How many times have you heard that familiar refrain, “This is the best ever recipe for chocolate chip cookies, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, chocolate cake, apple pie?” I could go on and on…Everybody has a version of a classic favorite. Banana bread qualifies as an example of an old-fashioned recipe that is open to many variations and re-interpretations, and this is my latest effort.
My most recent foray into baking with whole grain flours was the inspiration for this recipe. What would happen if I added some buckwheat flour to my usual banana loaf recipe? How could I maintain a light and moist crumb? Should I use butter or oil? And how about the sweeteners? Brown sugar or white? Should I add flavoring, such as cinnamon or cardamom? And then the ultimate question (in my opinion) when it comes to all banana-containing baked goods: chocolate or no chocolate?? I answered all of these questions and more by making some tweaks on a basic recipe, and I am pleased that it all worked! I chose to add toasted walnuts to my banana loaf, which prompted the use of walnut oil as part of the fat component of the recipe. I did a fifty-fifty combo on the sugar, and flavored the loaf with some banana liqueur, just because I have a great big bottle of it hanging around in the liquor cabinet. And, at the end, I chose not to include chocolate. Not this time. This loaf is terrific toasted, spread with butter, and served with tart, bright orange marmalade. The buckwheat flour contributes to its dusky color and gives just a bit of heft to the crumb. It’s moist, not too sweet, and full of banana flavor. Is it the “best-ever”? Maybe…
Banana Buckwheat Loaf
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter , at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lightly packed , dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs , at room temperature
- 3 large , ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of banana liqueur (optional, substitute 1 teaspoon of vanilla, if preferred)
- 1/4 cup sour cream , creme fraiche, or full-fat plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil , at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- A generous 1/2 cup chopped , toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven, with a rack in the middle position, to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric beater, cream together the butter and the granulated and brown sugars until fluffy and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add the mashed banana, banana liqueur (or vanilla extract), and sour cream. Beat at low speed until combined. Drizzle in the walnut oil and beat until the mixture is smooth and the oil is absorbed.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture in two additions, beating at the lowest speed. Before the flour is entirely incorporated, switch to a large spatula and gently stir in the walnuts. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to mix in all the dry ingredients, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the surface of the batter and place the pan in the oven.
Bake the banana loaf for about 60 minutes, or until handsomely golden brown and firm to the touch. A tester inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean. If you find the bread browning too quickly, drape a sheet of foil over the top of the loaf. You don't want the edges to burn.
When done, remove to a rack to cool, in the pan, for 15 minutes. Then turn the loaf out onto the rack and cool completely before cutting and serving. Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 4 or 5 days. In fact, if you can wait, let the loaf rest overnight before serving.