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How do I make banana bread more banana-y?

How do I make banana bread more banana-y?
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  • How do I make banana bread more banana-y?

    Post #1 - May 9th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    Post #1 - May 9th, 2009, 12:03 pm Post #1 - May 9th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    I've been making banana bread for decades at this point. And whenever I see a new recipe that looks like it has potential, I'll try it. Why? Because no recipe I've ever tried has resulted in a bread that is REALLY redolent of banana. Oh, sure, most of them are identifiably made with banana. You wouldn't have too much trouble identifying the fruit. But I can't seem to find a recipe that reeks--in a good way--of banana. I'd rather not "cheat" and add banana extract/oil. However, as month after month becomes year after year becomes decade after decade, I'm getting desperate. It shouldn't be this difficult! Can anyone help? Thanks!
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #2 - May 9th, 2009, 12:13 pm
    Post #2 - May 9th, 2009, 12:13 pm Post #2 - May 9th, 2009, 12:13 pm
    I use a variant of the Cook's Illustrated banana bread recipe and have been very happy with it-however, I'm guessing the recipe isn't your problem (and, knowing you, you've tried this one anyway.)

    The key is really, really ripe large bananas. Bananas too ripe to eat - bananas you think you should throw away. Brown skins with maybe some yellow left, just before they start to get fuzzy - they should stink up your kitchen with banana funk.

    See if that makes a difference...
  • Post #3 - May 9th, 2009, 12:27 pm
    Post #3 - May 9th, 2009, 12:27 pm Post #3 - May 9th, 2009, 12:27 pm
    A. You're right. I tried it.

    B. You're still right--but you're wrong. I tried it. When the bananas get black, I just toss 'em in the freezer and pull them out when I feel banana-bread munchies. Now's the time. The bananas are defrosting. And black bananas help but they ain't the secret.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #4 - May 9th, 2009, 12:52 pm
    Post #4 - May 9th, 2009, 12:52 pm Post #4 - May 9th, 2009, 12:52 pm
    Ah - I've noticed that frozen bananas don't really work for me as well as the fresh ugly ones - they get too watery and disperse too much in the batter. I also make sure they aren't mashed too fine, so that there are chunks in the batter (this is, of course, making the possibly false assumption that my banana bread is banana-y enough for you.)

    I assume you've tried simply increasing the amount of bananas as well? I think I use a bit more than Cook's calls for, depending on what's going rotten at the time I make it...
  • Post #5 - May 9th, 2009, 1:06 pm
    Post #5 - May 9th, 2009, 1:06 pm Post #5 - May 9th, 2009, 1:06 pm
    I think the problem is that most recipes just don't use enough bananas. I use about 900 grams for a single loaf. Also, if they're watery drain them. Also try roasting them until they start to caramelize - on parchment or Silpat.
  • Post #6 - May 9th, 2009, 1:16 pm
    Post #6 - May 9th, 2009, 1:16 pm Post #6 - May 9th, 2009, 1:16 pm
    Trader Joe's sells slabs of dried bananas (the chewy ones, not the crunchy ones). I dice them and toss them into the batter in addition to almost-rotten fresh bananas. I guess this is a variation on Louisa's great advice.

    Bill/SFNM
  • Post #7 - May 9th, 2009, 2:07 pm
    Post #7 - May 9th, 2009, 2:07 pm Post #7 - May 9th, 2009, 2:07 pm
    Thanks, all, for the ideas. A couple of questions:

    First, my sense has always been that the blacker the banana (within realistic limits), the more fully developed the ester that is responsible for the scent/flavor. Is this so?

    Second, is there a consensus here about frozen versus "fresh," that is, do you all agree with Michele that ripe, unfrozen bananas are, in fact, the way to go?

    Third, I think Louisa's idea about caramelizing the bananas is a great one and I am inclined to spread my defrosted goo on a silpat and try the same thing. Good/bad idea?

    Fourth, 900 grams is probably two to three times the amount I use. I have no objection whatsoever to greatly increasing the volume but wonder what effect that will have on texture. My sense is that you must be using fresh bananas, Louisa, is that correct? Do you adjust the leavening or do you find the loaf is just denser than normal?

    (I like Bill/SFNM's idea but just don't have dried bananas in the house. Next time, I'll give it a shot.)

