Banana Zucchini Bread and more: summertime tweaks to our Recipe of the Year

I am not much of a rule-follower in the kitchen.

I don’t like to leave well enough alone, and I don’t like thinking someone else (trusted recipe writers, for instance) know better than me when it comes to flavor profiles. I consider recipes a nice jumping off point, never the final word. (Perhaps, then, you can understand why I am known for my cooking, not generally my baking.)

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

Enter: Whole-Grain Banana Bread

Hailed for its tender crumb, moist interior, and satisfyingly crunchy top, our 2018 Recipe of the Year is both easy to make and practically foolproof. So much so that someone on our talented blog team figured even I couldn’t mess this one up.

Challenge accepted.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about a failed baking project. Rather, it’s proof that my fellow employee-owners are right. This recipe is practically bulletproof, and while following the rules is always recommended, the recipe is also very forgiving and certainly amicable to change.

That said, I had some tools to help with my experimentation.

Build Your Own Banana Bread via @kingarthurflour

Our build your own banana bread tool was useful as I explored different add-ins and considered alternative liquids and bases.

Need a use for those extra zucchinis? We have the fix: banana zucchini bread! Delicious and just in time for summer. Click To Tweet

I also referenced a favorite book of mine (and gift from my fantastic baby brother) called The Flavor Bible. This book helped me know ahead of time which flavor profiles would work best, and which might not be so advisable.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

I did some good old-fashioned paper-and-pen mock-ups before I got started. Which, as you can see, ensured not every idea came to fruition (pun intended!).

Experiment 1: Zucchini

Come July, zucchini is so abundant it’s practically impossible to give away. Leave your car unlocked or your windows down, and you might find yourself with an unsolicited “donation” on your hands. There’s a reason that “zucchini” is one of the most popular online search terms for summer cooking and baking — people just don’t know how to get rid of it all.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

That got me thinking. Summer is no exception when it comes to having overripe bananas in need of use, so why not combine these two versatile and loved recipes into one? And since both zucchini and banana go well with lemon, how about a hint of that tart fruit to lighten up the flavor?

My first attempt yielded a slightly less lemony flavor than I was hoping for, so I gave it a boost with a teaspoon of our Fiori di Sicilia – a floral/citrus oil with hints of vanilla. This had the desired effect; but if you don’t have any on hand, you can add zest from an additional 1/2 lemon, or experiment with adding orange zest.

Finally, I added a teaspoon of almond flavor. Note that flavor is different from extract; flavor is much stronger! I purchased the almond flavor by mistake (I meant to buy extract) but I’ve come to love it for its intense flavor, which can be achieved without adding lots of additional liquid. Like the Fiori, almond flavor is optional, but highly recommended.

For the topping, I used a spice I brought back with me from a recent trip to Denmark called ASA topping. ASA is dominated by cardamom, which adds an extra dimension to cinnamon and pairs well with all of the flavors in this loaf. If you don’t have cardamom on hand, you can stick with just using cinnamon.

While I opted to keep things simple for this initial attempt, banana-zucchini bread lends itself to all of the add-ins and variations found in the build your own banana bread tool.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

The recipe: Banana Zucchini Bread with Lemon and Almond

Batter
1 cup thoroughly mashed banana; about 2 medium-large bananas
1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
zest (grated rind) from 1 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond flavor (or 2 teaspoons almond extract)
1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Topping
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan; if your pan is glass or stoneware, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the mashed banana, zucchini, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, almond flavor or extract, and Fiori di Sicilia.

Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the banana mixture. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix again to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan.

Mix together the topping ingredients, and sprinkle over the batter.

Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes; if baking in a glass or stoneware pan, increase the baking time by 10 to 15 minutes. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.

The finished loaf will feel set on the top, and a paring knife (or other thin knife) inserted into the center should come out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs (but no wet batter). If you have a digital thermometer, the bread’s temperature at the center should register about 205°F.

Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

My banana zucchini bread was such a hit with the neighbors, I got to thinking about what other bumper crops might be added to this versatile bread.

Experiment 2: Strawberry-rhubarb

This recipe took a little more experimentation. Adding fresh strawberries and rhubarb made a wetter bread than that made with zucchini, even when flour and baking time were increased. But the final result, after further tinkering, is a delicious, hearty slice, one that pairs beautifully with vanilla ice cream.

Once again, I used cardamom in the topping, with great success. I also used Fiori di Sicilia, because it was so good in the zucchini bread! Once again, both flavors were solid additions, but both are optional.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

The recipe: Strawberry-Rhubarb Banana Bread

Batter
2 cups thoroughly mashed banana; about 4 to 5 medium bananas
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries

Topping
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Follow the preparation and baking directions for the banana zucchini bread, tossing the strawberries and rhubarb with the flour prior to mixing into the batter.

Let me reiterate, this is a very moist loaf; be sure to allow it to cool completely before slicing.

Experiment 3: Banana bread as dessert

For my final loaf, I decided dessert was in order. Let’s not kid ourselves here; this banana bread is basically cake, and I am totally, completely OK with that.

Because this recipe adds 2 cups volume to the original recipe, I filled my 9″ x 5″ pan to within about 1″ from the top, then took the remainder of the batter (approximately 2 cups) and baked it as muffins, adding chocolate chips (which I can confirm is a great addition!). You could also use a slightly larger 10″ x 5″ pan, if you’d prefer to use all of the batter in one big loaf. If you opt to make muffins with the extra batter, you’ll want to reduce the baking time to 25-30 minutes.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

The recipe: Banana Zucchini Bread with Almond Paste and Fresh Raspberries

Batter
1 cup thoroughly mashed banana; about 2 medium-large bananas
1 cup grated zucchini; about 1 medium zucchini
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup almond paste, chopped into 1/2’’ chunks
1 cup fresh raspberries, halved if large
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Topping
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Follow the preparation and baking directions for the banana zucchini bread. Toss the cubed almond paste with a couple of tablespoons of the all-purpose flour prior to mixing into the batter; this will keep the cubes from clumping together.

Zucchini banana bread and other variations @kingarthurflour

Are you inspired to try your own twists on our Whole-Grain Banana Bread? We’d love to hear what you come up with; add your comments below!

Julia Reed
About

Julia Reed is a New England-based food and lifestyle writer/photographer, and Multimedia Producer at King Arthur Flour. Educated at Emerson College in Boston, she spent 5 years in Los Angeles before returning East, leaving behind food trucks, secret dinners, and year-round farmers' markets to pursue ...

comments

  1. Norma Solares

    These variations of banana bread sound amazing. Is there any way that I can access a printable form, so I can print them. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you enjoyed this article, Norma! These particular versions aren’t printable as they came from Julia’s imagination, but we recommend following in her footsteps by printing off the base recipe and then writing down your alternations in print. Alternatively, you can use our Build Your Own Banana Bread tool to make your own customized recipe using the ingredients included in the tool, then hand-write any extras you want to add. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  2. Barely a Baker

    Hooray for banana-zucchini bread! Do you happen to have the cook times if we’re using different size pans? I’m thinking mini loaf pans, standard & mini muffin sizes. Thank you, thank you!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You bet! For a mini loaf pan, it took 30 minutes. For mini disposable aluminum pans, it took 33 minutes. We didn’t test mini muffins, but regular muffins took 20 minutes, so for minis, start checking around 11. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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