Bon Appetit categorizes banana bread under the heading of breakfast foods, which seems a bit euphemistic in the same way that Costco calling those enormous chocolate-laden cupcakes “muffins” always seems a bit understated. Having now made this banana bread twice, however, I finally understand their choice of categorization because this recipe is truly one that can easily cross the tenuous gap that divides sweet breakfast foods from desserts. Although rich and deeply satisfying, it is not so indulgent that you would feel in any way troubled about consuming it as your first food of the day, but nor would it seem out of place served after dinner with a thick smear of mascarpone (or warm with a scoop of ice cream on top if you have no other plans for the evening and feel like lying around groaning for a few hours). I have not recommended the addition of chocolate to this recipe (though you certainly can take the liberty) because my other recipe for this post is quite chocolate-forward, and also because I do feel that that takes away from the breakfasty properties of this dish. If, however, you are the sort of person who can justify eating chocolate before 11 am, all the more power to you – hold your sugar-addled little head up high for all to see.
BA’s Best: Banana Bread
Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
Makes 1 loaf
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese + more for serving, if desired (plain full-fat Greek yogurt would also work, though I prefer mascarpone for its richness)
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm water to speed this up)
4 large overripe bananas, mashed (~1 ½ cups) + 1 firmer banana, left whole
½ cup chopped walnuts, lightly pan-toasted (optional but delightful)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a loaf pan with nonstick spray and cut a piece of parchment paper to line the loaf pan, so that the paper hangs generously over the long edges of the tin. Don’t worry about lining the pan lengthwise. Set the pan aside until ready to use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat together the brown sugar, mascarpone, and butter in a large bowl until fluffy (~4 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl before reducing the speed of the beaters to low and adding the reserved flour mixture. Beat until the flour is only just combined into the batter. Gently stir in the mashed bananas then use the rubber spatula to fold in the walnuts. Scrape the batter into the lined loaf pan and smooth out the top. Cut the firm banana in half lengthwise and place the halves decoratively over the prepared batter, cut-side-up.
Bake the loaf until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 60-75 minutes (I found I needed almost the full 75 minutes, but my oven runs wonky – start testing the batter after an hour). Transfer the loaf pan to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Pull the loaf out using the parchment paper as handles, and cool until warm before cutting into thick slices. Spread each piece with a thick swipe of mascarpone and revel in your own glee.