I promised things were going to get awfully yummy after the simple little tutorial on browned butter. And here’s where I fulfill that promise, Part 1.
Banana bars are a funny thing. They are often the last treat I think to make when I need to bring bars to a potluck or event, because, well, brownies. But when I do make them (or rather, when Brian begs me to make them since they are one of his favorite treats in the history of ever), I’m reminded why they are so amazing. That revelation usually comes after I’ve sliced off thin nibbles of the finished bars over and over until before I know it, too large a chunk is gone to blame it on a mishap during baking.
Banana bars are so easy to make, they use up the pesky spotted bananas sitting on your counter, and I’m telling you, they make people really, really happy. Like, give you warm hugs you don’t really want kind of happy. It’s weird. Similar to the banana cream pie phenomenon with many men I know. Because I still have my pride, I’m not even going to go there with a “going bananas” remark but I’m not going to lie, I kind of want to because it seems so appropriate right now. You can thank me later for resisting.
These banana bars skyrocket in deliciousness because the frosting – a creamy, smidgeon of a layer – starts with browned butter. So you get the soft, moist, cakey banana bar topped with a creamy, almost caramelly layer of sweet frosting and each bite will make you so, so happy banana bars are in your life.
My Aunt Marilyn is the genius behind this recipe and since she passed it on to me a month or so ago, I’ve made these bars at least half a dozen times. They are so easy to whip up that it’s almost more work not to make them.
Plus. Browned butter. I’m telling you. It’s the key to success here. And if you want to get all wild and crazy, why don’t you go ahead and brown the butter for the banana bar layer, too. And then let me know and I’ll stop by for a bar or five…and in return, perhaps a hug?
This recipe doubles beautifully for a large, rimmed baking sheet (around 11X17-inches). However, if you want thicker layers (of both the bars and the frosting), when doubled, use a 15X10-inch pan (I don't have one so I always opt for the larger size). Same goes for the regular recipe - if you have an 11X7-inch pan, that will work, too, for slightly thicker layers. I happen to like the thinner layers myself, easier to justify a couple more nibbles.
I prefer the frosting with cream instead of milk because it adds a rich creaminess to the frosting that offsets the sweetness but obviously milk will work too. The frosting sets up a little after the bars cool which is why I could get away with stacking them for the photos but they do better in a single layer especially if it's warm when serving.
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened or even melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 - 1 cup mashed, ripe bananas (about 2 large bananas)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream (see note above)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan (see note above) with cooking spray and set aside.
- For the bars, in a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown and granulated sugars, sour cream, egg, and vanilla until well-mixed, 1-2 minutes.
- Blend in the bananas and mix.
- Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt and mix for just a minute or two until combined.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch.
- While the bars are baking, make the frosting by melting the butter in a saucepan or stainless steel (not nonstick) skillet over medium heat (here's a quick tutorial on browning butter). Bring the butter to a gentle simmer, turning the heat down if needed, until the solids lightly brown and the butter smells caramelly and fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, whisking until smooth and creamy. Add more milk if needed to achieve a thick but spreadable consistency.
- Let the bars cool for 5-10 minutes and then dollop the frosting over the warm bars and spread in an even layer.
- Cool the bars to room temperature. Cut into squares and serve. These keep well-covered for 1-2 days at room temp or refrigerated.
Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe my Aunt Marilyn gave me (reduced the sugar, added in a bit of brown sugar instead of all granulated sugar, made a few minor other changes)