Monday, February 27, 2012

Perfect Banana Bread

My post today is on banana bread.  Not just any banana bread, but the BEST kind – super moist, not too sweet, with rich banana flavor and toasted walnut pieces.  This recipe, originally created by Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, has been my go to banana bread recipe for probably about seven years.

Years ago when I lived in Boston a small place called Flour Bakery + Café opened in the far reaches of the South End.  This was a street that was practically barren of restaurants and food options, even though the surrounding streets had finally become slowly gentrified and had all sorts of young working professionals and families moving in.  When Flour opened it was a HUGE deal in the neighborhood.  So instantly welcome and well reviewed that I would walk the six blocks from my office to grab a quick sandwich or pastry – eat it in less than 5 minutes – and then walk back six blocks to keep within my lunch “hour”.

One of my favorite items on the menu, even for lunch, was their super moist banana bread.  So I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for it in a food magazine (I think it was maybe in Food & Wine) and was finally able to recreate an entire loaf at home for weekend snacking.  I quickly lost the ripped out magazine page with the recipe, but thankfully I’d transcribed the recipe into a notebook at some point.  However, last year Joanne Chang came out with a cookbook entitled Flour – Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café, and there is a complete (and improved) recipe for Flour’s Famous Banana Bread.  I bought the cookbook instantly of course… pre-ordered it before it even came out actually.  Now with the recipe safely in a hardbound cookbook with glossy photos I’ll never have to worry about losing it again.  And I can keep baking my way through the other amazing creations from Flour Bakery.  Flour’s Banana Bread - it’s a little piece of home, here in Chicago.

This post coincides with the Daring Baker’s challenge for February.  I chose to feature this recipe so that it would always be handy for me to find on the web if I ever needed to make it and was away from home! The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lis stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I have adapted the original Flour recipe over the years.  First – the recipe calls for crème fraiche or sour cream.  I usually don’t have either ingredient in the house and almost always make this banana bread on a whim so I don’t like to rush out to buy just one last minute ingredient.  I’ve found that whole milk yogurt (which I always have in the house) is a fantastic substitute.  Plain, Strawberry, Banana Flavored, or Greek – it’s all worked for me!

Secondly, while the original recipe just includes walnuts, when this is a weekend indulgence I usually add about a half a cup of chocolate chips to the batter before baking.  Or slice up some good bar chocolate.  Again – I’ve tried making it with semisweet, milk chocolate, bittersweet, and white chocolate - you just can’t go wrong.  Just use up whatever leftover chocolate pieces are in the pantry.

Finally, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have extremely ripe bananas to use in this recipe.  Not spotted – but totally brown bananas.  So I don’t have to plain ahead for this I usually (accidently) let a few bananas get over-ripe every few shopping trips.  When this happens I throw them whole and unpeeled into the freezer.  They keep for months.  When I want to make banana bread I just defrost them in the kitchen sink for an hour or so and they are perfect.

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
½ cup canola oil
4 very ripe, small to medium bananas, peeled and mashed (defrosted first if using frozen bananas).  Should be about 1 1/3 cups total.
2 tbsp whole milk yogurt (plain or any flavor, or substitute sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup walnut pieces, toasted and then cooled
½ cup chocolate chips or chopped pieces of chocolate (milk, semisweet, white, or bittersweet)

1) Preheat your oven to 325.  Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and keep aside.  Place a sheet pan in the oven (to catch any possible batter overflow) on a rack underneath the rack you’ll use to place the loaf pan on.

2) In a medium bowl add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir together well with a whisk and set aside.

3) Attach a whisk attachment to your stand mixer and beat together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 5 -7 minutes until at a “ribbon stage”.
With the mixer on slow speed slowly drizzle in the canola oil.  This step should take a full minute as you don’t want to deflate your batter.  Add the smashed up bananas, yogurt, and vanilla and mix on low speed until everything is just combined.

4) Remove the bowl from the mixer and BY HAND (so you don’t end up with a tough cake) fold in the flour mixture with a spatula.  Once it’s just incorporated fold in the walnut pieces and any desired chocolate pieces.  Pour into the loaf pan.

5) Bake for between 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning the pan 180 degrees at the half hour mark.  The loaf should be golden brown and when you touch the banana bread the surface should spring back slightly rather than cause a dent.

6) Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for half an hour and then remove it from the pan to cool completely.

Eat immediately, or once cool you can wrap this in plastic wrap and keep it at room temp for a few days.  The flavors only get better on the second day!   You can also freeze the loaf for a few weeks and then defrost at room temp.


  1. This looks great - I love the thought of using flavored yogurt in the bread.
    (I always keep a half dozen bananas in the freezer - it's amazing how many things they are good for!)

  2. YUM. I love banana bread, and this one both looks and sounds outstanding. Amazing job on the challenge.

  3. Your Banana bread looks great! I must try this recipe...