If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

Joanne Chang’s Famous Banana Bread

Joanne Chang’s Famous Banana Bread
Banana Bread with a dollop of Daisy Sour Cream.

Banana Bread recipe searches surge.

I wasn’t entirely surprised to read that on-line searches for banana bread recipes had risen as stay home continues to be the mantra of sensible people everywhere.  From Great Britain, where Reuters reported “Great British lockdown: bread-making frenzy sweeps the UK” to the Wellness site Well and Good which declared “Banana bread popularity during COVID-19: How (and why) it became the unofficial baked good of a pandemic’.  Writer Emily Lawrence opined ” Looking back at the past two months, there have been different phases of quarantining. Phase one: Panic shopping for toilet paper, water, and hand sanitizer. Phase two: Overbook yourself for Zoom happy hours and hangouts with your friends, coworkers, and random people from your sorority you haven’t seen in 10 years. Phase three: Make banana bread.”

This is not the first time we’ve sought refuge with a loaf of warm, sweet comfort in a time of crisis.

To butter or not to butter…there’s no wrong answer when it comes to Banana Bread.

Banana Bread was first baked during the Great Depression. It makes sense since its ingredients are inexpensive, bananas are easy to find and it’s easy to make. And bananas, unlike most fruits, can be found year ’round. And unlike fruits like apples, overripe bananas and easy to work with because they are already soft. The rest of the ingredients –eggs, flour, sugar–are also inexpensive and easy to find. Then there’s the science behind eating something warm and sweet.  A Ph.D named Rachel Herz, author of a book entitled “Why You Eat What You Eat” (WW Norton 2018), writes “Warm banana bread activates the pleasure center in the brain. triggering chemicals that make us feel good. And there’s something else banana bread triggers: memories of growing up and a nostalgic connection to our families now.

Connections to home are a big part of Banana Bread’s appeal. Both my own and those of the author of today’s recipe.

Banana Bread was a familiar part of tea with my Canadian mother. I knew the bread couldn’t have been all that hard to make since my mother viewed time spent in the kitchen as time away from doing absolutely anything else.  You name it and she would have rather done it than step foot in her kitchen. But she was also a paragon of thrift so no ripe banana would have gone unused. 

Joanne Chang of Boston’s Flour Bakery and Cafe

Apparently Joanne Chang’s mother and mine would have gotten along famously.  Chef Chang, of Boston’s Flour Bakery, had a mother whose thrift equaled mine’s.  She has vivid memories of her mother’s forays to the grocery where she bought overripe bananas for 10 cents a pound.  These she would leave out in the kitchen exhorting her family of four to ‘have a banana’ whenever they were in earshot of the kitchen.  Now Ms. Chang is well known for her taking American classics and turning them on their heads. And before you get to the recipe for her Banana Bread, look at what else she has created from
Strawberry shortcakes to Fig Newtons and Homemade Oreos.

Joanne Chang’s Banana Bread recipe is packed with everything you want Banana Bread to be.

So it stands to reason that her banana bread would be the best of the best and it really is. And talk about simple! My mother would have glommed onto this recipe in a New York minute. It is packed with banana flavor, dense and filled with toasted walnuts, cinnamon, and vanilla. It took Andrew all of 15 minutes to make the batter. Then into the oven for an hour or so and the house was filled with the delicious smell of this lovely Tea Time or anytime treat. Here and the links, followed by the recipe.

 

Joanne Chang’s Incomparable Sticky Buns from "Flour"

Milky Way Tart adapted from Joanne Chang

Joanne Chang’s Recipe for Homemade Oreo Cookies

Joanne Chang’s Famous Banana Bread from Flour Bakery and Café in Boston MA.

April 20, 2020
: 1- 9x5x3-inch loaf
: 15 min
: 2 hr
: Easy

A banana filled with walnuts, cinnamon and the goodness of ripe bananas.

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Directions
  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pan, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.
  • Step 2 Sift together 1 2/3 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.
  • Step 3 Beat together eggs and sugar in the bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when the beater is lifted about 10 minutes.
  • Step 4 Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts gently but thoroughly.
  • Step 5 Pour the batter into the loaf pan, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
  • Step 6 Cool loaf in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.
  • Step 7 Note: Banana bread keeps, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature 2 days or frozen 1 month.


14 thoughts on “Joanne Chang’s Famous Banana Bread”

  • Of course I had to make this immediately. I’ve made it before but forgot about it since I’m not much of a baker (except bread). The recipe was outstanding and my dh was in banana bread heaven. Even better with butter and a hot cuppa!

    Thanks, Monte! Sending you positive thoughts. Stay safe and take care!

    Kate from Alberta

    • Dear Kate, if you like this recipe, you may want to try Joanne Chang’s Sticky buns…they are out of this world. And I do love her biography…Harvard grad becomes baker…immigrant family disappointed but Joanne becomes huge success in Boston. Thanks for the positive thoughts. We are hoping to move out to the beach May 1st. Stay Safe. Stay Strong. This too shall pass! Monte from New York.

  • Dear Monte from New York,

    Next on the baking list: Joanne Chang’s Sticky Buns. We lease a beautiful river lot and we are aiming to be there May 1. An absolute yes to the Beach for you two!

    The steak dinner post sounds delightful but dh is all about bbq and he does a magnificent job. But next cold (read snowy) day I might break the rules.

    Take care!

    Kate from Alberta

    • Hi Kate! The steak recipe really is for those of us stuck in apartments with no access to a grill. So DH can barbecue away. Let us know how you like the sticky buns. Stay Safe. Stay Strong. I wore red on Friday! All best, Monte

  • I find it odd that this recipe under Joanne’s name is different than a U Tube video that I just saw, also called Joanne Chang’s banana bread. Not totally, but quantities are off and this one adds nuts which were missing from the U Tube version. I made the U Tube version and it was simply marginal. I guess I’ll try this one to see if it beats my old tried and true recipe.

    • Dear Annie. How odd. Who made the video? This recipe is a lift from “Flour”(Chronicle Books 2010). I also checked “Pastry Love”, her latest book (Houghton Mifflin Houghton 2019). There are four recipes in it using bananas but none for Banana bread. Isn’t it odd that someone would attribute a recipe to someone and then alter it? It reminds me of my favorite kind of comments posted after someone uses a recipe then writes: “This is a terrible recipe. I switched out the chicken for pork, used regular cream instead of sour cream, substituted chili paste for limes, cooked it longer and it was dreadful.” My sister-in-law and I look for those just for laughs. This version of Banana Bread is worth making again. Please come back and tell us what you thought. Best Monte

  • Hi Monte, Made 3 loaves tonight – 2 with nuts. It came out very moist , hearty size loaves and tasted delicious. We enjoyed half a loaf just now on our pandemic zoom call. Very good recipe.

    • Dear Marcia, how great of you to write. We thought the recipe was terrific and I am so glad you did too. Stay Safe. Stay Strong. This too shall pass.
      XOX Monte

  • This Banana bread is divine! It’s now my go-to recipe. I substituted chocolate chips for the nuts.

    • So happy you liked it! I don’t Joanne Chang knows how to make a bad recipe. Try some of her others. They’re all great! XOXO

    • Dear Katy, Of course you can substitute yoghurt for sour cream. But I would definitely recommend Whole Milk Greek Youghurt which has the body needed to stand up to the bread. As to oil, generally in baking, Canola or Vegetable Oil is preferable to Olive Oil because the first two have virtually no flavor profile whereas Olive Oil can have a distracting flavor. Hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.