Best Banana Bread (with Toasted Nuts & Olive Oil)

I have made banana bread at least a dozen times since the pandemic began. Somehow there always seem to be just-before-rotten bananas in the fruit bowl. I take ‘em out, turn ‘em into banana bread, buy more, and watch as they slowly darken and it’s time to get out the beaters and the batter bowls once again.

Why do we eat so many bananas? Why do we let so many bananas spoil? Is it just to make banana bread? Maybe!

I started off with a recipe from Joanne Chang, Boston’s master baker, whose latest book is Pastry Love (and it is a love!). But over the months I’ve revised and adapted and shifted and changed. This is what has evolved.

As in many cake recipes, I like to use an olive oil that doesn’t have a pronounced pungent or bitter flavor. A fresh, green, piquant oil will simply dominate the whole thing, while a Spanish arbequina, with its flowery, non-intrusive aromas, is a good choice to blend with the fragrances of bananas and toasted nuts. There are many arbequinas available (it’s a favorite cultivar for new, large-scale, intensive plantings in California and Chile), but I seek out traditional Spanish arbequinas, like those made by Castillo de Canena in southern Andalucia or by Casas de Hualdo from the high plateau of La Mancha in the central part of the country.

Using extra-virgin olive oil gives a silky texture to the cake while it also boosts the flavors of a family favorite. And be sure to toast the nuts (10 to 15 minutes in a 350º oven) before you begin.

  • Butter for greasing a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more or less to taste)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 bananas, very ripe, mashed to make about 1 1/3 cups
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

Set the oven on 350ºF. Use about a tablespoon of butter to grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom and set it in place.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and toss with a fork to mix well.

In a separate, larger bowl beat the eggs on high until they are very fluffy, then slowly beat in the sugar, about a quarter-cup at a time, until the mixture is very thick and pale. Continue to beat as you add in the oil, a little at a time in a thin drizzle, then beat in the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla.

Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients and the nuts. Fold thoroughly, so no streaks of dry flour are showing.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 1 ¼ hours, or until the top is firm but springy and toasted golden, and the sides pull away slightly from the pan.

Remove to a rack to cool, then turn the banana bread out of the pan and remove the parchment from the bottom. Turn it right side up again for the nicest presentation.

This is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and if it happens to get old and dry (I promise, it will not), slice it and toast it and spread with Philadelphia cream cheese for a tea-time treat.


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