Our Maui guidebook said Julia's banana bread was the best in the world so once we read that, we had to try it. Unfortunately, we paid no attention to the part of the book that said we would have to drive on a mostly one-lane road carved into the side of the the Northwest Maui cliffs to get there. After a few terrifying hours on the Kahekili "Highway", we finally made it to Julia's bright green roadside shack. The banana bread was definitely the stickiest I have ever had but I'm not so sure if it was the best ever.
Bon Appetit did a feature on Julia's Best Banana Bread last year and even published her recipe. Call me suspicious, but I don't think that's her exact recipe. Maybe she uses different bananas or other unpublished secret ingredients and that's why her bread is so gooey.
I like the simplicity of Julia's recipe (flour, eggs, bananas, sugar, oil, salt, and baking soda) because it limits the number of variables that I experiment with. Instead of canola oil, I made one banana bread with coconut oil (from Trader Joe's) and one with browned butter. The coconut flavor is more noticeable when the bread is warm then becomes virtually undetectable when the bread cools to room temperature. The brown butter version tasted very buttery and the crumb was slightly darker. While I preferred the butter version, friends preferred the coconut oil version.
|left: granulated sugar, right: brown sugar|
As for the bananas, I can't do much about the type of banana, since there is really only one type of banana available in the US. But banana bread will taste better if you use old, splotchy, borderline spoiled bananas.
update June 2014
We tried adding chocolate chips to the batter and we both prefer plain banana bread. If you want to try it, I would recommend using mini chocolate chips as normal chocolate chips have a tendency to sink to the bottom of the batter.
Both butter and coconut oil are solid at room temperature, whereas oil is liquid at room temperature, which is why quick breads made with oil have a moister mouthfeel. It's an extra step, but I like the combination of 50/50 browned butter and oil.
As you can see below, I've taken to weighing most of my ingredients for consistent and reproducible results.
banana bread (recipe as it stands today)
5 ounces all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces peeled bananas (2 - 3 bananas)
4 tablespoons melted butter, coconut oil, or canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan or two 5 1/2 x 3 mini loaf pans with nonstick spray.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
Place bananas and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until bananas are slightly mashed and chunky. Add the butter/oil, egg, vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and fold until combined.
Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 50 - 60 minutes (40 - 50 minutes for mini pans) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.