Use vegetable oil for heavenly banana bread
Everyone makes banana bread. And most people love it. A good friend of mine always makes it with chocolate chips because her family will eat anything with chocolate in it. I grew up with my mother making banana bread with butter and pecans, and I thought it was very good until I accidently created the world’s best banana bread a few years ago.
Here is a little background: Anyone who bakes knows that there are butter cakes and oil cakes. Most of the cakes I make, I make with butter, but my Grand-mother’s Apple Cake is made with vegetable oil and it is always the crowd favorite. So, when I was working on the recipes for my upcoming “Steak and Cake” cookbook, I decided to see how banana bread made with vegetable oil would taste versus my mother’s butter recipe.
I was visiting my sister in Houston, and her twin daughters wanted to bake with me. To make sure that everyone had a part in making the recipe, I passed out three bowls. One for each of my nieces, and one for me. I then divided the recipe into three parts. Natalie mashed the bananas with most of the sugar and the vanilla, Olivia measured and whisked the flour and remaining sugar with the other dry ingredients, and I blended the eggs and the vegetable oil.
We mixed the eggs and the flour together, added the completely liquefied banana-sugar mixture and added toasted walnuts for taste and texture. I decorated the tops of the loaves with walnuts and ushered the loaves into the oven.
Of course, they smelled heavenly as they baked — all banana bread smells heavenly. But once the loaves were out and cooled enough to taste, it was a whole new world.
There was even caramelization all the way through the loaf which is significant because many loaves of banana bread are darker on the bottom than the top. And, the crumb of the cake was soft and silky but very light and moist. Dry banana bread is also a common complaint and this was the opposite of dry. Best yet, the loaf stays moist and flavorful for days after you bake it.
The walnut encrusted top is both decorative and adds a welcome crunch. If I have any bread leftover, I love to toast a slice on day 3 or 4 and eat it with a thin spread of peanut butter on top — heaven.
THREE-BOWL BANANA BREAD
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes (Active time: 15 minutes)
3 large and very ripe, “brown” bananas (you can use 4 small bananas)
1½ cups granulated white sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
3 large eggs
¾ cup Crisco all-vegetable oil
1-2 cups toasted walnut halves, coarsely chopped plus more halves for decorating
Flour and oil baking spray
Toast walnuts in the oven at 250 F for 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Heat oven to 325 F.
Meanwhile, mash bananas with a fork and add 1 cup of sugar. Mix and add vanilla. Continue mixing until the mixture is completely smooth.
In a separate large bowl, measure flour and stir with a whisk or fork to aerate. Place ½ cup of sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and whisk well.
In a third bowl, mix eggs and oil with a blending fork until emulsified.
Using a fork, mix eggs well with the flour mixture. Add banana mixture to the egg-flour mixture and stir with a fork until completely combined. Add chopped walnuts and pour batter into two 8-by-4-by-2.5 loaf pans (disposable aluminum pans work very well) that have been prepared using a baking spray. Decorate top with walnut halves.
Bake for about 60 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Can be served warm or completely cooled.
Servings: 2 loaves make 10 generous slices
Nutrition information per serving: 513 calories; 267 calories from fat; 30 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 326 mg sodium; 55 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 34 g sugar; 7 g protein.
—EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”