Bananas are a favoured snack around the world, with their benefits including potassium, vitamin C and manganese. However, if you want to cook with bananas, you need them to be a certain ripeness.
Banana bread, banana muffins and any other banana-based baked good are best made with over-ripe, sometimes brown, bananas.
Bananas which are ideal for eating are not the same as those perfect for cooking.
For baking, you will need the sweetness which comes from a really ripe banana – this means it will be very yellow with a few brown spots and feel soft.
However, there are ways to speed up the process instead of waiting for your bananas to ripen over several days.
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How to ripen bananas in just 15 minutes
Bananas produce ethene gas, a natural plant hormone which regulates a plant’s growth and makes it ripen by converting the starch it stores into sugar.
This is why when you place a banana in a bowl with other fruit, the other fruit will ripen as well.
You can utilise this process to speed up ripening, or turn to the oven for a quicker method.
Cooking to ripen
While this method isn’t ripening bananas per se, it does making them softer and easier to bake with.
There are a few things you should know before you put all your unripe bananas in the oven.
You should use yellow bananas which are already sweet but not quite soft enough to bake with.
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Cook them in an oven heated to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 for about 15 to 20 mins.
This will lead them to blacken and feel very soft but if you over cook them they may even burst, so keep an eye on them.
They may become marginally sweeter and will be fine to bake with.
However, be cautious with the bananas you use as if they are green, they will also blacken and soften, but they won’t reach the sweetness which makes the perfect banana loaf or banana muffins.
You can also microwave bananas to soften them for 30 seconds at a time, checking their softness.
However this method won’t increase the sweetness the same way the oven does.
Paper bag method
To speed up the ripening process, one method is to trap the ethene gas in with the banana by putting them in a paper bag or perforated plastic bag.
Fruit gives off moisture, so you bear in mind you should use a bag which won’t trap moisture.
Ripening in a bag usually takes a day or so, but can be as quick as overnight – just keep checking.
If you want to test these banana ripening hacks, below is a recipe for easy banana muffins.
Banana Muffins recipe
- 250g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 110g caster sugar
- 75g butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
- 125ml buttermilk (or add 1 tsp of lemon juice to milk and leave for 20 mins)
- 50g pecans, chopped, plus extra to decorate (optional)
Heat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/gas 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar with a big pinch of salt.
In a separate bowl mix the melted butter, vanilla extract, eggs, mashed bananas and buttermilk.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in.
Roughly mix together with a fork, being careful not to over-mix. Scatter in the chopped pecans, if using, then spoon the mixture into the muffin cases.
Top with pecan halves, then bake for 20 to 25 mins, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
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