This is the classic. The recipe that I've filed in the back of my brain indefinitely. I've never actually shared it, not because it's precious but because it seems unremarkable. And yet I bake it every week without realizing how I rely on both the versatility and the consistency of it...the hallmark of a great recipe. I've listed simple variations below the recipe; check them out, and also use the search on this site by typing in "banana bread" to see the fancier versions.
Notes: Neutral oil is organic, canola. Butter is unsalted.
ESSENTIAL DOUBLE-LOAF BANANA BREAD
Ingredients: 1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick) + 2 tbsp., 1/2 cup neutral oil, 2 cups sugar + more for dusting, four eggs at room temperature, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, three large overripe bananas (or four medium), 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. sea salt.
Makes two standard loaves.
1. Preheat the oven to 350*—grease and line two standard loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup of butter, the oil, and the sugar until well combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, then beat in the eggs and stir in the vanilla extract.
4. Stir the banana mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Fold in the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes until the sides have begun to pull away, and the top is bouncy. You may lay over a piece of foil at the 40-minute mark to keep them from browning too quickly.
5. Remove the loaves, and while hot, spread the top of each with 1 tbsp. of butter, then dust generously with sugar.
Dairy-free: replace the butter with 1/2 cup of neutral oil, bringing the total amount of oil used to 1 cup. Use oil (or coconut oil) at the end to spread over the top before dusting with sugar.
Gluten-free: use King Arthur's measure-for-measure GF flour. Loaves will be slightly dense, with less rise.
Deep, rich flavor: replace the sugar with brown sugar and add 2 tbsp. of bourbon or whiskey to the batter with the vanilla.
Winter vibe: replace half of the sugar with dark brown sugar, and add 2 tsp. of cinnamon to the batter with the dry ingredients. Dust the top with cinnamon sugar.
Multi-grain: replace 1 cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and add 2 tbsp. of flax seeds.
Vegan/Eggless: replace the butter with 1/2 cup of oil, bringing the total amount of oil to 1 cup. Replace the eggs with a mixture of 2/3 cup apple sauce, 1 tbsp. flax seed, and 2 tbsp. water. Loaves will have less rise and more moisture.