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Has anyone tried the banana bread in Cooks Illustrated, current issue?

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I need to make a quick bread for a meeting, have lots of frozen bananas, and was intrigued by the "Ultimate Banana Bread" in the July/August issue of CI.

It involves draining very ripe bananas and then boiling down the juice.

I would love to hear if the results are worth the trouble. If it's fantastic, I would be happy to spend a few extra minutes to impress my friends!

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  1. Yes, I made it as a banana bread throwdown. 2 people liked the CI version better. I think I preferred my friends' recipe. But was quite tasty

    1 Reply
    1. re: jstew52

      A banana bread throwdown sounds like fun! There were two recipes made?

    2. I have not made it yet, but here is the recipe:

      **** Paraphrased recipe ****

      Cook's Illustrated Ultimate Banana Bread

      Makes one 9-inch loaf. Published July 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

      Cook's Illustrated recommends that very ripe, heavily speckled or even
      blacked bananas should be used in this recipe. This recipe can also
      be prepared with five frozen bananas that have been thawed. If using
      thawed bananas, bypass the Step-2 microwaving and place the bananas
      into a fine-mesh strainer. Don't use previously frozen bananas in
      step 4 (slicing on top of loaf) as they will be too soft to slice.
      Just sprinkle the top of the banana bread loaf with sugar.
      Cook's Illustrated prefers an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan for this recipe.
      If you are using a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, start to check for doneness five minutes
      earlier than the recommended time below.

      The banana bread has the best texture when eaten fresh, but you can
      store it in for up to 3 days tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
      Cool first before wrapping for storage.

      Ingredients

      1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1/2 teaspoon table salt
      6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled (see note above)
      8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
      2 large eggs
      3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      1/2 cup walnuts , toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
      2 teaspoons granulated sugar

      Instructions

      1. Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350-F.
      Spray an 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
      In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and table salt. Set aside.

      2. In a microwave-safe bowl, place 5 peeled bananas. Cover the bowl with
      plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in it. Microwave the bananas
      about 5-minutes on the high-power setting (until they are soft and
      have released liquid). Pour the microwaved bananas and liquid into a fine-mesh
      strainer that is sitting in a bowl. Allow to drain 15-minutes, stirring
      occasionally. When done there should be 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid.

      3. Place the banana liquid in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for
      5-minutes, until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup. Place the cooked bananas
      in a mixing bowl. Pour the reduced liquid over cooked bananas and mash them
      with a potato masher until they are fairly smooth. Now whisk in the butter,
      eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.

      4. Pour the bowl of the mashed banana mixture into the bowl with the
      flour mixture. Stir until the two are combined but there should still
      be some streaks of flour remaining in the batter. Fold in walnuts (optional).
      Scrape banana batter into the prepared loaf pan. Slice the remaining 6th
      banana diagonally into 1/4-inch slices. Overlap lines of banana slices along each side
      of the loaf, but leave a 1-1/2 inch space along the center of the loaf to allow
      for even rising. Evenly sprinkle granulated sugar over the top of the loaf.

      5. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick, that is inserted in the center
      of the loaf, comes outs clean. About 55 to 75 minutes. Cool in the
      loaf pan, on a wire rack, for 15 minutes. Remove loaf from pan,
      return loaf to wire rack and cool additional time, as desired.
      Serve warm or serve at room temperature, as desired.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Antilope

        Wow, talk about concentrating banana flavor. I have at least 30 banana bread recipes, all variations on a similar theme, but this one is actually different, given the technique. This could truly be the ultimate banana bread; I aim to find out.

      2. I tried it and I love the carmelized top! I had to make a few adjustments (unusual for a CI recipe) but I have it down. Certainly worth the reduction. Served as a science lesson for 7 year old who loves to bake with me.

        1. For those who have made the recipe, can you compare it to the one in the Best Recipe? I've recently adopted that (with a little less sugar) as my go to for banana bread, but I'd be interested to hear whether the new one is better.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sholli

            I just found the Best Recipe thread and hope to try it soon.

            At the moment I am trying to figure out how to add bananas to a new orange bread recipe which uses a whole orange, ground, juice, peel and all. Probably will post the question.

            As for the CI bread about which I started this thread, I tried it and was not thrilled. Will not make it again but will try the sliced bananas on top which I didn't on the first go round. Must have run out of bananas.

            1. re: sholli

              We love banana bread and I make it often. When the new recipe came out I made both versions for a taste test as I had a bunch of bananas in the freezer. Ironically everyone in my family thought the original had more banana flavor, and was better than the new and improved version. I say ironically because the newer version has more bananas in it. So I still make the original, but I do add the sprinkling of sugar on top from the new recipe.

            2. i'd be interested in hearing about the texture from those of you who have made or eaten this one. i 'm all for the method of concentrating the banana flavor, but i like what the acidity from a little buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream does to the texture, and this recipe doesn't contain any...

              2 Replies
              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Hmmmm, goodhealthgourmet, your comment enabled me to remember what I didn't care for about the CI recipe. (It's been about six weeks since I made it, an age for my memory!)

                Ironically, I thought it didn't have much banana flavor. Rather, the dominant taste was butter!

                The texture was fine, and the bread was good if you were seeking "butter bread."

                1. re: laredo

                  It seems like way too much work, to me!