When our test kitchen set out to develop its best banana bread recipe, we obsessed over two components: 1) big-time banana flavor and 2) a moist (but not too moist) and tender (but not too tender) crumb.
Our action plan to achieve the first goal was clear: Add as many mashed bananas as a loaf can hold without turning into pudding. We determined this to be 1 ¾ cups mashed bananas—or, 3 to 4 bananas; by measuring the volume (and, if you’re an overachiever, weight!) of the bananas, the recipe yields more consistent, delicious results. To amplify the bananas’ banana-iness even more, we used all dark brown sugar, plus a hint of vanilla and bourbon (rum works, too, but we like bourbon best).
Now, onto that texture: Yogurt increases tenderness and using a whole-milk variety adds richness (yes, you can substitute a lower fat or strained variety in a pinch). We love the nutty flavor and breakfast-y vibe that whole-wheat flour adds, but you can use all all-purpose if needed; you can also use white whole-wheat flour in place of the whole-wheat flour.
To toast the walnuts, simply add them to a sheet tray, then roast in a 350°F oven for 10-ish minutes, or until deeply golden and fragrant; remove the skins if you want (swirling them around in a colander is our go-to method) and let cool completely before chopping. And if you want to use pecans (or peanuts or hazelnuts instead), go ahead!
Using salted butter to grease the pan adds another pop of flavor to the crust; if you don’t have any, just use unsalted butter instead. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing and serving.
This will keep for a few days, wrapped well, at room temperature. It will also keep for weeks, wrapped well, in the freezer. —Emma Laperruque
Test Kitchen Notes
This is one of Food52’s Best Recipes. In this series, our test kitchen sets out to create the ultimate version of your favorite recipes. Let us know on the Hotline if there's one you'd love to see next. —Food52
1 hour 15 minutes
Salted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pan
plus 1 tablespoon (173 grams) dark brown sugar
(131 grams) canola oil
(57 grams) whole-milk plain yogurt
pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups
(395 grams) mashed super ripe bananas (3 to 4 bananas)
1 1/4 cups
(160 grams) all-purpose flour
(90 grams) whole-wheat flour
(60 grams) chopped toasted walnuts
In This Recipe
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 ½x4 ½–inch loaf pan with the salted butter. (Note: You can also use a 9x5-inch loaf pan if it's all you have, but the loaf will turn out shorter, and will take less time in the oven.) Set the loaf pan on a rimmed sheet tray (this makes getting the loaf in and out of the oven a lot easier).
Combine the brown sugar, canola oil, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and bourbon in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the mashed banana and whisk again.
Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt in a separate, larger bowl. Stir to combine. Add the liquid ingredients to this dry mixture and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to gently stir until just combined. Stir in the walnuts.
Pour this batter into the greased loaf pan. Bake for about 75 minutes (rotating halfway through), or until a sharp knife or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Check in frequently toward the end to make sure you don't overbake.
Let the pan cool until it’s warm enough that you can comfortably touch. Turn out the loaf onto a cooling rack to cool completely, domed side facing up. Serve in thick slices.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.