February 23 is my Personal I Haven’t Had Banana Bread in a While Day. I’m not sure exactly why, but banana bread seems to be a summer thing for me. That doesn’t make much sense given that there are so many other fruits that are in season and lend themselves well to things like peach cobbler, cherry pan dowdy, or blueberry grunt.
It seems more appropriate that banana bread is a winter recipe given that bananas seem to be equally available all year. (Do they still have a season or has the global banana conglomerate managed to plant them widely enough for that not to matter?)
Wanting to make my unique contribution to the science of banana bread I considered how I could improve on the standard classic. To reduce the number of concerned notes I get from my parents I’m trying to avoid filling everything with bacon so I skipped over that idea. Banana bread can always use a little insurance against being too dry so a pudding like sauce seems in order.
I struggled for a while trying to figure out how I could bake a tube-shaped filling hole into the loaf before settling on the simpler, more elegant solution of just serving the banana pastry cream on the side. If you have any bright ideas on how I could have accomplished that original goal please comment below.
I have also followed my usual inclination to leave the nuts out. They break up the bread’s smooth, moist, sweet texture and chocolate is clearly the banana’s preferred dance partner. Chips are okay but really some good quality discs or squares (either coarsely-chopped) are better.
Banana with Banana Pastry Cream
The banana bread recipe is adapted from the Ultimate Banana Bread recipe on cooksillustrated.com. The banana cream is adapted from the pastry cream recipe in the Tartine cookbook.
Banana bread with custardy banana cream is the sort of delicious winter baked good that works just as well with breakfast as it does as dessert.
Yield: One loaf of banana bread and about a cup and a half of banana cream.
- 250 g (about 1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 (about 1 kg or 2 lb) (g) large, very ripe “filling” bananas, these can be thawed, previously-frozen.
- 1 large, not quite as ripe “garnish” bananas, this should not have been frozen
- 8 TB (114 g, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and barely cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 150 grams (3/4 cup, 5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 75 g (roughly 1/2 cup) good-quality chocolate, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- For Banana Cream:
- 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
- 1/2 tsp banana extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 TB cornstarch
- 1/4 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 TB unsalted butter
- Peel the filling bananas and place them in a microwave safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents in the plastic wrap, and microwave on high for five minutes. Transfer the banana to a fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan and wait for the banana juices to drain.
- Meanwhile preheat your oven, with the rack set in the middle position, to 350F. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Estimate how much liquid has drained from the banana pulp. If it’s more than 1/4 cup reduce over medium-high heat until you have that amount. With a potato masher, mash pulp into liquid until smooth. Whisk in eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Fold wet ingredients into dry, mixing until just barely integrated, with some spots of flour remaining visible. Fold in chopped chocolate. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Slice garnish banana into thin slices and lay these slices (with a slight overlap) along the long edges of the loaf’s top. Leave at least the middle third of the batter exposed so that the banana slices don’t prevent a proper rise. Dust the top of the loaf evenly with granulated sugar.
Bake for 50 to 75 minutes or until it passes the clean-toothpick test. Cool for fifteen minutes in the pan, and then turn out onto a wire rack.
- For Banana Cream: While the banana bread is baking you’ll have the perfect opportunity to prepare the cream. Things will get a little hectic near the end of this process so set a fine-mesh strainer over a small-medium bowl now. Heat the milk and salt over medium-high heat, stirring occasional to loosen the milk solids from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the milk is just shy of boiling. (It will just have started to steam and the kitchen will smell like cooked milk.)
While the milk is heating whisk (here it pays to be conscientious about having a separate whisk for the milk and the eggs until they’re combined) the cornstarch and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Secure this mixing bowl in place on the counter with a rolled-up, damp towel.
- When the milk is ready whisk in banana extract. Use a ladle in one hand to slowly add about a third of the hot milk to the eggs, while whisking with the other hand. Pour the egg mixture from the mixing bowl into the milk in the saucepan and return to medium heat. Continue whisking constantly for two minutes or until the custard is the consistency of loosely-set pudding (because that’s, more or less, what it is). Do not allow the cream to boil vigorously. Once it has thickened immediately pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. You may have to stir it with a wooden spoon to get it to strain properly.
When the cream has cooled to 140°F (warm to the touch, stir occasionally while it cools to keep a skin from forming on top) add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, and whisk the first in vigorously before adding the second. Serve cream dolloped on top of banana bread.
- Both banana bread and banana cream will keep for a few days in the refrigerator if tightly wrapped (or covered in the cream’s case) in plastic wrap.