Baking Banana Bread

I've never been a big fan of banana bread until I tried THIS banana bread. This is the recipe that my sister Helen uses, and I think it may originally be from a Southern Living cookbook. Anyway, it is good banana bread, and in my opinion there are two reasons for that. First, it is made with cream cheese. Anything you bake with cream cheese is just automatically stepped up a notch or two. Second, the pecans in this recipe are toasted. That gives them and the bread a tastier flavor. What I'm saying is - even if you don't like banana bread, you may just change your mind after you try this one.

Toasted Pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spritz a baking sheet with cooking spray. Chop enough pecans to make 1 cup. Now spread them on a baking sheet and toast them just until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they are easily scorched.

Remove from the oven and set aside. You'll need them later. Now let's bake the bread.

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (1 1/4 pounds unpeeled bananas, about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat 3/4 cup butter ( 1 1/2 stick) and 8 oz. cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. 

Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk together. 

Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.

You'll need about 1 1/4 pounds unpeeled ripe bananas. They're nice and ripe when they are at the stage where they look like they are ready to be thrown away.

Mash them to make 1 1/2 cups. My potato masher works great for this. Then add to the butter mixture. Stir until blended.

Stir in 1 cup toasted pecans and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring.

Spray two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with non stick cooking spray. Divide the dough between the two pans and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent over browning if necessary.  

Cool bread in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Remove from pans, cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack before slicing. The waiting is the hardest part.

 Slice and enjoy, delicious. You won't be disappointed.

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