Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brown Sugar Banana-Date Bread

This is perhaps the best banana bread I've ever made or had. I know that's a pretty bold statement. Most banana breads are essentially the same. It's really hard to set each one apart from the other, but this particular variation is not only incredibly moist, but it boasts sweet bites of delicious dates as well as a crispy, sugary crust on top.

The use of brown sugar in the batter for this banana bread yields an almost caramel sweetness which is a wonderful compliment to bananas. It just has more flavor!

And then the dates really take this bread over the edge. They have such a distinct flavor, which shockingly is only heightened by its inclusion in this banana bread. They put chopped nuts and chocolate chips to shame.

A sprinkling of dark brown sugar over the top before baking creates a caramelized crust that offsets not only the moist texture of the banana bread, but also provides an extra layer of sweetness to an otherwise mild, but flavorful breakfast treat.

Banana bread is probably the most common quick bread in many people's repertoires, and that's mainly because people always seem to have leftover too-ripe bananas that need to fulfill a purpose. I know that's usually my reason for whipping up banana bread.

The next time you have brown bananas on your kitchen counter, consider making this spin on banana bread. It tops my list, and I'm sure it will top yours!

Brown Sugar Banana-Date Bread
Makes one 9-inch loaf
(Adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 1/2 cups well-mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, for sprinkling

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray and if using a metal loaf pan line the bottom with parchment--no need to line with parchment if using stoneware.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, light brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and dates; set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with a fork. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the dark brown sugar on top of the loaf. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes (or potentially longer--around 65 minutes if using stoneware), until the loaf is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool the bread in the loaf pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Wrapped in parchment or in an airtight container, the bread will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.


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