    Thanks again for the ideas...keep 'em coming!
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #8 - May 9th, 2009, 2:30 pm
    Post #8 - May 9th, 2009, 2:30 pm Post #8 - May 9th, 2009, 2:30 pm
    Gypsy Boy,

    I really love the intense flavor of Ruerto Rican maduros - really ripe (black) plantains, pan fried. Sweet and intense.

    This is just an idea, but how about 1) taking extra ripe plantains, peeling, chopping, and them pan roasting (or oven roasting), and then 2) cooling this mixture off before incorporating it into your regular banana bread batter before baking, giving your end result the extra flavor bonus of lightly caramelized bits of plantain? (Similar to both Louisa and Bill's suggestions.)

    :twisted:
    "Bass Trombone is the Lead Trumpet of the Deep."
    Rick Hammett
  • Post #9 - May 9th, 2009, 3:05 pm
    Post #9 - May 9th, 2009, 3:05 pm Post #9 - May 9th, 2009, 3:05 pm
    My technique involves a little of this and that already mentioned. I double the (black) bananas, first off. Fresh rotting nanners are preferable, but I've had success with frozen ones, as long as I fully defrost them and drain off the excess moisture first. I also add a Tbs of vanilla to the batter. Someone long ago taught me that the secret to improving just about any baked good is to double the vanilla - or add it when none is called for. This works a treat in banana bread, helping to define and point up the fruit flavor.
    As a mattra-fact, Pie Face, you are beginning to look almost human. - Barbara Bennett
  • Post #10 - May 9th, 2009, 9:35 pm
    Post #10 - May 9th, 2009, 9:35 pm Post #10 - May 9th, 2009, 9:35 pm
    In the past, I've creamed two bananas and added it to the batter, then I've mushed up 2 more bananas with a fork and folded it in. You kind of get the dual texture thing going on, banana flavoured batter and then the chunky bits peppered throughout. I always thought that it was pretty darn banana-y
  • Post #11 - May 10th, 2009, 6:59 am
    Post #11 - May 10th, 2009, 6:59 am Post #11 - May 10th, 2009, 6:59 am
    Just keep in mind if you add a lot more banana that sometimes the inside of the bread is hard to get done and might seems to be raw. I've made banana bread that is perfectly cooked all around but because the banana was so dense the middle seemed like it was not cooked.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #12 - May 14th, 2009, 3:59 pm
    Post #12 - May 14th, 2009, 3:59 pm Post #12 - May 14th, 2009, 3:59 pm
    Some thoughts:
    • Take your pre-measured flour and store it with an over-ripe banana for a day or so before you make the bread. It should absorb some of the banana-y odor/flavor
    • Pre-cook your banana by poaching it in butter or oil that you will then use as the fat in the bread.
    • Create a banana glaze for your bread.
    • Use flavors that complement the banana, rather than compete with it. http://www.foodpairing.be/FoodPairable.aspx?f=Banana might provide some guidance. For example, if your recipe calls for vegetable oil, you might want to try walnut oil.
    http://kitchenhacker.net: clever cooking. creative food.
  • Post #13 - May 14th, 2009, 10:05 pm
    Post #13 - May 14th, 2009, 10:05 pm Post #13 - May 14th, 2009, 10:05 pm
    While I'm not a food scientist, and this is just a guess... What are the chances that the heat of baking messes with what gives banana's there banan-yness. Would that be esters? Adding vanilla (and the ETOH) would in my limited knowledge be a plus to boost the flavor of your main ingredient by being the vehicle carrying the essence of the banana.
  • Post #14 - May 15th, 2009, 8:31 am
    Post #14 - May 15th, 2009, 8:31 am Post #14 - May 15th, 2009, 8:31 am
    What about adding a shot of creme de banana or some such liqeuer? Maybe it would have a similar effect as adding vanilla extract in a recipe.
    Last edited by viaChgo on May 15th, 2009, 9:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #15 - May 15th, 2009, 9:09 am
    Post #15 - May 15th, 2009, 9:09 am Post #15 - May 15th, 2009, 9:09 am
    Good point. There may be some alcohol-soluble flavors in there...
    http://kitchenhacker.net: clever cooking. creative food.
  • Post #16 - May 16th, 2009, 10:13 am
    Post #16 - May 16th, 2009, 10:13 am Post #16 - May 16th, 2009, 10:13 am
    Another possibility: Use different sorts of bananas. If you have some Cavendish bananas and some red bananas and maybe something else in there, the subtle differences in flavors may well accentuate each other.
    http://kitchenhacker.net: clever cooking. creative food.

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