Banana bread is easy to make, and a reliable way to use up slightly past-it fruit. But there's banana bread, and there's banana bread. Here's how to make a better loaf, and how to freeze it successfully too.
Roast your bananas
Pastry chef and Food Network star Zac Young reckons this is one of the secrets that baking pros bring to truly great banana bread.
This can be a game-changer on two fronts. Let’s say you suddenly have a hankering to make banana bread, but your bananas are barely ripe. Roasting them can save the day. Preheat an oven to 150°C , put the bananas – still in their skins – on a tray and roast for about 20 minutes, until they are soft and the skins have turned black (check them after 15 - it could take less or more than 20 minutes, depending on the bananas and your oven). They will now be soft enough to mash and use. (A quick zap in the microwave will also soften peeled and chopped bananas.)
Even if you’re working if nicely ripe ‘nanas, roasting them can add depth of flavour.
During the banana bread challenge on Bakers vs Fakers (Thursday nights 7.30pm from 13 February on Food Network) judge Zac Young - who was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America 2015 but has more recently been in the spotlight for his invention of the piecaken - says he expects the bakers among the contestants in the show’s banana bread challenge to roast their bananas to get some rich caramelisation. The show throws baking challenges at two professionals and two keen amateurs, while the judges and viewers try to guess who's who.
Contestant Christa is on board – “The first thing I’m going to get onto is roasting the bananas because it’s going to bring out the extra flavour”, she says. As to whether she’s a baker – no spoilers here! We’ll let you find that out when you watch the episode (catch the banana challenge episode on Tuesday March 13, 7.30pm on Food Network).
Use frozen fruit
If you want to mix things up by adding blueberries or raspberries, frozen fruit will work well; but don’t defrost it. Adding the fruit still frozen will avoid it bleeding into the batter.
Think outside the square
Beat back any chance of ho-hum banana bread (or comparisons to the efforts of your banana bread baking friends and family!) with twists such as banana bread lamingtons, upside-down caramel banana bread or this genius banana-bread-meets-brownie combo, the triple-layer choc-bottom banana bread:
Freeze and defrost the right way
Making two loaves and popping one in the freezer for later – win. Ending up with disappointing cake that’s turned into a soggy mess, or a gone dry in the freezer – not so much. You can freeze banana bread in great condition for up to six weeks. The trick is to allow the loaf to cool completely; wrap well in cling film and place in a sealable plastic bag and gently expel as much as air as you can before sealing; and then, when you defrost, leave it to thaw at room temperature, still in the bag.
If you’d like to be able to grab a slice at a time, try this seeded banana and pear loaf – the banana, grated fresh pear and natural yoghurt make for a moist bread, and recipe creator Carolyn Griffiths says she slices and freezes this one with pieces of baking paper between the slices.
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