Mar 22 • 8M

The Story Behind Mark Bittman's Original Banana Bread Recipe

Plus, 'Any quick bread can be turned into a muffin and vice versa.'

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Mark’s Original Banana Bread. Photo: Kerri Conan

What’s the difference between quick breads and other kinds of bread? Is there a difference between a muffin and a quick bread? When it comes to quick breads, can you swap in whole wheat and swap out white flour?

Here’s the first of two days on quick breads on The Bittman Project; the audio includes the story about the evolution of The Mark Bittman Banana Bread recipe that we’ve included, below — along with a few others cited. Tomorrow, look for banana bread variations, zucchini breads, and more.


Mark's Original Banana Bread

Photo: Kerri Conan

Makes 1 loaf
Time: About 1 hour

I love all banana bread (especially toasted, the next day, with peanut butter), but I have been making them for thirty years and I do think this one is the ultimate —the coconut is what does it, although the butter helps too. This recipe from the original How to Cook Everything also has appeared for many years in The New York Times (and in New York Times Cooking), where it has earned five stars after nearly 3,000 reviews.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) softened butter, plus some for greasing 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • 1/2 cup grated dried unsweetened coconut

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter. Combine the flours, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl.

2. Cream the remaining stick of butter with an electric mixer (or by hand) in a medium bowl and beat in the eggs and bananas until combined. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients; do not mix more than necessary. Gently stir in the vanilla, nuts, and coconut.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until evenly browned, 50 to 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the bread will come out almost clean when it is done, but because of the bananas this bread will remain moister than most. Do not overbake.

4. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, wrap in parchment or wax paper for up to a couple days. (Or wrap the whole loaf tightly and freeze in an airtight container for up to a couple months.)

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything


Fruit and Nut Bread

Makes: 1 loaf
Time: About 1 1/4 hours, largely unattended

A versatile quick bread that you can make again and again without ever having the same loaf twice. If you are using fruit other than berries remove any pits or cores and chop the fruit into small pieces. (By the way, this is a perfect place for blueberries, straight from the freezer.) Then mix and match with your favorite chopped nuts.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter, plus softened butter for greasing

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup whole milk

  • 1 tablespoon grated orange or lemon zest

  • 1 egg

  • 1 cup blueberries, cranberries, apples, cherries, or any other fruit; chopped as you like

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, or any other nut

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan with softened butter, dust with some flour, and tap out the excess.

2. Whisk together the remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the cold butter into bits, then use a fork or 2 knives to cut it into the dry ingredients until there are no pieces bigger than a small pea.

3. Beat together the milk, zest, and egg in a separate bowl. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten. Do not overmix; it’s okay if the batter is not perfectly smooth. Stir in the fruit and nuts.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost entirely clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then carefully turn it upside down to release the loaf. Serve warm or at room temperature or wrap loosely in cloth or paper and keep at room temperature for up to a couple days. (Or wrap the whole loaf tightly and freeze in an airtight container for up to a couple months.)

Variations

Vegan Fruit and Nut Bread. Grease the pan thoroughly with a good-quality vegetable oil. To replace the egg combine 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water; let sit for at least 3 minutes until it has a gel-like consistency. Omit the butter and add cut 6 tablespoons room temperature coconut oil to the wet ingredients. Replace the milk with unsweetened oat or almond milk. The rest stays the same.

6 ingredients to add to Fruit and Nut Bread

1. Dried fruit, chopped or sliced, up to 1 cup

2. Fresh rosemary or thyme leaves, chopped, up to 1/4 cup

3. Nut or fruit liqueur, substitute up to 1/4 cup for juice

4. Nut extract, up to 1 teaspoon

5. Almond flour, substitute for up to 1 cup of the all-purpose

6. Chopped candied ginger, up to 1/2 cup

— From How to Bake Everything


Vegan Walnut Banana Bread

Photo: Quentin Bacon

Makes 1 loaf 
Time: About 1 hour

Whenever you have leftover brown rice and overripe bananas around, try this whole-grain banana bread packed with fruit, spices, and nuts. It’s a real treat that's hearty enough to count as breakfast. As the loaf bakes, it forms a rice-flecked crust for a pleasant crunch and a contrast of textures in every bite. You can substitute other cooked whole grains (like steel-cut oats, quinoa, or millet) or use cooked mashed apples, pears, or apricots instead of the bananas. Whichever way you go, serve it with some mashed fresh berries or fruit compote alongside and you're set. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing 

  • 4 overripe large bananas

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice

  • 3/4 cup maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Generously grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with some oil. Mash the bananas in a large bowl until smooth. Add the rice, maple syrup, vanilla, and the remaining oil; stir until thoroughly combined and let sit while you combine the other ingredients.

2. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl; stir until everything is evenly distributed.

3. Fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture along with the nuts. Gently stir until the mixture is just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until evenly golden and a toothpick poked into the middle comes out fairly clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let sit on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting, then cool completely before slicing. Store loosely wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a day or two. (Or wrap the whole loaf tightly and freeze in an airtight container for up to a couple months.)

Variations

Sweet Potato–Hazelnut Bread. Instead of the bananas, roast or steam 2 or 3 small sweet potatoes; peel and mash them (you should have about 2 cups). Use hazelnuts instead of walnuts.

Double-Pumpkin Bread. Use 2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin and green pumpkin seeds instead of the bananas and nuts.

— Recipe from The VB6 Cookbook

Mark's Original Banana Bread And More
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