Black speckled overripe bananas shout out to be converted into moist banana bread. If there’s a comfort-bread, then this is it. It’s popular with almost everyone, except banana haters like my husband, and once baked, freezes brilliantly. Stale banana bread (if it exists) is also great toasted. Toast it in thick slices in the toaster on a low setting, spread some butter for a truly marvellous treat.
It’s not terribly healthy as it does have white flour and sugar, but you can substitute half of the flour with a light whole-wheat flour (like atta), and half the sugar with coconut sugar or rapadura. This will make the bread a little denser, but delicious nonetheless.
There are many variations of banana bread and I can honestly say that I have tried at least a dozen different recipes. American ones tend to be sweeter and richer, Ina Garten has a lot more sugar, and Tyler Florence a lot more fat.
Banana bread must be made with overripe bananas, to get the fragrant sweet flavour. You can freeze left over bananas and use them once you have 3 or 4 tucked away. Don’t be alarmed by the black unappetising colour the bananas get to after freezing; they are perfect to bake with. This is what mine looked like after a week in the fridge.
More fat makes it more of a cake than bread. I generally prefer the former, as I want to eat it relatively guilt-free. In terms of the type of fat, recipes call for either oil or butter. The benefit of the former is that it makes the bread very moist, even if refrigerated, but butter undisputedly has the better flavour. I prefer the latter.
I have also tried a bon appétit recipe with mascarpone, and another one with sour cream. They were both very good, but I don’t often have either of these ingredients in my fridge.
Apart from the quantity, the type of sugar affects the result. White sugar will make for the lightest bread. At the other end of the scale dark brown sugar or coconut sugar makes for denser, albeit moister bread. The choice is yours. Use half and half of white and another type of sugar as a starting point.
I have tried recipes with buttermilk or soured milk (the best one from my Mexican friend Agueda) and ones without (Felicity Cloake in the Guardian). Buttermilk is a nice addition as it makes the overall result more moist and the bread seems to keep better.
Nuts, chocolate and spices
I always add nuts to my bread – nuts are good for all of us. Pecans or walnuts are my favourite, but cashews work well too. You can omit these, if someone has allergy issues. For die-hard chocolate fans a few choc chips thrown in at the end will always be popular, but they do make the bread sweeter.
Finally, several recipes add cinnamon or in the case of Dan Lepard’s healthier version, some mixed spice. I generally keep it simple, preferring the flavour of the banana to come through.