make this recipe ASAP. Soon. Very soon. :)

Posted by: Becke at September 7, 2006 05:52 PM

my friends always laugh when i tell them that i watch the food network while i am working out on the bike or treadmill. they ask me if that it defeats the purpose of working out.

i love, love, love Tyler Florence.

your banana bread looks great, i think i'll try it this weekend.

Posted by: barbie2be at September 12, 2006 12:20 PM

Shivani - great! I am glad it worked out well.

Becke - let me know how it turns out!

barbie2be, yeah, Tyler's a cutie. I figure that watching the Food Network gives me even more motivation to work out - running an extra mile, for instance, assures me that I don't need to eat just a plain salad for dinner!

Posted by: faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 12, 2006 01:46 PM

the most wonderful thing i have ever eaten actually came from tyler florence via my mom. :)
she made these crab cakes that were not only the ultimate crab cakes, but seriously the most delicious meal ever to grace my lips.
they were yummy lump cakes atop a celery root slaw (who would have thought?) with an accompaniment of a watercress salad with goat cheese and a roasted tomato dressing.
mmmmm. my mouth is watering just thinking about it!!!
i can't wait to try your banana bread. i have brown bananas and can't wait to cook! :)

Posted by: suzanne [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 5, 2010 04:53 PM

Great banana bread.Thanks for sharing.

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