My family is bananas about bananas. Whether in cakes, muffins, cereal or all by themselves, bananas are a staple in my house.
Even our cat, Daphne, goes ape over them. The least social of our four felines, Daphne somehow knows when a banana is about to be eaten: She comes running from one of her hiding places and jumps on my lap just as the peel is coming off. The other three couldn’t be bothered.
Bananas are one of my favorite go-to snacks: They’re portable, and nutritious. High in fiber and potassium, they may help prevent high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and digestive problems.
The only downside to bananas is their shelf life. I try to buy them just before they peak in ripeness, but it can be tricky hitting it right. And in my house, if the bananas reach the speckled-skin stage, they’ve ripened too far, and they’re destined for the freezer for banana bread or smoothies.
Freezing bananas is simple, and can be done a couple different ways. If you plan to use them in smoothies, peel and slice to the desired size. Arrange pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan or plate and pop in the freezer for two hours. Remove from the freezer, toss the banana pieces into a freezer storage bag and return to the freezer. When you want to make a smoothie, take out a few chunk and toss them into the blender with your other ingredients.
For baking, you can freeze larger portions by peeling and cutting in half or bigger pieces. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, toss the entire banana – peel and all – into a storage bag and freeze. The peel will turn black, but the fruit inside will be fine. To use, just defrost on the counter for about an hour, mash and toss into your batter.
You can also mash before freezing. Just be sure to note on your storage bag how many bananas you’ve mashed or the number of cups the bag contains. Squeeze out any air remaining in your bag, flatten and store flat in the freezer.
If you have the opposite problem and wonder how to get green bananas to ripen faster, you can try one of several tricks. Place bananas in a closed paper bag. As they ripen, the peels emit ethylene gas, which speeds ripening. This method takes one to three days.
You can also bake unpeeled bananas in a 300-degree oven on a parchment-lined sheet pan for about a half-hour, checking every 15 minutes for softness. The skins will turn black, but the fruit will soften for baking. However, baking won’t make the bananas any sweeter.
Microwaving is another option. Prick the unpeeled banana all over with a knife or fork and microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, checking for desired softness. Again, they won’t be good for eating raw, but you can easily mash them for baking.
I’ve tried a bunch (pun intended) of banana bread recipes and always come back to my favorite, which calls for yogurt and results in a perfectly moist loaf. I use whatever flavor is in my refrigerator, and it always turns out great. Add handful of roasted walnut nuts or raisins, if you like. I sometimes throw a cup-and-a-half of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips into the batter, but cut back on the sugar.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed well
1/4 cup yogurt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust bottom lightly with flour.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together mashed bananas, eggs, yogurt, vanilla and cooled butter.
Fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake about 55 minutes or until bread is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan before transferring to a wire rack.