You’re probably used to seeing banana bread that is dark and dense looking, and often full of brown sugar and spices. Banana bread made like this is delicious, but as with all things, it never hurts to have a little variety in your recipe book. The last time I had a bunch of ripe bananas in the kitchen, I decided to give banana bread a lighter color and flavor by turning it into Vanilla Bean Banana Bread.
This banana bread recipe is not that different from other banana bread recipes, but it has vanilla incorporated into it in two ways. It includes a generous amount of vanilla extract and is made with vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar is simply sugar that has been infused with vanilla bean. Vanilla sugar can be mixed up just before using, but the flavor becomes more potent after it has been sitting around, so make a big batch (you can always replenish simply by adding more sugar, or a fresh vanilla bean from time to time) and keep it in the pantry. I keep this on hand all the time, as it goes very well in coffee and other baked goods, and it is a great way to use up leftover vanilla beans after you’ve made a custard or pudding.
The banana bread bakes up to be very moist and tasty, with great flavors of both banana and vanilla. In fact, since there are few spices to mask the flavor of the banana, I think that this bread actually has a better banana flavor than many similar loaves! The bread rises high and smells wonderfully of vanilla. It is good plain, but it is even better when sliced, toasted and spread with a little bit of butter.
Vanilla Bean Banana Bread
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup vanilla sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana (2-3 medium)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
To make vanilla sugar: Scrape half a vanilla bean into a container of 2-3 cups sugar. Stir well, cover and let stand until vanilla is infused in the sugar. Can be stored for months in an airtight container.
Preheat oven 350F and lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk together vanilla sugar and eggs until well combined, then whisk in the mashed banana, milk, butter and vanilla extract. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until just combined, making sure no streaks of flour remain. Pour batter out into prepared baking pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Turn loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf.