It seems like just about everyone is baking banana bread these days. It makes sense (to me): banana bread is basically the epitome of comfort food – it’s warm and chewy and it smells amazing and there’s something really cozy and familiar about it. In a time like this – when a lot of what’s happening feels strange and a little scary – it’s nice to tuck into something that’s nostalgic and comfortable.
I’ve been baking banana bread for years, and I’ve made every version you can think of: I’ve added walnuts, chocolate chips (sometimes both); I’ve made BB with 3 ingredients, and I’ve made it with 10; I’ve added zucchini, I’ve made it with brown sugar crunch on top, maple glaze, plain, with and without banana slices…you name it, I’ve probably done it when it comes to BB. That being said, I think my favorite version is one of the simpler ones: no nuts, no chocolate, no sneaky zucchini or brown sugar crunch…just a plain banana bread with a three-ingredient glaze and a few small tweaks that transform it into something undeniably special without fancying it up beyond recognition.
The basic recipe is, well…basic, but a few very simple riffs on the classic ingredients make this loaf richer and more flavorful than a standard BB. Melted butter is – undeniably – one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. Browned butter, however, is even more indulgent and personally, I add it to recipes whenever I possibly can. Brown sugar is another one of my all-time fave baking tweaks: whenever a recipe calls for white sugar, I always consider whether it can be substituted for – or used in tandem with – brown sugar. Like brown butter, it adds a caramel-y, nutty aspect to a recipe that makes it feel more thoughtfully prepared, and I like things that feel thoughtfully prepared.
As for the Maple Glaze, it’s three ingredients, takes about 5 minutes, and is totally optional. This BB is perfect without it, but I never turn down an opportunity to sauce my food right the heck up, and this stuff is no exception. I make it while the loaf cools just a bit, and then drizzle it over the still-warm loaf. Then I let the glaze thicken just a bit, and when the loaf is is completely cool, I add more because…well, because I’m 34 years old and there’s no one around to stop me.
If you’ve got a loaf pan, some old bananas, and about an hour, I can’t think of a better way to spend some free time. If you can’t, either, here’s the recipe to get you going:
Brown Butter, Brown Sugar Banana Bread With Maple Glaze
For the Banana Bread
- 3 ripe bananas mashed
- 1/3 cup butter browned
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups AP flour
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar lightly packed
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 banana halved, as optional decoration
For the Maple Glaze
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
For the Banana Bread
Preheat an oven to 160FAN or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
While the oven heats up, brown the butter by heating the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it begins to foam and bubble. Stirring frequently, watch until the butter turns deep amber brown and becomes fragrant – it will smell nutty and rich; this takes between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on your stove top. Once the butter is browned (but not burnt!) turn off the heat.
Combine the mashed bananas, browned butter and vanilla in a bowl.
Separately, combine the flour, brown and white sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. After the mixtures have started to come together, add the beaten egg and stir until everything is just combined.
At this point, if you want to add nuts or chocolate chips (or anything else that you like in banana bread!) it can be added. I recommend adding about 1/2-3/4 cup of additional ingredients.
Pop the batter into a loaf pan, and decoratively place some banana halves on top, if you wish.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out almost completely clean.
Make sure to check on the load after 20 minutes or so – if the top of the loaf is browned sufficiently, cover it with tin foil while the inside of the bread continues baking.
For the Maple Glaze
While the banana bread cools, prepare the glaze by heating the butter and maple syrup in a small sauce pan until the butter has melted completely, taking care not to burn the mixture.
Whisk the butter and syrup into the confectioner's sugar until the glaze is very smooth. Use it immediately if you want to drizzle it over the banana bread. It thickens as it cools, and can also develop a skin if it sits for too long. If you want to allow it to thicken, that's fine, just be sure to stir it thoroughly before attempting to use it.
Note: if you don't have confectioner's (a/k/a powdered) sugar, you can make your own. I pretty much never have any on hand, but I always have plain white sugar in the cupboard, which you can simply pulverize in a blender to get confectioner's sugar! Regardless of whether you use the pre-pulverized stuff, or make it yourself, I recommend sifting it before adding it to the glaze to ensure you don't have any lumps!