The Great Banana Bread Showdown

My friend (who I am forever indebted to for introducing me to Cook’s Illustrated) and I had a banana bread show down.  A few months ago CI published what they called ‘Ultimate Banana Bread’.  Their main goal was to see how many bananas they could cram into a banana bread without compromising what makes banana bread what it is.  In order to do this they have a rather long and involved process for the bananas, including reducing the banana liquid down to a syrup.  Now, we had no doubt that this banana bread would be good–everything CI publishes is good (at least that we’ve found).  However, it went against everything a banana bread should be. It is, after all, considered a quick bread.  It’s what you throw together when you have a bunch of leftover bananas hanging around.  Not what you set out to make when you want to spend a day in the kitchen.

Nevertheless, it had piqued our curiosity when they published it and we wondered if it was actually worth it.  Well, having been sitting on some frozen bananas for most of the summer (one of the few short cuts the recipe offers), she suggested we get together to see if the ultimate banana bread was actually worth all the fuss.  I, too, had been planning on making a banana bread this weekend, but mine involved Grape-Nuts and was a super easy recipe.  She’d tackle the ultimate version (brave soul) and I’d bring by the Grape-Nuts kind and we’d have a showdown, once and for all.

Both were great.  Except, and I hate to say it, the Ultimate Banana Bread was great-er.  It had amazing banana flavor, a perfectly sugary crust and an incredibly moist crumb.  My friend told me she didn’t think it was that hard, but it also wasn’t the easiest quick bread ever.  So, will I be making the ultimate on my own at some point?  Probably.  It was really good.  But will I be making it every time I have overripe bananas in the freezer?  Probably not.  For that I think I will stick to my super easy to throw together banana bread, Grape-Nut.  Besides, if a recipe is really the ultimate (and it is), it deserves to be pulled out on occasions where you spend your time admiring the complexity.  Not when you just want to use up the leftovers for a sweet treat.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but plenty of people have blogged about this recipe. I found this one the other day, in case you’re as intrigued as I was.

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