Experienced bakers know that the best bananas for baking — you know, for banana muffins, banana bread, even banana cake — are very ripe bananas. But how dark, how ripe, should we let bananas go? In a happy accident, I've discovered what I call "black bananas". They streeeettttch the ripening time by many weeks and draw out even more of that luscious banana flavor that banana lovers crave. Bakers, prepare to exercise great, great patience before baking with bananas.
left ~ A "green banana" is an "unripe" banana. It may be tinged with green but is often yellow. A green banana makes for for unremarkable banana-baking.
center ~ It's tempting to start baking with a banana once it starts to develop some spots. But patience, patience, it's not ready yet!
right ~ A banana must be really ripe — nearly all brown and even, if you want, well into 'black' — to yield luscious banana flavor in banana bread, banana cake and banana cookies.
I've baked with bananas like those on the right for years, waiting patiently for the bananas to ripen and their skins to darken while sitting out on the counter. Once the bananas were fully dark and ripe, I moved them to the freezer to hold for baking later.
And then ...
Now There Are "Black Bananas"!
It happened by accident.
Back in 2010, I had a half dozen very ripe bananas on the counter but no time nor inclination to bake. Instead of freezing the bananas like usual, I slipped them into a container and left them in the refrigerator, hoping the cold temperature would 'hold' the ripe bananas for baking some time later.
Weeks passed. I got busy. Life happened. You know this goes, right?
Finally I opened the container, expecting to discard the bananas. The skins were completely black and had begun to shrink. One had split open, spilling a pool of banana-goo into the bowl. Mustering courage, I tasted that banana-goo. MY GOODNESS! It was like a banana syrup, dark and oh so sweet and full of banana flavor.
Another couple of weeks passed. I finally made banana muffins, using three "black bananas" (in the photo, they're the darker bananas on the left side) and one "very very ripe" banana (it's the white banana on the right side). Those banana muffins? Oh so good. So banana-y. So moist.
Ever since, I intentionally move very ripe bananas into the refrigerator for slow-slow-slow ripening – I'm letting black bananas happen on purpose!
How to Make "Black Bananas" On Purpose
Let your bananas ripen on the counter until the skins are no longer "spotted" with brown but completely brown. This can take two or three or even four weeks.
Wash and dry the bananas. Separate individual bananas from the bunch, using a knife to avoid tearing open the skin.
Place the bananas in a container, I use an inexpensive rectangular Pyrex casserole dish. Cover and push it to a back corner of the refrigerator for eight or more weeks. During this time, there's no need to do anything.
When you're ready to bake, do a "sniff" test in the container. If there's any "rotten" smell, uh oh, one or more of the bananas has gone bad and should be discarded. Because the bananas are separate, one could have gone bad, the others may be okay.
Tear the skin off one banana, drop the flesh into a bowl. The flesh may be quite gooey and syrupy, this is the very best! But some times it will be dark and a little mealy, this is good too, just not quite as good. Give it another "sniff test". A delicate vinegar-y scent is okay, anything that smells "bad" too you should be thrown away. If you're using more than one banana, keep them separate until you know they're all good to eat.
That's it! Now go bake!
My Favorite Recipes for Ripe Bananas
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