Thanks to an over-abundance of time and a lack of money, I devoted the last week to making the perfect loaf of banana bread. I tried at least three different recipes twice each, modifying what I didn't like about the first loaf I made.
The grocery store sells bags of overripe bananas for 99 cents, which fit perfectly into my after-Christmas poor-man's budget.
I tried making healthy versions substituting apple sauce for oil and a really unhealthy version with too much butter and a cup of chocolate chips.
The best results happened when I used an extra banana or two that the recipe called for, which left the bread with a better banana flavor and a moister texture.
Letting the bananas brown on the counter, then popping them in the freezer followed by a thorough thawing on the counter also made for the best banana flavor. A plain bread with no nuts, chocolate or dried fruit ended up tasting the best.
Finally, a sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the batter before putting it in the over gave the bread a nice sweet glaze on top.
The clear winner is this recipe from Food and Wine.com with a few modifications of my own.
PERFECT BANANA BREAD
5 large overripe bananas
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Combine the bananas, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir only until combined. Don't over-mix to avoid the bread coming out tough. Pour into a 3x8 pan or muffin tin and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees. Times will vary depending on oven and whether you make muffins or bread. For me, large muffins took about 40 minutes and the bread took about 50. Don't over-bake—just until a toothpick comes out clean.