Banana bread is one of those recipes with a thousand different versions floating around the internet and in books. It's such a classic recipe that I always find it hard to improve upon all the variations that have come before.
However, I'm rather picky about my banana bread — I like it with whole wheat flour, maple syrup, and walnuts. (Always walnuts!) Here's the version of whole-wheat banana bread I've finally settled on in my kitchen.
You might be thinking that I made the switch to whole wheat flour and less refined sweeteners for health reasons, but that's really not the case here. I love the slight earthiness and somewhat rustic flavor of whole wheat flour, and the maple syrup just adds a bit of extra oomph.
I typically use whole wheat pastry flour in most baking recipes but traditional, slightly courser whole wheat flours work in this bread as well. If I'm baking for someone who isn't on the "I love whole wheat" train, I'll often use white wheat flour, which is simply a different variety of wheat that is a bit lighter in color and more mild in flavor.
The roasted bananas are optional with this loaf and helpful if you don't have over-ripe bananas on hand — I'm the kind of person who, when I want banana bread, I want it now. The roasting not only brings out the flavor a bit more, but also makes perfectly ripe bananas into "banana bread" bananas in no time.
Whole-Wheat Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3 medium bananas
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (see Recipe Note)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1/3 cup melted butter, slightly cooled
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 banana, for the topping (optional)
1-2 tablespoons muscovado or brown sugar, for the topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the bananas, still in their peels, in a roasting pan or on a sheet tray. Bake until bananas are soft and browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly, then scoop out the banana flesh and measure out 1 cup mashed banana.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and crushed walnuts. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together mashed banana, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk the eggs and add them to the maple syrup mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined.
Pour the batter into a lightly greased (or lined with parchment paper) standard (8-inch x 4-inch) bread pan. Bake bread until golden and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the bread, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
I typically like whole wheat pastry flour or white wheat flour in baked goods like this, but regular whole wheat flour will work as well.
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