America’s Test Kitchen Banana Bread

I have been baking banana bread as far back as I can remember.  It was one of the first things I learned how to make by myself when I was a kid.  I remember pulling the steaming loaves out of the oven and being so proud of my creation!  They never lasted long, and to this day, banana bread is one of my favorite comfort foods.

This recipe is not the same recipe I used growing up.  It is a creation of America’s Test Kitchen and was introduced to me through a foodie friend at work who generously shared the banana bread she had made with the rest of the office.  Although I wasn’t fast enough to snag a piece out of her bread from the break room, she did provide me with the recipe.  After hearing the comments around the office, I knew I had to make it for myself. Seriously, this is the most banana-y banana bread I’ve ever had and it is so incredibly moist!  Don’t scoff at the little bit of extra work with the bananas because THAT is what makes it so incredible.  Just do it, you will be rewarded!

When selecting bananas, be sure to use those that are heavily speckled, or even black.  If you are one of those people who freezes bananas, this is YOUR recipe!! The darker the banana, the sweeter and more developed the banana taste will be.  A lot of grocery stores will even sell these “overripe” bananas at a deeply discounted price.  Yes, those mushy, black banana’s seem really gross, but trust me, you’ll be hoarding them in your freezer like they are gold once you’ve seen (and tasted) what they can do.

Ingredients:

1 ¾ Cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp table salt
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 Large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 tsp granulated sugar

**Note:  The photo below shows baking powder, which is NOT in the recipe…my mistake!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8 ½  by 4 ½ inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place bananas in a microwave safe bowl.  I used a round casserole dish with a lid.  You can use plastic wrap with a few cut steam vents to cover if you don’t have a lid, but personally I avoid putting plastic in the microwave.  

Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released most of their liquid, about 5 minutes.Transfer bananas to a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl and allow them to drain, turning the bananas occasionally for about 15 minutes.  You should end up with ½ – ¾ cup of liquid.  

Transfer liquid to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about ¼ cup.  Liquid should be light caramel color and thick, almost as thick as syrup.  I stirred mine pretty vigorously and ended up with some bubbles, but you get the idea.

Remove from the heat and stir this reduced liquid back into your mashed bananas and mash everything together with a potato masher.  The original recipe says “mash until fairly smooth” but mine never made it to that point…it stayed semi-lumpy.  I’m sure whatever stage of lumpiness your bananas end up is just fine.

Whisk in melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.


Pour banana mixture into your flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Do not over stir. Some flour streaks are okay.  Gently fold in walnuts if you’re using them.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the surface.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, approx 55-75 minutes.  Cool bread in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

**Note:  I used a mini loaf pan and a muffin pan instead of the larger, single loaf pan.  I started checking them at 30 minutes.  The muffins were slightly drier than the loaf and I would probably turn the oven down a few degrees the next time.

***Variation:  I added ½ cup of flaked coconut to the muffins and they were SO good!

Slice loaf and serve slightly warm or room temperature.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Shortcake Scones

These scones were a very happy accident. Fresh strawberries are in abundance this fall and I wanted to use them in a simple recipe that really elevated the strawberry flavor without adding a ton of sugar.  I remembered the basic scone recipe that my friend Dani game me and, hence, these babies were born.  They only take about 30 minutes from start to finish, so not only are they delicious, they’re easy!


Ingredients:

2 Cups Flour
2 Tbs Sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp baking soda
5 Tbs butter, cold and cubed
1 egg, separated
8 oz plain greek yogurt
2 Cups chopped strawberries (sweetened slightly with 1 tsp sugar, if desired)
3 oz cream cheese, cubed and frozen (or VERY firm)
1 Tbs raw sugar

Glaze (optional):
5 Tbs powdered sugar
½ tsp milk
⅛ tsp vanilla
*This amount only makes a TINY amount of glaze…just a few “stripes” for each scone.  If you want a heavier glaze, just double the recipe.

Directions:

Put all dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk to combine.  Add cold butter in chunks and stir into the flour mixture.  Add egg yolk and greek yogurt and cut it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender.  Dough will be crumbly.  Add strawberries and cream cheese and gently fold them into the dough.Lightly flour your counter top and form the dough into a flat disk.  If the dough seems moist, due to the juicy strawberries, press a little extra flour into the top and sides of the disk.  Cut into 10 even triangles. 

Place the triangles on a sprayed baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.  Brush with the egg whites and sprinkle with raw sugar, if desired.  I use Sugar in the Raw.Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Tops should be golden brown.  Drizzle a small amount of glaze over each scone.  Serve immediately.

*Due to the short shelf life of strawberries, these scones need to be eaten within a day of baking…if they last that long.

Lemon Pound Cake

To me, nothing says Spring better than a sour, yellow lemon. I love how versatile they are, whether you’re adding some tang to your sweets or brightness to your savories, all the while keeping that distinctive lemony flavor.
This pound cake is SO easy and SO delicious. My favorite thing about it is that it takes FRESH lemon juice and zest, which you can see when you slice it. Also, many recipes call for a sugary glaze, but I don’t think this one needs it. It pairs perfectly with fresh strawberries and cream, lemon or vanilla pudding, or simply on it’s own. Enjoy! ~Joanie

* * * * * * * *

Ingredients:

½ Cup butter, melted
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
Juice & zest from 1 lemon
¼ Tsp salt
1 ½ C flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ Cup milk


Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine butter and sugar. Add the beaten eggs and stir until incorporated. Add lemon juice and zest, mix well.


In a separate bowl, combine salt, flour, and baking powder. Sift flour mixture into lemon mixture and stir until smooth. Add milk and give one final stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour 325 degrees, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (I doubled the recipe and used my mini loaf stone, so I only baked for 50 minutes).

Remove cooked loaves from pan and allow to cool completely before slicing. I actually prefer these the next day, after they have been wrapped over night. It gives the exterior a moist texture. Slice and serve!