TO CALL IT BREAD feels like cheating, somehow. Sure, it has that quintessential loaf “shape.” They contain those essential building blocks of baking: flour, sugar, salt, eggs, butter. But banana bread is so thick, so moist, so sweet. So fundamentally different from crusty baguettes and rounded sourdough and whorled rye.
And yet. When I tried some standard banana bread recipes, it just didn’t quite hit the spot. First I made a loaf of the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Banana Bread. Then I took the recipe for Ina Garten’s Banana Crunch Muffins and poured two thirds of the recipe into a loaf pan and baked it for a lot longer than the muffins would have required. And then I decided that, while the former may be the best banana bread I’ve ever eaten, I wanted something more.
My inspiration was butter pecan ice cream. And the thing is, I didn’t even eat the ice cream recently for it to inspire me. Its siren song was that strong. And so I substituted toasted pecans for the walnuts, topped it with whole pecans, and coated the whole thing with a layer of maple syrup for added sweetness. And it was better than the best banana bread. It was maple banana pecan bread.
And then it was gone.
MAPLE BANANA PECAN BREAD, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, all but 8-10 coarsely chopped
3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten slightly
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees after adjusting rack to middle of oven.
Butter bottom and sides of 9″x5″ loaf pan and set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and chopped pecans in large bowl, mix until combined and pecans are coated.
Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry mixture until just combined. Batter will look thick and chunky.
Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Place remaining whole pecans on top of batter. Drizzle maple syrup across top of batter until thinly coated.
Bake until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approximately 55 minutes depending on the temperament of your oven. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove and cool on cooling rack.
Serve warm if possible.