ATK's Banana Bread

Do the internets need another banana bread recipe? Probably not. But are we the sort of friends where I can't help but tell you about a new one I tried and had to smack the counter, because hot damn, it's some seriously good banana bread? Definitely.

Before I get into the whats and wheres of the banana bread of which I speak, I think we should talk about a few things. First, what's your very favorite banana bread recipe, and from where and who did it come? What's in it--nuts, no nuts, chocolate chips or various whimsy? Is it so moist it's almost cake-like, or a bit drier, the kind that begs to be toasted and spread with butter? Do share, my friends.

Because for me, my so-quintessential-I-need-to-capitalize-it Banana Bread is a super moist, dense loaf, free of nuts and other frippery, and a recipe of Mrs. Patsy LaMonica, a dear old family friend who laughs loud, loves big and calls you "girlfriend" within ten minutes of meeting you. She, and her amazing Banana Bread, are really something. I should tell you about that specific recipe some time. But for now, I'm telling you about a banana bread recipe that is seriously a close second, tastes freakishly close to my favorite Banana Bread (although, psst, it's even simpler to throw together), and the only reason that it's not in first place is because it doesn't involve Patsy.

But it does involve the America's Test Kitchen geniuses, who I've dreamily droned on about again and again on this site. These people are always so right on, it kind of makes me tear up a little. And their wacky ways of arriving at perfection never cease to amaze, or at the very least amuse. Even with the simplest, most classic recipes, the ATKers find a way to have you using a technique or ingredient that makes you look over you shoulder to see if anyone's watching you because it all just seems so crazy. But in this case, their usual bending-over-backwards feats of fancy give way to a pretty straightforward, easy recipe, the only commandments being to mash the bananas by hand to avoid a puree, and using very speckled (nearly black) bananas. There's also a good dose of plain yogurt to add tang and moisture.

And to me, the lack of fussiness here is a good thing, because the beauty of banana bread, whatever the recipe, is that it's such a perfectly homey, familiar thing. Anytime is the right time for banana bread, but I tend to think that God invented it on the same day he created soup and rainy Sundays, because it's seriously the best at those sort of moments. That's deep, people.

America's Test Kitchen Banana Bread
Adapted from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

If you're a walnuts-in-banana-bread sort of person, add about 1 1/4 cups, toasted and chopped, to the batter.

Makes 1 8-inch loaf

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Adjust a rack to the lower middle position of the oven and preheat it to350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bananas, yogurt, eggs, melted butter and vanilla, blending well.

Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry, just to blend--do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out and let cool completely on a wire rack.