I did not create this recipe, so therefore I feel completely justified in calling it the best. If I developed the recipe and called it the best, I would be bragging. And far be it from me to brag. I used to know a cooking teacher who titled every recipe Perfect. They weren't.
This exceptional recipe comes from the late Marion Cunningham, the cook and baker extraordinaire, who rewrote the award winning Fanny Farmer cookbooks. I miss her everyday.
This bread is loaded with bananas, 4 to be exact, and if you keep them until they are overripe, you will never, yes I said never, have a bread with more pronounced banana flavor.
And then there is the texture--ultra tender, immensely moist and slightly nutty. The best way I can describe this bread is to say that with every bite your taste buds will be begging for another. It is difficult to eat one slice.
The original recipe is for making one loaf in a 9"x 3"pan. When I want to give a large loaf as a gift, I have a problem. Karl gets sad. He watches with soulful eyes while I make it and almost gets teary when I wrap it up. To keep my marriage intact, I make at least two loaves. For the holidays, I double the recipe and make three small ones to give as gifts.
RIPE BANANAS ARE KEY
The best bananas for baking are those that are so brown and squishy that they look like they belong in the compost. At this point, which probably doesn't concur with the exact time you want to bake the bread, pop them in the freezer. They can stay there indefinitely. Remove them about 30 minutes before using, snip off the tip and squeeze out the squishy, ugly, but intensely flavorful, banana.
When you get a craving for banana bread and don't want to wait for your bananas to over ripen, here's a trick that really works. Put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment (they may leak). Bake them at 300°F and until soft and brown, 30 to 45 minutes. They are now ready for all your banana recipes.
Whether you are searching for something special to complete a luncheon with an entree salad or soup; a brunch with eggs; or the perfect pastry to complement tea or coffee, search no further than this bountiful banana bread.
Best Banana Bread a.k.a Kona Banana Bread
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
4 medium very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
¼ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9"x5" loaf pan with butter and flour or do as I do and use nonstick spray.
Combine banana, sour cream, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3½ minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed until fully combined, about 1 minute each. Add banana mixture and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Mixture will look curdled. Add dry ingredients in 2 batches, beating on low after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl if necessary, until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds per batch. Fold in walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until batter is set, top is dark golden brown and starting to crack, sides are starting to pull away from pan, and a tester inserted into center of bread comes out clean, 60–65 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Run a knife around perimeter of pan to loosen loaf, then invert. Turn right side up and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Banana bread can be baked, cooled, then wrapped in plastic and left at room temperature up to 3 days, or frozen up to 3 months.