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Perfect Banana Bread Every Time

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I’d like to share a very simple banana bread recipe with you for the weekend. I’ve probably made this recipe at least 300 times, which is a totally scary thought! It comes from Sally Sampson’s super-useful and sadly out-of-print cookbook, The Bake Sale Cookbook: Quintessential American Baking (Simon & Schuster). The technical title is “Paige’s Astounding Banana Bread.” I’ve baked it in a loaf pan, as directed, as well as in a square and a round. I’ve made it into muffins and muffin tops, into birthday cake and into a base for ice cream sundaes with caramel or hot fudge sauce. I’ve added everything from nuts, raisins, dates and dried cherries to chocolate chips and cut-up Snickers bars to the batter. It never disappoints. Even Gloria, our wonderful babysitter (who swears that everything I make tastes better than it does when she follows the same recipe) conceded that her banana bread was mighty delicious. When I called Sally to ask if it was ok to reprint her recipe, she sent me the chocolate version she’s making now. I’ll save that for a later posting.

In her book, Sally calls for 1 1/4 cups of sugar, but we prefer it with just 1 cup. And we make it at home with oil, but of course, like everything else, it’s better made with butter.

4 medium overripe bananas, the blacker the better
1 to 1 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup or more nuts, raisins or chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with the sugar, then mash in the butter or oil. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Mix the flour with the baking soda and salt and add them to the bowl. Mix just until the ingredients are blended. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake until the banana bread is well-browned and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and let cool to warm before eating.

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