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Banana bread is a wonderful food all the way around. It’s a great way to use up overly ripened bananas and reduce food waste, and it makes a delicious breakfast treat or a satisfying snack. It can even be a healthier dessert alternative.
All that said, there’s nothing worse than being tantalized by the scent of baking banana bread only to finally take your first bite and have it feel too gummy. Yuck!
In this article, we will look at what banana bread is and how it is typically made. Then, we will talk about what makes banana bread gummy and how to prevent this from happening so that you can have delicious, perfect banana bread every single time you want it.
What Is Banana Bread and How Is it Made?
For the very few among us who have never had it, banana bread is exactly what it sounds like: it is a loaf of bread that incorporates bananas as one of its ingredients and has a distinctive banana taste. Typically, it is fairly sweet and it should be moist in texture.
Bread in general, including banana bread, consists of a few basic ingredients: at the least, it requires both wet and dry ingredients, the dry ingredients typically being some kind of flour. In banana bread, the softened bananas serve as one of the wet ingredients.
Banana bread is considered in the baking world to be a quick bread, which means that it does not need resting time to rise. It contains baking soda or baking powder (or both), which allows it to rise in the oven rather than taking time for the yeast to develop at room temperature, as you see with other types of bread such as sourdough or sandwich bread.
One crucial element in banana bread (and all breads) is gluten. Gluten actually results from a chemical reaction between elements in flour (glutenin and gliadin) and water. Note: even if your recipe doesn’t call for water specifically, remember that there is water in almost all liquids. In fact, bananas and all fruits contain a great deal of water.
It is usually the gluten that causes gumminess in banana bread, and in any type of bread. Let’s look at how to prevent the gluten from making banana bread gummy next, as well as other possible causes of gummy banana bread.
Gluten and Gummy Banana Bread
As we said above, gummy banana bread is more than likely the result of something being off about the gluten in your bread, especially too much or overdeveloped gluten.
It is actually the process of mixing, or kneading, that causes the formation of gluten in all types of bread. As the dough is mixed or kneaded, the gluten strands become longer and longer, which with slow-rise breads (baguettes, sourdoughs, and similar types of breads) gives them elasticity, which you want.
In quick-rise breads, though, it can cause your finished product to be gummy and chewy, ruining the experience of eating them. Therefore, it is very important to stop the development of gluten at the right time during the mixing process.
But how do you do this when you can’t see the gluten in the dough? The secret is actually fairly simple: do not overmix the dough, since the more friction the dough goes through, the longer the gluten strands become and the gummier your banana bread will taste.
Hopefully, your recipe tells you to mix only until the ingredients are just combined, but even if it doesn’t, that is the method that you should use to prevent gummy banana bread. Mix dry and wet ingredients at a comfortable, uniform pace only until all of the ingredients have been incorporated, and then stop.
It won’t necessarily look how you expect your dough to look: more than likely, you’ll still have some visible lumps, and that’s okay as long as there aren’t long strands of unmixed flour. It is definitely counterintuitive, since it is natural to expect smooth, perfect bread to result from smooth, perfect dough, but this just isn’t how the science behind it works.
One more note of caution: this method of mixing applies when combining wet and dry ingredients only. It’s important that you mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately before you finally combine them together (as long as your recipe directs you to do so), and mix them well.
Other Causes of Gummy Banana Bread
If you’re very careful about how you mix your ingredients together in order to prevent excess gluten from developing and your bread is still turning out gummy, there might be something else wrong. Let’s look at what a few of these might be, and what we can do about them:
There is something wrong with your oven: First, check your equipment. A very common cause of bad baked goods is an inaccurate oven temperature, which can cause all sorts of problems.
Your oven comes with an internal thermometer built in; that’s how it knows when to pump out heat to reach the desired temperature. Over time especially, this thermometer may deteriorate and stop giving an accurate reading.
The easiest way to tell if this is the problem is to buy an inexpensive mercury oven thermometer to hang inside your oven. This will tell you whether your oven is heating properly, and you can adjust accordingly if needed.
You can also recalibrate your oven’s internal thermometer. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to do that.
Measure your ingredients by weighing them: In addition to checking your oven, double check that you’re using the right amount of ingredients. For one thing, you should use a food scale to measure your flour by weight rather than volume, which is more accurate.
Try to find a recipe that gives you the amount of banana you need in weight as well. Instructions that call for a number of bananas are inherently inaccurate, since bananas can vary greatly in weight and size.
Use the right type of banana: Make sure that your bananas truly are overripened: they should be very spotty or even mostly brown on the outside, soft to the touch, and very fragrant. Under-ripe bananas will be hard to mash and almost impossible to mix.
If you need to hasten the ripening of your bananas, there are a couple tricks that you can use: first, try closing them inside a paper bag. The bananas will give off ethylene and trapping it inside with them will cause them to brown faster.
You can hasten browning by storing bananas in a warm spot in the kitchen, and also ripen them in the oven or microwave.
Cook it thoroughly and let it cool: It might seem elementary, but it is still worth mentioning to make sure that your banana bread spends enough time in the oven. You can test its doneness by using the toothpick test: insert a wooden toothpick into the very center of the bread, and if it comes out clean (or with minimal crumbs attached) with no raw batter, it’s done.
After the bread comes out of the oven, we know how tempting it is to cut right into it but you have to let it cool. Most baked goods, including banana bread, are not done cooking when they come out of the oven.
They continue to cook, and more importantly set, while they cool down. In fact, the cooling period can be the most important for texture so it is even more important to cool completely.
Your recipe might come with cooling directions, and if so, follow those. If not, put the bread in the loaf pan on a wire rack to allow air to circulate in all directions around it.
After about half an hour, remove the loaf from the pan, leave it on the wire rack, and let it cool for another 30 to 60 minutes at least. Then, dig in!
Solutions to Prevent Gummy Banana Bread
We have looked at some of the science behind bad banana bread already. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to do and not to do for perfect banana bread every time:
- Follow all of your recipe’s instructions exactly
- Let bananas fully ripen (or over ripen) before beginning
- Using a food scale, weigh your ingredients, especially your flour and bananas
- Mix your wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately well, but
- DON’T overmix when you combine wet and dry ingredients together; gently mix them until they are just combined
- Make sure that your oven is at the right temperature
- Cool completely
If All Else Fails
If you have tried all of these tips and your banana bread is still not coming out right, the problem might not be you. It might be your recipe.
Try a different recipe. Just make sure that it is different enough. It should vary somewhat in its combination of ingredients, methods of preparing the batter, cook temperature, and cook time.
If that still doesn’t do the trick, why not buy store-bought? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the banana bread made at your local bakery or food market, and you can still freeze your over-ripened bananas for another use.