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Practicing the basics: banana bread

Banana bread is a classic “quick bread”. It lives multiple lives, as a breakfast food, coffee snack, and dessert. It’s got a lot of healthy banana in it, but also a fair amount of sugar and butter.

It’s also one of those recipes that calls for both baking soda and baking powder. The baking soda counteracts the acidity in the lemon juice, with baking powder (which contains both an acid and a base in powder form) added on top of it to provide additional gas to make it rise.

The original recipe that this is based on includes shredded coconut. I’ve made it optional here, but I nearly always include it because coconut adds such a great additional dimension to the flavor. Lightly toasting the coconut helps too, but that’s optional too.

Makes 1 loaf, about 8-10 slices. Time required: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature (softened but not liquid)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium bananas, slightly overripe is fine if not preferred)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 9×5-inch bread pan with cooking spray, butter or margarine.

If including the coconut, you can optionally toast it. Spread it into a thin layer on a quarter-sheet pan and bake it until it’s light-brown, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool while you assemble the rest of the recipe. Watch it carefully while baking — coconut goes from uncooked to burnt very quickly. The coconut cools very quickly; it only requires about five minutes, and you won’t need it until the very end of the recipe.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until evenly distributed. We’re mixing the dry ingredients together, then the wet ingredients together, then bringing them both together (then folding in the bananas and the coconut).

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and the sugar. “Creaming” means mixing them together until they come together to form a consistent mixture. At this point it will probably still be a bit granular from the sugar, but that will fix itself when we add the rest of the wet ingredients and the sugar can properly dissolve.

Beat in the eggs until well combined. Add the milk, lemon juice and almond extract and stir on low speed until well combined and a consistent texture. Make sure the beat the eggs for at least one full minute.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until completely mixed.

Using a spatula, add the mashed bananas and gently stir them in by hand. If using coconut, set aside one tablespoon and stir in all the rest of it by hand. Stir until the bananas and coconut are well distributed an the batter has a consistent texture throughout.

Pour the batter into the bread pan. If using coconut, sprinkle the remaining tablespoon on top.

Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

Remove from oven. Take the loaf out of the bread pan and allow it to cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.