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.
Green bananas (as in 'unripe' bananas, which may have tinges of green but are often yellow) make for blah banana-baking. 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.
This is how I've baked with bananas for years, waiting patiently for the bananas to ripen and their skins to darken while sitting out on the counter. Once the bananas are ripe, I move them to the freezer to hold for baking later.
Now There's the 'Black' Banana
A few weeks ago, I had a half dozen very ripe bananas on the counter but no time nor inclination to bake. Instead of freezing the bananas, I slipped them into a plastic container and left them in the refrigerator, hoping the cold temperature would 'hold' the ripe bananas for baking later.
Weeks passed. Finally I opened the dish, 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 it. 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' (shown in the photo, on the left side) and one 'very very ripe' banana (on the right side). Those banana muffins? Oh so good. So banana-y. So moist.
From now on, I'm moving very ripe bananas (skins washed) into the refrigerator for slow-slow-slow ripening. My best estimate is that 'black bananas' will spend four weeks on the counter, then eight or more weeks in the refrigerator.
My Favorite Recipes for Ripe Bananas
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