The Best Dried Fruits To Spruce Up Banana Bread

Time in the 21st century can be divided into the pre-banana bread and the post-banana bread eras, the latter marked by the onset of the pandemic. In the pre-banana bread era, a simple banana bread would always do the trick: some flour, butter, eggs, sugar, oil, a few ripe bananas, and there you have it, a quick fruit bread to satisfy the sweet tooth.

In the post-banana bread era, however, such simplicity rarely cuts it. There has to be some oomph or secret ingredient — like brown butter — that transforms the bread into an entirely new snack worth eating even after the lockdown-induced fixation with banana bread has long fizzled out. Why not, perhaps, add a few dried fruits to spruce banana bread into an upgraded treat?

Banana is a fruit that lends itself well to dried fruits and nuts. Mixing them into banana bread will not only add an extra layer of flavor to the fruit bread but it may also add more sweetness and bring a contrasting texture to the moist and fluffy bread. Some banana bread and dried fruit combinations though, are better than others. In the Buckingham Palace for one, banana breads are preferred with walnuts, dried cherries, and raisins. According to Darren McGrady who served as the personal chef to the royal family for 15 years, the dried cherry and raisin-filled banana bread is a popular teatime snack eaten with lashings of butter.

Raisins, dried cranberries, and more

The royal family may not be the only one with a fondness for raisins in their banana bread as raisin is perhaps the most frequently used dried fruit in any fruit bread in general. Though grapes' aesthetics often make the fruit more expensive than raisins, the dried fruit's sweetness elevates banana bread's taste and texture into something that transcends even taste. California raisins in particular are known to be natural preservatives that may help keep banana bread fresh for longer without it losing its soft and moist texture.

These raisins can also add a creamy richness to the bread without the use of fat. The tartaric acid (a natural flavor enhancer) present in the raisins may even elevate other flavors in the banana bread which is why raisin-filled banana breads may also take well to other mix-ins, like cinnamon or raisins soaked in rum for even more flavor.

Dried fruits are also an excellent way to cut through the sugary sweetness that often comes with the use of overripe bananas. If you're not one for saccharine banana breads, consider opting for a more acidic dried fruit. The slightly tart flavors of dried cranberries, raspberries, or currants for example, could add a refreshing burst of tang to each bite of a sweet banana bread.

How to add dried fruits to banana bread

Now that you have your dried fruits picked out, the next step is to add them to the batter properly. To begin, it's very important to rehydrate the dried fruits before adding them to banana bread, or any cake for that matter. Dried fruits, if not rehydrated, can soak up the liquid from other ingredients in the recipe, resulting in a dry banana bread.

Dried fruits can easily be rehydrated with a quick soak in hot water for a couple of minutes. Alternatively, soaking dried fruits in alcohol can also be a clever way to infuse a touch of booze into the banana bread. As a bonus, properly rehydrated dried fruits will look more plump and shiny in the bread than dry and shriveled up, adding to the overall appearance of the banana bread.

Another thing to keep in mind is that fruits, nuts, and dried fruits have a way of sinking to the bottom of the batter in the oven. To prevent that from happening to your banana bread, coat the dried fruits in a light layer of flour first. This flour dusting helps the dried fruits to stick to the batter where they are, stopping them from sliding to the bottom and ensuring an even spread of dried fruit in each bite.