Brown Butter Banana Bread

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Inspiration strikes me more as a writer, than a cook. “Write a play about a parrot that saves a family from genocide,” says inspiration. “Thanks inspiration,” I say and go on to win five Tonys.

But as a cook? I’m pretty uninspired, I’d have to say. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a happy cook, a passionate cook, I care about the food I make. But am I inspired to tweak that which I am cooking? Rarely, very rarely. Which is why, when making the banana bread from Molly’s “Homemade Life” for the second time (I didn’t blog about it the first time, but it’s a great banana bread made with butter instead of oil that has candied ginger and chocolate chips), I was surprised to hear a voice in my head whisper, like the voice in “Field of Dreams,” “brown the butter.” Brown the butter? You’re supposed to melt the butter, not brown the butter. “Brown the butter,” the voice persisted. I can’t! That’s not what you’re supposed to do. “BROWN THE FRIGGIN’ BUTTER, MORON!” All right! All right! I’ll brown the butter.

And brown the butter I did.

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That’s the brown butter. Have you ever browned butter? Maybe you have accidentally. But if you’ve never used it in your cooking, you should. Brown butter is nutty and complex in a way that plain butter–however delicious–just isn’t. But you have to be careful when you brown your butter: do it on a relatively low heat and monitor it carefully or you will burn it.

As for the other components, the only other important thing when making banana bread is that you have really ripe bananas, like these:

Actually, these could even be riper, but they were ripe enough. You want them ripe–almost all black–because they get sweeter as they ripen and that makes your banana bread gooder. (Note: inspiration did NOT strike at the end of that sentence.)

As for how my inspiration paid off, I can’t really say. Did we taste the brown butter in the banana bread? Maybe. It’s hard to say. I also added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of ground ginger (I left out the chocolate and candied ginger this time, just to taste the banana bread by itself) and, to what degree each of these touches contributed, I’m not sure, but I can say this: this was very good banana bread. We nearly devoured it right out of the oven, and maybe you will too.

Brown Butter Banana Bread

adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life”

inspired by the voice in my head

Ingredients:

6 Tbs (3 oz.) unsalted butter

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cps mashed bananas (from about 3 large ripe bananas)

1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (I used whole milk and that worked fine)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Grease a loaf pan (9 X 5 inches) with cooking spray or butter.

3. Now take your butter, put it in a skillet or a small pot and melt it on a relatively low heat (but not so low that it takes forever). Watch it! Swirl that pot or pan around as it goes and it’ll foam up–wait, wait, wait–then the foam will subside and it’ll start browning. When you start smelling a nutty smell and the butter turns a lovely shade of auburn brown, take it off the heat immediately! Whatever you do, don’t let it burn.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, the sugar, the baking soda, the salt, the ginger and the cinnamon.

5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork; then add the mashed banana, the yogurt (or milk), the cooled brown butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well.

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6. From this point in, it couldn’t be easier: pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until it’s JUST combined (don’t overmix). Now scrape it into the prepared pan, smooth the top…

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…and bake it in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a tester comes out pretty clean. (Mine took more than an hour, actually, and still wasn’t fully clean when tested, but I stopped so the ends didn’t dry out.)

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7. Cool the loaf in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes then tip out on to the rack and, as Molly says, “let it cool completely before slicing–unless you absolutely can’t help yourself, in which case, dig in.”

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27 comments

  1. Most of my brown butter has been either an accident or to drizzle over ravioli. Good times either way. I haven’t bought bananas in a while for some reason…I used to get them all the time, never ate them, threw them in the freezer when they got too brown to look at and thus I made banana bread all of the time. Based on this lovely recipe, I think I need to get back into it.

  2. Bet you’re glad you listened to your Field of Dreams voice! Maybe next time, you’ll listen before it has time to get pissy and call you a moron! lol

    Bet browned butter banana bread be da bomb:)

  3. Ah, browned butter. My dirty little secret. How many times I’ve used it as a “sauce” for pumpkin or squash ravioli. It’s nutty, and rich, and makes you lick your bowl in an orgasmic abandonment of manners.

    Seems a perfect pairing with bananas.

  4. Oh, yum. I made this recipe first as soon as I finished the book, and have volunteered to make it again for a work thing next week. I’ll try browning the butter first, thanks for the tip :)

  5. I concur: this is some damn good bread! I didn’t have any butter in the fridge when Molly’s recipe struck me with a bolt of inspiration, so I just used olive oil. It…was…still…fabulous. I’m sure the browned butter adds a woodsy flavor to the bread that turns it from fabulous to holy-fabulous! (Or from good to gooder!)

  6. I feel brown butter is just a fad in the world of pastry. Much like what truffle oil was to the savory kitchen. In Indian cuisine we use a lot of brown butter and its flavor is very delicate to be recognised significantly in baked goods.

    Now deep frying in brown butter or called on this side of the globe-as ghee-that is a totally different kind of yum!

  7. Actually, if you have the bananas and brown butter AND some leftover rice, I’d recommend your (AG’s) rice pudding recipe with some caramelized bananas and brown butter drizzled on top. It’d be quite decadent, but who gives a crap? This is only if you’re not in the mood for banana bread… or you have a box of leftover rice sitting in the fridge along with your over-ripe bananas.

  8. I don’t think I have ever made the same banana bread twice. It may contain chocolate or peanut butter chips one time while the next time it is made into ginormous muffins topped with nuts and crunchy sugar.

    Experimentation is the only way to cook and bake.

  9. Brown butter is an excellent addition to this loaf. Great idea and adds such a dimension of flavor without a lot of effort. I really like it.

    zesty

  10. Two things…

    1. I’m almost finished w/ Molly’s book and am enjoying it immensely.

    2. I find it bizarre that I’m reading your words about this banana bread because I had this very same inspiration a few weeks ago. Something was telling me that browned butter would be fantastic in banana bread… but then I never really did anything about that little voice and ended up with some other recipe. Will try this out now!!

  11. Where is the chocolate?! Heh, I read this recipe and Molly certainly made a point about the chocolate. Either way, it sounds magnificent and I love seeing food bloggers make eachother’s recipes. Molly’s book was great! Yours and hers are the two food bloggers’ books that I own.

  12. Oh how I love brown butter — toss it with some pasta, sage, white beans and I’m in heavy.

    I haven’t used it much in baking and am intrigued by the banana bread. Oddly, I was just about to purchase Molly’s book today. I guess it’s meant to be :-)

  13. The latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated had a Perfect Chocolate Chip cookie recipe that called for browned butter.

    They are SOOO good.

    I imagine this is, too :D

  14. Will have to try both recipes, Molly’s and yours on my quest for yummy banana bread! One thing I like to do is bake my banana bread in a coffee can, like my Grandma Bessie did.

  15. Will have to try both recipes, Molly’s and yours on my quest for yummy banana bread! One thing I like to do is bake my banana bread in a coffee can, like my Grandma Bessie did.

  16. I love brown butters with pasta. Trick I heard on a podcast was brown a good amount of butter and then pour it into ice cube trays that you freeze. This way you always have an ice cube of brown butter on hand for finishing or adding in this case.

  17. I just put the batter in the oven! I have an electric oven which likes burning breads, but I couldn’t resist the yumminess of the recipe!

  18. I just put the batter in the oven! I have an electric oven which likes burning breads, but I couldn’t resist the yumminess of the recipe!