Recipe Review

The Best-Ever Banana Bread Is from This Cult-Favorite Bakery

updated Jan 21, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

I’ve lived in Atlanta for most of my life, but my family has strong ties to Boston — it’s my mom’s hometown. But in all of my visits, I’ve yet to try the banana bread from Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery + Cafe.

For many Boston visitors, however, this bakery is their first stop. Flour’s banana bread has made an impression nationwide, garnering the moniker “famous.” Luckily for me, the bakery released their recipe to the public, which meant I could include it in my search for the very best banana bread.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

How to Make Flour Bakery’s Banana Bread

You’ll start by sifting flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Then you’ll use a stand mixer to whip granulated sugar and a pair of eggs together until lightened to a pale yellow color and increased in volume. With the mixer on low speed, you’ll slowly drizzle in the canola oil. Then you’ll add the remaining wet ingredients: sour cream, vanilla extract, and 3 1/2 very ripe mashed bananas. Finally you’ll fold the flour mixture into the batter by hand with a spatula until completely incorporated, and then pour the batter into a standard loaf pan and bake until golden.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Flour Bakery’s Banana Bread

When I bake banana bread, it’s a one-bowl affair (or maybe two-bowl), so I was skeptical about the need to use a stand mixer for this recipe. This recipe relies on the vigorous incorporation of air, along with baking soda, to leaven the loaf. The loose, pale batter fills a standard loaf pan to the top — and although I was nervous it would overflow in the oven, the bread baked into a tall, flat loaf that sunk slightly in the center upon cooling. A sunken bread can be caused by variety of reasons, ranging from excessive incorporation of air, an acid-base imbalance, or an overfilled baking pan.

Sunken center aside, Flour Bakery’s banana bread had the lightest texture of those I tested. Using oil instead of butter gives the bread its moist texture. Big banana flavor shines through — a characteristic I attribute to the use of granulated sugar rather than brown sugar, with its molasses undertone. The caramelized top crust offers a nice contrast to the tender, banana-packed interior.

I understand the technical reasons why Flour Bakery uses a stand mixer for the banana bread, but I’m still not convinced that banana breads mixed by machine are significantly superior to hand-mixed.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You Make Flour Bakery’s Banana Bread

  1. Don’t over-mix. Incorporating air with vigorous whisking gives this banana bread its lift and light texture. While you don’t have to use a stand mixer to whip the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, you’ll want to. But don’t think that more is better when it comes to whisking. If you whisk the eggs and sugar beyond the point of turning pale yellow and lightened in texture, you risk a sunken loaf.
  2. Fill the pan 3/4 full. There’s enough batter to fill a loaf pan to its rim, but for a better bake, stop when it is 3/4 full. While you could tinker with the recipe to reduce the batter yield, a simpler option is to set aside a scant amount of batter and bake a muffin or two! This gives the bread room to rise, and provides extra insurance against sinking.

Overall rating: 7/10

This bread loses points for its slightly sunken center and its need for a stand mixer, but thanks to its bold banana flavor and tender crumb, it wins the top spot.

Have you ever made Flour Bakery’s Banana Bread? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Read More About This Banana Bread Showdown