There’s heaven in every bite of banana bread. Just imagine the moist, sweet center and the toasty crust. Yum!
However, it might all go south when you find a worm-like string in a slice. So, you might wonder: what are the black lines in banana bread?
It’s a question that has baffled generations of banana bread lovers. In this article, we’ll try to unravel the mystery behind the black threads or fibers in your loaves.
Many explanations are circulating online regarding the unsightly black strings found in banana bread, and it’s hard to point to one specific reason.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
A typical banana bread recipe uses baking soda as a leavening agent; odds are, that’s the kind of recipe you’re following.
In that case, did you know that adding baking soda alters the pH levels of the batter?
Baking soda is alkaline and needs to interact with acid to provide leavening. On the other hand, flour, brown sugar, butter, and banana are all acidic to varying degrees.
This is all good for keeping the bread fluffy. However, the banana fibers might turn dark as a side effect of the acid/base reactions.
We all know how banana fruits can turn brown rather quickly.
One culprit here is the peroxidase enzyme, which may start the browning process along with the polyphenol oxidase.
When exposed to air, the enzymatic process creates melanin that darkens the banana. If melanin sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s the same substance that gives pigmentation to our eyes, hair, and skin.
This enzymatic browning is common in many fruits and vegetables, not just bananas.
You might even have observed this process when you’re mashing bananas for your bread. Naturally, browned fibers of bananas can get even darker after baking.
Maillard reaction is another interesting food chemistry concept that could get the blame for the black string-like structures in your banana bread.
This chemical reaction gives some food, like steaks and coffee, their toasty or charred flavor. The same is true with cookies and bread since applying heat and moisture to a mixture of proteins and sugars produces a Maillard reaction.
In banana bread, the result is a distinctive aroma, rich flavor, and a darkened color from the newly created pigments called melanoidins. However, this might also be the reason for the dark bits in the bread.
More often than not, black lines are just a normal occurrence with bananas in general, not just banana bread.
What we’re about to say next is a little off-putting, but if you’re a mom with a tiny tot, this might not be news. Okay, ready?
You’ll find the same black strings in baked banana bread in a child’s poop after feeding them mashed bananas. We hope you’re not gagging, but it’s pretty common.
So, it’s not really weird that the same black lines would also show up in the baked batter.
The theories surrounding the black lines in banana bread differ. However, they all agree on one thing; they’re normal and edible.
So you shouldn’t let those black lines prevent you from sinking your teeth into that delicious slice of fluffy bread!
Although the black lines in banana bread can be normal, some people dread them.
So, if these strings bother you, there’s one tip that can help you keep them to a minimum in your future batches.
Instead of using a fork to mash bananas, puree them in a food processor or a blender. This method can fully break down the pulp until you get a smooth and creamy consistency.
You can still expect to get the same amount of nutrients, fibers, and moisture—minus the strange-looking black threads.
Just keep in mind that pureeing works best when you’re using bananas that aren’t overly ripe. So, this might be a hiccup if you prefer using really ripe fruits to add a rich flavor to your recipe.
Plus, this process might even require more cleanup compared to using the good-old fork method.
Of all the theories mentioned above, we’re going with this one: The black lines in your banana bread are just fibers that have turned black due to chemical reactions during the batter mixing and baking processes.
All in all, there’s no need to chuck a perfectly fine loaf of banana bread into the trash bin just because you find some black lines in it. If there are no signs of spoilage, it’s good to go!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.