Monday, July 11, 2011

Browned Butter Caramel Banana Bread

I'm always on the search for finding ways to use up overripe bananas in a more creative way than plain ol' banana bread. Banana and chocolate? Done it. Banana and peanut butter? Always a winning combination. This weekend I brainstormed and came up with a new combination to try: banana and caramel.

I had so many leftover bananas that I knew I'd have to make a loaf of banana bread based on my favorite recipe from a friend. The recipe uses an overabundance of bananas to create a super moist and flavorful loaf. The secret trick is to leave some of the banana chunks intact for surprise bites of banana goodness. Starting with that as my base I brainstormed ways to incorporate caramel flavor. My first plan was to make some caramel syrup and swirl it into the batter, but that alone didn't seem indulgent enough. Raiding the cupboard I found some Heath milk chocolate toffee bits to mix into the batter. OK, that's a step in the right direction but what's next? Then I remembered how the browned butter chocolate chip cookies I made a few months back had a distinct caramelized flavor thanks to that browned butter so I decided to brown the butter called for in this recipe. A genius idea, if I may say so myself.

The banana bread is definitely a step up from the usual. The caramel flavor is subtle, which makes it all the more fun when you hit a toffee bit or a bit of the caramel swirl and get a real burst of flavor. I'm very happy with what I came up with and even happier that I finally got rid of those nasty-looking bananas on my counter.

Caramel Filling
Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons heavy cream, at room temperature

1) Melt the sugar over medium heat in a large pot. With a wooden spoon, stir the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color.

2) Add the butter and salt and stir it in until melted.

3) Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. You may have some lumps but keep stirring until they have melted. Remove from heat and let cool while you make the banana bread.

Banana Bread

1 cup of sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs whisked
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
4-7 whole bananas (overly ripe and mashed up with a few un-mashed chunks left in)
3/4 to 1 cup chocolate-covered toffee bits (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan with butter or spray and lightly flour.

2) Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

3) Combine sugar and melted butter in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add vanilla extract and stir.

4) Mix in eggs and stir until thoroughly combined.

5) Add the flour in three additions and the mashed banana in two additions, beginning and ending with flour. Stir until just combined. Fold in optional toffee bits.

6) Pour batter into prepared pan. Drizzle caramel on top and swirl into batter with the tip of a knife. Bake 50-70 minutes. The more bananas you use the longer it will take. Test bread by inserting a butter knife into the center to see if batter sticks. Continue to bake until no batter sticks to knife.

7) Cool completely in pan on rack. Once cool, invert onto rack and serve.