When I was 23 and newly married, I moved to England with a couple of duffel bags, a few boxes of wedding gifts, and my family's banana bread recipe. The banana bread recipe was my aunt's, who passed it along to my mother, who handed it down to me. It was a reminder of home, a familiar treat I could make in my newlywed home so far from my childhood home.
It was also, it turned out, the secret to making friends.
At work my banana bread became a talking point, and then a hot commodity. Over tea and bread, I got to know my coworkers and they got to know me. Those tea kettle chats became the foundation of wonderful friendships.
I found homemade banana bread was just what houseguests needed when they were up early with jet lag; wrapped in twine, the loaves made lovely housewarming gifts; in muffin form, it was my go-to treat for moms who could eat with only one hand while they nursed their newborns.
I baked many (many) loaves of banana bread and I learned a couple things along the way. First, it's always better to make multiple loaves (you can always freeze the extras). Second, the key to moist, cake-like bread is overripe bananas – the blacker and spottier the peels, the better.
Cooking spray or unsalted butter, for greasing the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
6 overripe bananas, mashed
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat 2 (9x5-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray or butter; set aside.
Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Place the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color. Add the bananas and eggs and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined; do not over mix. Divide the mixture between the 2 pans and smooth out the top with the spatula.
Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 10 minutes. Flip the loaves out of the pan and cool completely on the wire rack.
- Frozen bananas: Whole frozen bananas can be used in this recipe. Thaw the bananas, then squeeze them right out of the peels; no need for mashing!
- Storage: Leftover banana bread can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.