Banana bread is one of my favourite desserts. It was actually one of the first 'scratch' recipes I tried (the other being chocolate chip cookies) and the last until I got interested in baking again this past Christmas. I will never forget the first time I made banana bread because it was dry yet uncooked, soapy, chewy and definitely overmixed. Those were the days when I didn't know that the mixing order of ingredients actually mattered, the importance of whisking the flour mixture to distribute the baking soda evenly and when using a handmixer to be extra careful not to overmix. I remember baking 3 loaves before I finally gave up and settled for storebought desserts.
I've tried almost all the recipes from allrecipes.com, but the best version is definitely from Cook's Illustrated. You don`t need to lug out the mixer or anything fancy, just 2 bowls and good wide spatula so cleanup is quick and easy. It has suprisingly good butter flavour without the banana bread tasting like a cake and uses just enough bananas for strong flavour without turning the bread gummy. Most recipes use nuts or chocolate chips or neither, but I decided to put walnuts on one side and chocolate chips on the other so I could get both. This was actually the first time I used nuts in baking and enjoyed it more than I expected. I also used a bundt pan instead of the regular loaf pan so it took 40 minutes instead of the regular 55.
I wish I was able to take a picture of the entire cake, but I couldn't resist eating a slice.. well more like 3! My bananas were speckled, but I wanted them really really ripe so I put them in a baking pan and turned the oven to 150-200F for 20 minutes. The heat carmelizes the bananas, which helps to sweeten and add more banana flavour to the bread.
EDIT: My new favourite banana recipe can be found here. It is a little fluffier than this one by Cook's Illustrated, but if you like denser and chewier, I would say go with Cook's Illustrated.
Cook's Illustrated, The New Best Recipe
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 1/4 cups walnuts, chopped coarse
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C) degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and walnuts together in a large bowl; set aside.
4. Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
5. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)