After making my second batch of this yeast-based banana bread, I realized I had forgotten what the quick bread version of banana bread tastes like. I began to fantasize that maybe the quick bread version tasted more like bananas than my yeast bread version and maybe I had made a terrible mistake in eschewing the quick bread in favor of the yeast bread. There is only one thing to be done in matters like these: make a quick bread banana bread and put it to the test. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “quick bread,” it refers to breads whose leavening agent is baking powder or baking soda rather than yeast. Since these breads rise in the oven rather than during a rising period prior to baking like yeast breads, they are called “quick breads.”)
First action item: locate a worthy banana bread recipe. Pulling several of my favorite cookbooks from the shelf, I read four banana bread recipes but decided I needed more banana bread insight. I consulted my favorite online source for recipes: Epicurious.com. I’ve said it before, but I love Epicurious because not only does their recipe catalog include nearly 20 years of Bon Appetit and Gourmet recipes, it includes invaluable reader comments and ratings. I rarely make a recipe exactly according to the recipe, so I like to read what other variations other readers have made and what worked (or didn’t work) for them. Scouring about eight different recipes and their respective comments, I learned that you really shouldn’t exceed 50% whole wheat flour unless you want to eat a hockey puck, yogurt can make banana bread rubbery and applesauce can be a good filler if you don’t have enough bananas.
In the end, I decided to make the Banana Bread from my Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook: Recipes for Cooking Together. The recipes in this cookbook have consistently proven themselves reliable and delicious. To boot, the ingredients in the banana bread recipe were all very standard and the method was simple. Per my usual style, I did a little tweaking: I substituted half of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour; increased the bananas; decreased the sugar; and added extra baking powder. And, probably more significantly, I measured the mashed bananas for the first time ever in my recent stint of banana bread making. In doing so, I realized that I am an extremely poor judge of banana volume, thus accounting for the reason I worried my yeasted banana bread didn’t taste enough like bananas—I had been using too few bananas.
The final loaf was moist, tender and tasted unmistakably of bananas. The teaspoon of lemon zest added a bright, delicate note and the sweet dates studding the bread made me wonder why anyone would ever dream of adding extra sugar. Could all this deliciousness really be packed into one little slice of bread? But wait…surely this wasn’t bread? This was more like cake. Cake? Bread? Bread? Cake? I’m not really sure. But it sure would taste good with a spoonful of freshly whipped cream.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying this banana bread is superior to the yeasted banana bread. You see, I’m convinced it’s really all about your banana bread preference and style. Sam prefers the yeasted banana bread because it is more bread-like, while I prefer this quick bread version because, well, I have a sweet tooth and it tastes more cake-like. So now you have two banana bread options on RunnerBeans, try them both and see which suites your fancy.
Bread or Cake? Whatever It Is, It’s Another Loaf of Banana Bliss (a.k.a. Banana Cakebread)
Butter for greasing
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp table salt
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 4 small bananas)
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chopped dates
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8½ -by-4-½ inch loaf pan with butter.
- Sift the flours, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to beat the butter with the sugar and lemon zest until soft and creamy.
- Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Repeat, adding the remaining flour mixture in two more batches.
- Mix in the eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Gently fold in the pecans and dates.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour (my loaf was in the oven for 1 hour 15 min and probably could’ve used an extra 5 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Turn out onto a plate and serve at room temperature.
Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma The Bride and Groom Cookbook: Recipes for Cooking Together Banana Bread (p 45).