Dear Mushy Brown Bananas,
I’ll be frank. I really don’t like you. From your squishy slimy texture to your sickly sweet stench, just looking at you makes me wretch. You have to admit that you’ve seen better days – you know, back when you were green and hard and chilled and preferably consumed in a smoothie containing berries, kale and almond milk. But those times passed exceedingly fast, as you faded to yellow and then to a spotty brown, and your once-perky flesh declined into a bruised smush. And then, just as I was ready to drop you into the compost can with one hand while pinching my nose with the other, something amazing happened.
Your smooshy self secretly conspired with brown sugar, cinnamon, olive oil, flour and a handful of other baking goodies, and together you launched a coup d’état against the forced retirement of icky brown bananas. The group of you took control of the kitchen, coming together in a harmonious, moist, dense little loaf that I immediately found irresistible.
So here it is, Mushy Brown Banana: you win. I’ll let you live on for one more day – but only in bread-ish cake form. And next time around, when your mushy brown cousin comes along, I’ll let him hang around a little longer than preferred too. But only if he agrees to let me add 70% cacao chips to the batter because I think that would be truly decadent. And then I might not eat it for breakfast every day for three straight days because (let’s face it) it would be gone the first night.
Notes on substitutions and ingredients: If you have some mushy brown bananas staring at you, but need to buy a little more time until you can make banana bread, pop them in a freezer bag and freeze them (skin still on) for later use; defrost before using. Also, you can easily replace the olive oil with vegetable oil and the buttermilk with soy milk or water, and honey can be eliminated entirely if you want something less sweet. You can also add walnuts or, if you’re really up for a treat, dark chocolate chips to the batter. Topping is optional, but don’t do what I did and put the topping on the loaf immediately because the topping will burn a little by the time the loaf is done baking (it won’t burn not too much, but enough to be noticeable and for me to wish I had put it on later) – just pop the loaf into the oven by itself for 15 minutes, then quickly add the topping at the 15-minute mark, and you’ll be all set.
Super Moist Banana Bread with Cinnamon-Walnut-Brown Sugar Topping (adapted from Bakesale Betty‘s recipe, as featured in Bon Appetit, September 2008)
Makes 1 loaf (or two mini-loaves, but be sure to adjust the baking time)
1 c. ripe banana (2-3 medium), mashed
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. to 1 c. brown sugar (I used the lesser amount due to the super-ripe, extra-sweet bananas I had on hand)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped (NOT toasted because they’ll toast in the oven)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a metal loaf pan (9x5x3-inches; preferably NOT nonstick) with butter and flour.
In a large bowl, whisk banana, eggs, oil, honey, and buttermilk until smooth. Add cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, whisking into the batter. Add flour and sugar, whisking into batter until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake bread for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare topping by mixing together 2 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and walnuts in a small bowl. After bread has baked for 15 minutes, remove from oven, quickly sprinkle topping over batter, then return bread to oven.
Bake bread for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Remove bread from oven, and allow to cool in pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Then, turn pan on its side, and carefully slide the bread out so as to not dislodge the topping (To minimize mess and make this process easier, I covered the pan with a paper towel, tilted the pan over so the bread slide out into my hand, then set the loaf on a rack to finish cooling). Set the loaf on a rack, topping side up, and cool completely.