Maui’s Road to Hana Banana Bread
Have you ever been to Maui?
It’s wonderful – but before we go any further, let’s at least get you in a Maui frame of mind with some island music from my favorite Hawaiian group, Hapa
E O Mai Ku'u Milimili
There. That’s much better.
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Like the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui has many moods. From the high-end resort feeling of the south shore…
…to the laid-back rural feel of the beautiful upcountry area…
Maui both excites and soothes. We just got back from a wonderful vacation to Maui. We snorkeled (no diving this trip), boogie boarded (what a blast!) and enjoyed many fantastic meals (more on those in the future). And of all the fabulous things we ate on Maui, one of my favorite things was the Road to Hana Banana Bread.
The Road to Hana is 64 miles long, following the shoreline with 620 curves. Besides being windy, the highway is very narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. It takes almost 3 hours one-way, and that’s IF you don’t stop anywhere. Granted, it’s lovely…
… and it winds through some of the most lush tropical rain forest and offers some of the most amazing waterfalls and you’ve ever seen…
… and there are certainly even some gorgeous beaches…
But it sounded like WAY more work than I wanted to sign (Jeff) up for to drive the whole route (hey, I’m not driving!)
However, there IS one thing not to be missed from the road to Hana (besides not driving it) – the Banana Bread stands. I suspect these sprung up over the years to keep the captive audience from revolting at the very thought of the drive. But they are worth the trip alone.
Like this one…
Or this one…
And the most famous of all, Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread Stand.
The good news is you can get various versions of this wonderful banana bread at Farmer’s Markets throughout the island. After trying several slices (alright loaves!), I knew I wanted to recreate it.
I started by modifying my base recipe with some fantastic suggestions from Stella Parks over at one of my favorite food sites, Seriouseats.com. Stella is a world-class baker and knows a thing or ten about the science of baking. I was already incorporating buttermilk for moisture in my basic banana bread recipe and on her suggestion, I swapped it for plain Greek yogurt. Because it’s thicker than buttermilk, yogurt (whether full-fat or skim) thickens the batter, enabling it to peak more in the oven, coming out nicely domed instead of flat.
Stella also recommends coconut oil. According to her, the reason most banana bread recipes call for oil instead of butter, is because oil contains more fat per ounce. That produces a loaf that’s especially rich and moist. The problem with oil is that it can sometimes make banana bread feel heavy and wet, or just a touch greasy. Instead coconut oil makes banana bread as rich and moist as butter, but without the heavy, wet greasiness of oil. Here’s what you’re looking for.
Some other tips I would offer you for banana bread as good as what you can get on the Road to Hana are to avoid a dense, gummy loaf don’t use bananas that are completely or even mostly black. Instead, you want yellow bananas, with a sprinkling of brown spots, like these.
Also, make sure you toast the nuts. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the bread. I like to use pecan, but macadamia nuts will work great too, for a true island twist.
I used to have a tough time in the past knowing when my bread was done. There’s a simple cure for that. Your bread is done when it reaches an internal temperature of around 206°F. If you don’t already have one, buy yourself an instant read digital thermometer. No more guessing and you’ll have bread that is spot-on perfect every time.
Finally, I like a bit of sugary crunch on the top of my banana bread, so I sprinkle it with a bit of sanding sugar.
I know you’ll enjoy eating this Road to Hana Banana Bread recipe as much as I did. It’s a great addition to a family breakfast or weekend BBQ. Enjoy and aloha!
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While the coconut oil is not strictly necessary, it makes the banana bread as rich and moist as oil. And because it's solid at room temperature, it provides the slow-melting richness of butter without making the loaf heavy and wet, or greasy.
An AlohaDreams.com recipe
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 medium bananas , ripe
- 4 ounces plain Greek yogurt , preferably nonfat
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces; 280 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 1/4 ounces coconut oil - virgin or refined (3/4 cup), creamy but firm, about 70°F
- 4 ounces toasted pecan or macadamia nuts - chopped
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Line one 10 1/2– by 5 1/2–inch OR two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans loaf pan with enough parchment paper that it drapes over each side several inches.
Peel bananas (you should have about 12 ounces) and in a medium bowl mash bananas with yogurt, eggs, and vanilla. NOTE: If bananas are under-ripe, cover bowl with plastic and let mixture stand 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and coconut oil. Mix on low until mixture becomes a mealy powder. Add banana mixture and continue mixing only until no more flour is visible. Fold in nuts and scrape into prepared pan(s), spreading into an even layer.
Bake about 70 minutes for a large loaf (or about 50 for two smaller loaves) or until risen and golden brown. Bread is done when it reached an internal temperature of around 206°F.
When done, set the loaf, still in the pan, on a wire cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes — this helps the loaf solidify and makes it easier to remove from the pan.
Remove from pan and cool another 10 minutes. Grasping the parchment paper sling, lift the loaf out of the pan and place on the on the cooling rack. Cool for another 10 minutes before slicing.
Wrapped tightly in foil, banana bread will keep up to 3 days at room temperature or 1 week in the fridge. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
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